It's fair to say that maintenance technicians and managers enable all other company operations. Without equipment, building facilities and all other functional assets operating properly, business could not be conducted. So, it makes sense that revolutionary Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) software was eagerly welcomed as overdue technology back in the late 1980s.
Modern CMMS software platforms have since become standard tools for managing efficiency and costs in maintenance operations of all types and sizes and will continue to be important solutions for maintenance managers. Here, we’re going to break down why that’s the case and how far the software has come along.
To fully appreciate the business imperative of maximizing efficiency of maintenance management, consider that:
- Maintenance costs can consume large percentages of a business's operating budget. Typical estimates range from 6% to 15%, but can far exceed this range, depending upon the type of business and assets maintained. One rationale noted in a Plant Services analysis estimates 30% for well-maintained industrial equipment.
- Downtime for problems that require maintenance department attention, etc. cost U.S. American companies an average of an alarming $5,600 per minute, per a Gartner, Inc. estimate. This includes down time for building and equipment repairs, inspections, and routine maintenance.
Fortunately, CMMS systems have proven to be transformative technology for the business sector, completely changing the way U.S. American companies manage maintenance processes. Survey data from A.T. Kearney & Industry Week (as referenced in the USDE O&M Best Practices guide) indicate that CMMS implementation can:
- Increase productivity of maintenance departments by as more than 28%.
- Decrease downtime due to equipment maintenance over 20%.
- Reduce maintenance materials costs by more than 19%.
These sharp increases in maintenance department performance are across-the-board, from routine inspections of IT hardware, plumbing, and electrical systems, to typical business building repairs.
CMMS platforms automate many functions and optimize the process from end to end. Today's maintenance departments no longer rely on cumbersome, generally inefficient transfers of paper work orders and scheduling tools. CMMS digital transfer and tracking features make task scheduling and timely follow through on pending materials orders and team service commitments much easier to control.
Important advanced CMMS software features for facilitating the work of maintenance departments include the following, among many others:
- Intuitive interactive dashboards
- Mobile access
- Cloud-based software (easier and more cost-efficient)
- External customer communications and workflow tracking portals
- Advanced reporting and budgeting tools
CMMS Flexibility and Scalability
Originally, CMMS programs were single applications to facilitate maintenance work that was specific to a given department or type of maintenance. The software was limited to use by manual input of information and to access on premises only. By contrast, today's systems cover all forms of a company's maintenance needs across all departments, and they feature remote access from mobile devices.
Modern CMMS platforms are also designed for scalability, to fit the growing needs of businesses. Today's smallest and largest businesses can equally manage company-wide maintenance scheduling, communications, materials order tracking, process tracking, reporting, and analytics conveniently and efficiently.
CMMS Platforms of the Near Future
Like much other modern business technology, CMMS solutions are constantly evolving. New generations of CMMS platforms, applications and features will continue to make the resource indispensable for optimal efficiency of modern maintenance operations. Looking at Deloitte's 2017 report on trends in CMMS technology advancements helps in understanding what to expect it to mean for maintenance department efficiency, quality, safety, and budget management going forward into 2019 and beyond.
Broader Task Management Range
Current CMMS software has outgrown its original conception of maintenance management for niche needs, to now optimize preventive maintenance, automate a multitude of step-saving functions, and generate reporting arrays that provide cost-saving insights into scheduling and other areas of needed streamlining. As the demand for IIoT and cloud-hosted business platforms continues to grow, users can expect new, more powerful versions of CMMS tools to provide full visibility of assets enterprise-wide, using only nominal on-premises IT resources.
Predictive Facilitating Preventive Maintenance
CMMS technology has moved from once reactive maintenance solutions to preventive processes. This advancement saves businesses as much as 18% in maintenance costs, as problems are now more frequently resolved earlier in their development. Predictive maintenance is now understood as the key function of CMMS systems. Enhanced machine learning (ML) is now developing increasingly powerful predictive capabilities that save much time formerly spent figuring out how preventive maintenance tasks should be prioritized. This advancement is especially important for large companies that must monitor vast numbers of assets.
Increased CMMS Mobility
For all of the force of its positive transformative impact on commercial business and industrial processes, information technology has come with the counter-effect of speeding up the pace of activities so much that it often makes it more difficult for product and services providers to meet customers' expectations of rapid delivery. In growing companies, monitoring equipment and other productive assets becomes more difficult as well, especially across various locations. To meet these increasing challenges, mobile-interfaced systems now allow a CMMS to cut data entry costs, simplify process tracking and departmental reporting, and further optimize scheduling.
Increased Cloud-Based Options
A majority of businesses have now come to prefer cloud alternatives to on-premises systems, due to the greater flexibility and control of responsibilities permitted by unlimited remote access through various devices. The convenience of eliminating time-consuming, disruptive installations, and the assurance of 24/7 monitoring to maintain optimum functioning are very attractive benefits for businesses. Not surprisingly, the cloud services market is anticipated to grow by 29% globally from 2015 to 2022. As part of that trend, cloud-based CMMS users can expect to see this particular form of SaaS expand in vendor options.
CMMS software developers are increasingly using enterprise-class artificial intelligence (AI) and ML to develop algorithms that can inform maintenance management. This advancement in the approach to CMMS design can be expected to lead to new understanding of the most advantageous prioritization of maintenance tasks and projects. Users can expect increased opportunities to use AI for access to intuitive real-time tools for queries, featuring powerful broad-range data gathering, sorting and filtering. The next generations of CMMS will simplify and streamline preparatory work and information delivery for auditors, certification processors, operations analysts.
Use of the IIoT, the Industrial Internet of Things, is increasing, due to the improvements it makes possible in areas of supply chain tracking, quality control, compliance management, consumer behavior, and so many others. IBM has provided a compelling estimate of the amount of wasted maintenance resulting from non-predictive maintenance practices, which their contributor puts at a shocking 50%. The Kearney survey reportedly indicates that nearly a third of CMMS users believe that the IIoT can improve their maintenance management in a variety of ways that can facilitate increases in revenues and customer satisfaction levels, and decreases in operational downtime.
With VR technology, maintenance teams can create 3D models of facilities that they can interact with. Immersion in VR models (using VR headsets) can be very useful for maintenance project planning, major facility upgrades and repairs, and training. VR allows workers to go inside of the virtual facility, without risk from the hazards in the actual environment, as they gain familiarity with it. Augmented reality (AR) can also allow improved monitoring and service of, for example, pipes and electrical conduits hidden behind walls, etc., and help in relaying information needed for assessing problems remotely.
Future use of utility drones for image capturing promises to supplement the preventive and predictive maintenance capabilities of features in next-generation CMMS software. The opportunities in savings of employee hours for inspections of buildings and other assets across numerous locations are vast and unprecedented. The safety advancement allows maintenance staff to reduce the need for climbing ladders to do roof or HVAC inspections, etc.. Additionally drones can serve to improve the CMMS user experience and overall employee experience for maintenance managers and technicians.
Tech innovations are changing the nature of maintenance management as well as that of many other operational roles across modern organizations in business and virtually every other economic sector. CMMS software vendors, like most other digital technology providers, are continuously working to turn out new, more comprehensive, efficient, user-friendly, cost-effective, secure and customizable versions of their products. These SaaS trends can be expected to continue in CMMS software development, yielding increasingly inclusive, flexible, intuitive and reliable and platforms.
Of course, it's important to keep in mind that CMMS platforms, however evolved they become over the next years, and however great the number of benefits they promise to deliver—like any business technology, yield benefits only to the extent that they are appropriately implemented using best practices.
Further, remember that due diligence is necessary in CMMS software selection, as with any other technology. Compare various solutions recommended for your business type, size, and budget and unique needs, in order to realize all of the operational and budget benefits of your CMMS platform.