During the past decade, more and more business owners are turning toward Computerized Maintenance Management Software (CMMS) as their facility management software. Increased marketplace competition and economic demands as well as changes in technology and market trends have all motivated companies to seek enhanced ways of improving operations efficiency. Having previously relied on traditional spreadsheet or “pencil and paper” approaches for maintenance management, a growing number of business owners are now recognizing the need to make the switch to a CMMS, a system that goes well beyond simply tallying the numbers associated with repairs and equipment costs as well as stock levels. In order to perform at maximum efficiency, today’s businesses need to stay on top of their maintenance management activities through routine preventive maintenance checks, better resource allocations and demonstrated cost savings.
Having recognized the need for an automated maintenance management system, company owners are often overwhelmed in their search by the range of CMMS products available in the marketplace. Acquiring an affordable CMMS software that is the right fit for your operation can be an added challenge. Here I’ll outline how to select a maintenance software system that meets both your needs and budget.
Understand CMMS functions
To understand what a cheap CMMS software looks like begins with summarizing what CMMS software is in general. Essentially, the systems are best described as highly sophisticated software programs that utilize thousands of data points that at any given time, can provide a user with an overview of a facility’s operation or alternatively, with the status of an individual piece of equipment. Regardless of the product selected, all current CMMS systems offer businesses the ability to track work orders, quickly generate accurate reports, and instantly determine which of their assets require preventive maintenance. Consistent and appropriate use of the CMMS software has led to extended equipment lifespans, improved organization, better time management and labor utilization and ultimately, reduced operational costs and increased company profits.
Define your company’s needs
In order to ensure that the CMMS system chosen does what you want it to do, it is imperative that you first identify your company’s needs. Start by gathering input from your maintenance staff about the challenges they face with your current maintenance tracking system as well as what they feel is needed to overcome them. Some of the features most widely requested are:
- Tracking monthly or quarterly maintenance repair costs
- Reducing equipment downtime with preventive maintenance tools
- Paper reduction
- Simple work order management and work order request forms
- Ability to process work orders using mobile devices
- Method for tracking location of equipment and parts
- Calendar system for planning maintenance activities
- Improving communication between team members and upper management
- Mobile access
- Software’s customizability - the ability to change and expand as company needs change
Taking these into account as well as other features you may wish to have will assist you in developing a comprehensive list of features to look for in your CMMS solution. Fine-tune your list by categorizing items as “must haves” and others as “would like to have”. Your final list will guide your search for a low-cost CMMS software keeping in mind that the cost of CMMSs goes up as more features are added.
Understand CMMS deployment options
CMMS software is available in two different formats; on premise and cloud based. These differences are important not just because of cost but also because of how they are deployed. Cloud based systems rely on the vendor hosting data on its own servers (i.e., in the cloud) whereas on premise systems require a company to install and host its data on its own equipment, on site. The former relies on the vendor maintaining the system whereas the latter must utilize in-house system and hardware maintenance by its own IT specialist.
Many customers find cloud based CMMSs preferable because of its lower cost and no maintenance requirements. On the other hand, others find on-site systems more appealing because they provide maintenance managers with full control and customizability of their data and the system (i.e., operators are able to schedule their system maintenance and upgrades based on their own schedule and not according to cloud based vendors). Another important difference is cloud based platforms offer mobile accessibility whereas on site platforms do not. When comparing CMMS software cost, a final distinction between the two formats is a sizeable cost differential with on premise platforms carrying much higher upfront costs.
Understand cost structures and options
A large part of acquiring affordable CMMS software is knowing what you are getting and for how much. In making that determination, it is important to consider the differences found in feature and service options as well as the cost differences in system platforms. Already noted, on premise platforms are more costly – at least in terms of upfront costs. These systems tend to run three times more than the annual license fee of web-based systems. In balance, on premise systems’ higher up front cost is a one-time payment with no other no additional system fees. On the other hand, the initial cost for a cloud-based system is lower but the long-term costs associated with licensing fees are greater over time (i.e., annual subscription/licensing fee estimated at $1500 per year for a small maintenance department). In spite of these differences, there are associated and/or ongoing costs with on premise systems such as the cost of hardware, firewalls and antivirus software as well as an IT staffer needed to maintain and manage all aspects of the system functioning including installation, data entry, upgrading, security and staff training. Cloud based CMMSs do not require any added costs as system supports include all software updates, system upgrades, security, and tech support.
Finally, there are optional additional costs associated with CMMS software such as in house data entry and online tutorials for staff onboarding that many vendors bundle into their annual licensing fees. On-site inventory audits and staff onboarding are also available, again at an added cost. The more options selected on either maintenance management platform, the more costly they will be.
The bottom line in finding the right CMMS
The most important thing to remember when searching for a cheap CMMS is finding a system that performs as you need it to and brings the results that you want. Recognizing that maintenance management systems are an investment in terms of money, time and resources, trimming costs by selecting a system that falls short of meeting your company’s need now or in the future will not be money well spent. To ensure that you are getting the best value in an automated maintenance system, take time during the research process, speak to vendors, participate in online demos and search out customers who are currently using CMMSs. Since these systems carry differing price points based on formats, features and options, the cost of cheap CMMS software lies in what it can do for your company and how much you will benefit from it.