An increasing number of companies across a broad spectrum of industry, service and corporate sectors have come to realize that their “pencil and paper” or spreadsheet approach to maintenance management is no longer sufficient. Increased marketplace competition, economic demands and changes in technology are the main reasons companies are seeking ways of improving their maintenance strategy. With an aim toward functioning better, faster, smarter and leaner, businesses are motivated to find ways of improving operations efficiency by reducing costs, saving time and resources and ultimately, achieving a greater return on investment (ROI). For all of these reasons, business owners are increasingly turning toward Computerized Maintenance Management Software (CMMS) as their maintenance management solution.
For those considering an automated maintenance system, the search may at first seem a bit overwhelming, especially given the growing number of vendors found online. A good starting point in the process is to first understand what CMMS software is and then become familiar with the available system features out there. With that information, informed decisions can then be made about finding a system that will be the right fit for your company, its maintenance goals and budget.
To begin, CMMS software is best described as a group of highly sophisticated software systems that utilize thousands of data points which at any given time, can provide a user an overview of a facility’s operation or alternatively, the status of an individual piece of equipment. These powerful robust tools offer businesses the ability to track work orders, quickly generate accurate reports, and instantly determine which of their assets requires preventive maintenance or repairs. This latter feature – preventative maintenance (PM) - represents the mainstay of maintenance software. The ability to schedule PM work orders using variable and customizable settings, remotely send notifications regarding pending, in progress or late work orders, and then instantly generate PM reports is the drawing card for most companies wishing not only to improve efficiency and reduce costs, but also make decisions about their operations as they move forward.
All automated maintenance management systems basically do about the same things such as inventory control, work orders, PM schedules and reports. The differences relate primarily to how the system is deployed as well as the versatility with which their functions are performed. The following is a list of the available features most sought after by business owners:
Cloud Based Software v. Installed on Premises Software – CMMS systems are available in two basic formats; cloud based software and stand-alone, installed on premises software. Each is an excellent system differing only in how it is managed and deployed. Stand-alone systems require the software to be installed on company computers. They also require certain computer system specifications, system security software as well as in house tech support to take care of system maintenance and upgrades. On the other hand, cloud based software is accessed through a vendor’s server with all maintenance and upgrades provided remotely. Apart from the cost differences between the systems (with initial costs being greater for stand-alone systems and long term costs being higher for cloud based systems), stand-alone systems may offer more control over company data security and maintenance; but at an added cost. On the other hand, cloud based systems take the work, worry and added costs out of maintenance and upgrades.
System Access Capabilities – For business owners with large organizations, being able to assign different levels of system access is important. For example, maintenance managers may have comprehensive access to the system while maintenance technicians have limited access to features or specific areas of the system.
Mobile Device Accessibility – One of the most appealing features of CMMS software is the ability to place work orders, check inventory, order parts or generate reports etc. on the go. Being able to access a CMMS dashboard on any device with Internet access is a huge time saver when compared to having to return to an office to fulfill these tasks. Having mobile accessibility reduces unnecessary time delays on many fronts.
Bar Code Scanning and Photo Capabilities – Along with mobile device accessibility comes two other important integrated features; bar code scanning and photos. Both of these features are extremely advantageous because they reduce unnecessary errors and confusion. Maintenance technicians can take a photo of equipment in need of repair and also scanning an image of a part’s barcode that is in need of replacement. Precise work orders and/or parts orders can be made immediately without timely delays due to mistakes made by confusion about which piece of equipment is in need of servicing or ordering the wrong part.
Architectural Drawings – Being able to access architectural drawing (i.e., a rendering of an architectural design as plan and/or elevation views of a building or structure) from a CMMS dashboard provides yet another way to identify the exact location of a piece of equipment in need of servicing. Beyond that, a facility’s blueprint will note among other things, all electrical and plumbing placements. These may be vital when it comes to making alterations to a building that could involve moving, upgrading or replacing equipment.
Implementation, Onboarding and Ongoing Support – A critical aspect of any CMMS software system is ensuring that the system is operating as it’s intended to and that the maintenance staff is using it appropriately. This is where having access to reliable and timely support from a CMMS vendor can draw the line between success and failure for a company. The implementation phase of an automated system is critical and involves inputting data on inventory, assets and users as well as configuring PMs as needed. If this phase is not done properly, the system will not perform well regardless how well informed its users are. For that reason, CMMS vendor offers a choice of in house audits or remote and telephone tech support. There are also a variety of onboarding and ongoing resources available for users in the form of online manuals, videos, email, chat and webinar recordings as well as telephone support to address users’ operating concerns or providing a refresher for tasks that may not be routinely done.
As the population of maintenance software users continues to grow, so do the number of CMMS software vendors. For that reason, business owners are best served by becoming familiar with the system formats, features and pricing schedules that separate one from the other. The key is to match your company’s maintenance management goals with the right product, price point and support services.