The world of maintenance management has evolved as market demands, economic challenges and advances in technology challenge companies across a wide range of industry sectors. In response to these conditions, Computerized Maintenance Management Software (CMMS) has rapidly become a growing industry offering maintenance management solutions for businesses, large and small. However, given the number and diversity in maintenance management systems on the market, finding a CMMS solution that’s the right fit for your business can also be an added challenge as companies vary in their unique needs and structure.
While CMMS software promises a lot, reaping the potential benefits depends largely upon balancing the needs of the company, the capabilities of the software, and other industry-specific factors. By finding the right match, it is possible to transform not just your maintenance department, but also your entire business. A survey of 558 companies using CMMS software reported an average 28% increase in productivity after implementing their new software. In general, the best way to navigate through finding the right maintenance management solution for your organization is to know the right questions to ask CMMS vendors.
2 Things You Need to Do Before You Begin Shopping for a CMMS:
1. Assemble a CMMS Selection Team
Before you begin the search for a CMMS solution that will work for you, you must consult with multiple stakeholders in your company’s operations. Look to those who work in your maintenance department or others who work with your outside contractors and vendors. Their insights and feedback are important, as they will know what is necessary to improve operations, as well as how to cope with the consequences of equipment failure.
2. Define your requirements
Determine the features you’ll require to successfully transfer 100% of your maintenance management operations to a software system. If you’re looking to replace your current CMMS, consider the tasks that your current system is lacking while taking note of any features that you find to be redundant.
Create a list of features that are essential as well as a secondary list of attributes that you’d find helpful but not necessary. Look to your CMMS selection team for insights. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some frequently requested features:
- Tracking monthly or quarterly maintenance repair costs
- Reducing equipment downtime with preventive maintenance tools
- Eliminating the need for paper
- Simple work order management and work order request forms
- Ability to process work orders using mobile devices (likewise, do they have both an iOS and Android app?)
- Method for tracking location of equipment and parts
- Calendar system for planning maintenance activities
- Improving communication between team members and to upper management, if necessary
4 Preliminary Questions to Ask Every CMMS Vendor
Once you have a general idea of the feature set your business requires, you need to identify solutions that could be a potential match for your organization (we suggest picking 3 or 4 different vendors to make comparisons). When speaking with vendors, keep the following in mind:
Will they provide a demo?
Never jump into a system, no matter the price tag, without testing it first. If the vendor is able to coordinate a demonstration that is already attuned to your company’s needs, this is step in the right direction. During the cmms software demo, refer to your list of required features to be certain that the CMMS meets your needs. Be wary of excessive functionality that you do not need as you’ll likely be paying for them even if you never use them.
What industry is the software intended for?
Some CMMS solutions are designed for a particular type of business or organization. For example, non-profits and small businesses aren’t going to need the same tools as enterprises and hospitals.
In a medical environment, for example, maintenance workers might be tracking millions of dollars worth of equipment that is constantly being moved between floors at a hospital. These equipment pieces can’t fail as lives depend on them. In this case, maintenance tasks should be timed to specific intervals, or linked with triggered events that could happen at any time.
Other businesses might require a solution that monitors not just the maintenance needs of their equipment and building, but also the service requirements of their automotive fleet. While some CMMS suites have fleet management capabilities, not every CMMS possesses this feature. Alternatively, a smaller office’s needs might be limited to ensuring that business-critical machines are kept in working order and light bulbs and vacuum filters are changed on schedule.
Is the CMMS user-friendly?
Usability is key. You won’t see a return on investment if you’re wasting time, resources and money struggling to understand your new CMMS. A CMMS isn’t just for the tech savvy members of your organization -- it’s designed for everyone. This means that all employees from the ground-floor maintenance techs to C-level managers need to effectively use your CMMS on a daily basis.
With CMMS, the more data and effort you input, the better the return will be from the system. If you’re choosing a software system that requires tech-savvy skills, then it will be difficult to realize the system’s potential. If an employee struggles to learn the system -- or worse, refuses to learn it because it’s too frustrating – errors can occur; an HVAC unit may fail during a hot day in July or a life-saving piece of equipment in a hospital may not function as required. A CMMS should be regarded as an assistant to the maintenance department; a piece of software that is used at every stage of a maintenance process. No matter how sophisticated a CMMS may be, it will only be of value if employees are willing and able to use it. System uptake by all users will be dramatically increased by choosing user-friendly CMMS software.
When speaking with CMMS vendors, ask how long system implementation usually takes, and also how many support calls are typically anticipated from a new client within the first few months. These questions will give you a good idea of how user-friendly their software really is.
Is the software web-based or installed?
A web-based CMMS solution (also referred to as Software as a Service (SaaS) or cloud computing) is typically hosted by your provider on their hardware and managed in their own datacenter. Users access it via the Internet, either via a website, or a specific app or software solution. On the other hand, an installed CMMS, is completely hosted on-site, meaning that all the hardware has to be installed, managed and controlled by the company using the CMMS.
Generally, web-based CMMS solutions are much less expensive, and they offer users a much higher level of support with support features streamlined into the product. Yet, because they are not hosted on site, users sometimes feel they have less control over their CMMS, as they don’t have control over the hardware their installation is hosted on. Some users feel that their data isn’t as secure on web based platforms compared to having it hosted on site. The issue of data security is a priority for today’s sophisticated SaaS models. For a detailed explanation of web based CMMS security, read our article here. Like many web-based CMMS providers, Hippo employs 256-bit encryption in protecting its clients’ data. As well, it performs routine annual security tests on its hardware, ensuring that any possible holes are patched immediately. Considering the cost of managed security services, it’s unlikely that an installed CMMS is any more secure than a web-based solution, in actual practice.
5 Questions to Ask About Your CMMS Pricing
Finding the right CMMS for your business is just part of the equation. The other part is its cost. The actual cost of using CMMS software is going to vary from vendor to vendor, depending on the desired functionalities, number of users, and the amount of data being managed. Single user licenses are found to cost as low as $25 a month with fees increasing to $200 a month, not including other annual subscription or service fees. To receive reliable and accurate information on costs, it’s best to look beyond the information provided on CMMS vendor websites. Take the time to communicate directly with vendor about the product and costs before buying a CMMS Software by asking the following questions:
Will the vendor charge you for each additional user?
While some CMMS solutions are built around a flat license fee, others will charge an increasing amount depending on the number of users accessing the system. This issue needs to be addressed in order to determine if a system will fit in your budget. Systems that charge for additional users can be prohibitive for rapidly expanding businesses. A better alternative may be packages that allow for an unlimited number of users, thus eliminating concerns about rising costs.
It’s also important to ask vendors how they define a user. Is a user someone that just accesses the system, or is a user someone who can make work order requests? Make sure that you’re on the same page as your vendor so you can accurately estimate the quote you will receive.
Is the pricing structure clear?
Identify any hidden fees by talking to CMMS vendors in detail about their fee structure. Explain the needs of your company and ask directly what kinds of fees you can expect going forward. As noted, not all CMMS systems tie its cost to the number of users accessing the system. Some charge by the amount of work orders submitted monthly, while others have rates that change depending on how many sites, buildings, or departments your business has or acquires.
If web-based software is an option, take this into consideration. Pricing on web-based software is typically more flexible and manageable and available in incremental (annual or monthly) payments. Alternatively, site based software that must be installed on dedicated company servers typically comes at a higher up-front cost; and despite that cost, a business might still be required to pay monthly or annually for licensing fees and a support subscription.
Are there any discounts available?
Many CMMS companies offer a discount for non-profit clients, long-term commitments, and other types of customers. During your research, be sure to ask each vendor what types of discounts they offer. Discount amounts can vary from vendor to vendor; factor any applicable discounts into your considerations and final decision making.
What is the refund policy?
Finding the right CMMS is hard work, and if you are dissatisfied, having recourse is important. Ask if the vendor offers any kind of satisfaction guarantee. Find out how long the guarantee lasts and what the terms are. Because installation and implementation of CMMS software can be a lengthy process of taking several weeks or months, having an extended refund period is reasonable.
What is the cost for setup?
The cost of software implementation can be expensive and an ultimate deal breaker. Be sure to inquire about the typical cost of setup and ask how much their clients typically pay during their first year as a customer. As every business has different implementation hurdles, build a cushion into the estimate.
System setup typically occurs in one of two ways: the client sets everything up or, the client pays the CMMS software company to assist in the process. The decision about self set up should not only be guided by cost but also by the available technical skills needed to undertake the process. For some businesses, the time, resources and frustration involved in a self set up process may make the decision to engage vendor assistance preferable. In this instance, vendors may be more willing to help populate your database and to train your staff. If you want to save money by setting up your new CMMS software by yourself, but the system is so complicated that you require the help of the vendor, it may not be the right software for you. Generally, web-based systems are easier to implement when compared to on-site systems that require dedicated hardware. It’s important to assess the cost differences well in advance should you consider having the vendor assist you.
2 Tech Support Questions to Ask Every CMMS Vendor
Even the most user-friendly software can be accompanied by growing pains; the important factor is making sure that proper training and a robust support staff are able to keep ensure that difficulties are minimized. If you plan on successfully implementing a CMMS, you need to make ensure that your vendor has a team ready to back up your company. Here are two questions to your vendor during your initial consultation:
Do they offer training?
Find out if the CMMS vendor will train you to set up databases, input data, schedule preventive maintenance, and queue work orders – as well as any other services your team needs out of your CMMS. Likewise, find out if training is included in your monthly fee (or the setup fee). If they aren’t, what are the additional costs for training?
The best approach is to ensure that a few key people, such as management and other essential users are trained in the software as soon as possible. Those leaders can then impart their knowledge to other maintenance team members over time. Sharing information in this fashion can save you money if the CMMS vendor you’ve selected charges for training and support..
Is support easy to reach?
Find out the timeframes support can be contacted and, equally important, the expected response time. Inquire about the communication methods are available to you? Depending on the circumstances and time of day, email may work best while at other times, phone or chat communication may be preferred.
Find out if the support team is qualified? In other words, will you be calling an 800- call center number where the technical support staff is outsourced, or will you be interacting with staffed technicians capable of correcting bugs and improving the customer experience?
For most customers investing in a CMMS, having a scheduled preventive maintenance program in place is core to your business. If a system bug disrupts the functionality of your preventive maintenance or any feature that is vital, getting the issue resolved ASAP is essential. Playing phone tag, being on hold for 45 minutes or having a work order ticket forwarded to someone else can be frustrating and expensive. Inquire about how and by whom these issues will be dealt with. Support is something that businesses rarely think about until there is a problem. Inquire about support services before you purchase a CMMS.
3 Questions to Ask About Your CMMS Success in the Long-Term
When purchasing CMMS software, it’s common to focus on the present with concerns centered on issues relating to installation cost and training employees in its use. Too often, issues relating to how the system will impact your business in the future as it grows and evolves are overlooked. Make sure you consider these three factors that might impact your business in the future:
Can your CMMS software scale as your business grows?
Businesses are dynamic which means they change and evolve over time. Talk to your CMMS vendor and find out if the software can adapt to company growth including adding on to a building, increasing staff, or changing maintenance staff duties and tasks. Hospitals for example, experience ongoing changes such as the introduction of new equipment requiring daily maintenance, or the addition of a fleet of ambulances that need to be on the road 24/7. In this case, a CMMS should be able to handle these challenges. Anticipate that your company will likely evolve, and that your software must evolve with you. Ensure that all the details of the software’s expansion capabilities are laid out ahead of time.
Anticipate the possibility that your company will evolve, and that your software must be able to evolve with you. Ensure that all the details are laid out ahead of time so that your company isn’t caught off-guard in the midst of a major change or expansion.
Can the data be extracted for use in another CMMS system?
If your company grows beyond the limits of the software you select, it is important that you don’t find yourself in the position of having to start from scratch with a new system. An important issue to consider is, will the vendor allow you to repurpose the data stored on their system for use in a new maintenance management software system? Be sure to inquire about the procedure should data extraction become necessary.
What is the frequency of software updates?
Reputable software companies have a team of developers that are always working on improving its software. Updates are common and indicate that your CMMS vendor is invested in sustaining a lifetime relationship with satisfied customers. In general, web-based software is updated more frequently than software that is installed on a business’ own servers. However, these updates do not generally result in an interruption of service. Since differences in update frequency and associated downtimes vary from one vendor to another and from one format to another, it is best to inquire about how frequently software updates are released, at what time they are released, and what, if any down times can be expected during update installations.
To Find the Right CMMS For Your Business, You Have to Ask Questions and Find Answers
If you are still trying to keep track of your maintenance needs using a spreadsheet, it’s time to consider a CMMS as a more efficient, productive and profitable alternative. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that, on average, companies reported a 20% decrease in equipment downtime once maintenance management system software was implemented. Yet, even with the potential for large cost savings, you may already know that finding a CMMS that fits your business can be daunting.