Nine Reasons Why Facilities Managers are Ditching Spreadsheets for CMMS

Reena Sommer | December 4, 2017

The way companies conduct business has changed dramatically over recent years. Computer technology is largely responsible for increased business efficiency regarding resource, material and timing savings. In the late 1970’s, spreadsheet software emerged and was considered a monumental improvement over traditional pencil and paper approach to accounting and inventory management. However, overtime these software packages have had difficulty keeping pace with the continued evolution of new technologies that have not only changed facility management and production processes but also transformed how companies communicate with and deliver its products and services to end users. Given these factors and how they specifically relate to facility management, it is not surprising that a growing number of companies across industry sectors are rethinking their use of spreadsheets and are turning toward Computerized Maintenance Management Software (CMMS) systems; highly sophisticated software packages which at any given time, can provide a user an overview of a facility’s operation or they can provide the status of an individual piece of equipment.

To better understand why spreadsheets are no longer the preferred tool for facility managers, it is important to gain a sense of their capabilities. To begin, a spreadsheet can be created manually on paper or by using a computer program such as Microsoft Excel or Lotus 1-2-3. When using spreadsheet software, it can capture, display and manipulate data arranged in rows and columns. Regardless of the format used, a spreadsheet is generally designed to hold numerical data and short text strings as well as display data relationships graphically. However, spreadsheets generally do not offer the ability to structure and label data items as thoroughly as a database and usually do not offer the ability to query the database. They are low cost and best suited for organizing basic information into simple charts and lists, but not for more complex tasks such as asset management and planning.

By comparison, current CMMS systems are much more robust and offer businesses the ability to track work orders, quickly generate accurate reports, and instantly determine which of their assets requires preventive maintenance or repairs. By reviewing operational data, CMMSs are well suited toward making business projections. Recent innovations in the software include secure cloud-based interfaces, mobile device accessibility, and paperless functionality that further increases ease of use. Given these factors, maintenance management software programs are now replacing spreadsheet packages that lack the scope, power, and efficiency of maintenance management systems.

Below are nine reasons why facility managers prefer CMMSs for plant management:

1. Reliability of Facilities Data

Research published in 2006 in Information and Software Technology reported that electronic spreadsheets are subject to error as found in 88% of spreadsheets reviewed. Keying errors, incorrectly assigned cells, erroneous data ranges, and formula mistakes are some of the sources of error. As a consequence, errors can skew results and adversely affect company operations. CMMS data input format and accuracy checks reduce the possibility of such errors occurring.

2. Mistakes Often Go Unnoticed Until It’s Too Late

Spreadsheets rely on users selecting the appropriate formulas to analyze their data. Even when the data entered are accurate, if the wrong formula is selected, the results will be flawed. When these types of errors are not discovered immediately, the consequences can be costly to business operations. CMMSs eliminate the risk of this happening with preprogrammed analytical formulas.

3. Time Savings Benefits

Spreadsheet data entry is so time-consuming that many companies hire low skilled employees to enter data into spreadsheets. Given the propensity for errors already noted, having untrained employees manage this important task can be risky. Maintenance management software platforms make data entry easier while also restricting access via user permissions. This function places limits on what users can change within the program and protects against errors.

4. Spreadsheets Only Provide a Limited View of Data Relationships

With considerable technical expertise and time, spreadsheets can be programmed to analyze data within a very narrow scope. However, they cannot provide analyses of asset tracking, inventory and other maintenance and workflow tasks such as preventative maintenance scheduling. CMMSs have these capabilities, and with built-in reports, they make it easy to get instant insights into asset history, parts, labor; all done without any specialized technical training.

5. Automate and Simply Facilities Maintenance Reports 

While it is possible to generate reports in spreadsheets, they are not the most user-friendly to create when compared to CMMSs. Whether it's pie charts, scatter diagrams or bar graphs, spreadsheet reports are not as optically appealing or instantly available. Since users want information in real time and at their fingertips, maintenance management software can do this at the click of a mouse or a tap on a tablet without having to input formulas as required in spreadsheet programs.

6. Provides Detailed Information on Important Facilities Management Metrics

CMMSs are specifically designed for facilities management. Spreadsheets are not – at least, not without sophisticated programming. Maintenance software can provide a variety of metrics that relate specifically to the functioning of a company without the need for specialized programming skills. For example, CMMSs can produce the following metrics in real time: MTBR (mean time between repairs); MTBF (mean time between failures); MTTR (mean time to repair).

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7. Integration with Other Software and Facilities Applications

A great appeal of facility maintenance software is its ability to interface with other software such as email, accounting software, ERP systems, Active Directory, and more. Spreadsheets do not have these capabilities. These recent CMMS innovations expand their effectiveness and provide added time-saving benefits for facility managers.

8. Scheduling Preventative Maintenance

Preventative maintenance (PM) is central to a company’s efficiency as it helps run the entire facility. However, conducting PMs on a range of equipment is no easy task especially for large operations. Often a PM on a single piece of equipment involves multiple tasks or steps. Spreadsheets are particularly limited in this area because they cannot create scheduled maintenance protocols or send notifications or reminders to conduct them. Being able to schedule PMs is what makes CMMSs so attractive to facility managers because they can provide a checklist of all tasks involved on each piece of equipment, create routine schedules, send notifications and reminders as well as create reports. Conducting scheduled PMs means less unexpected equipment failure and shorter down times.

9. Improves Overall Facility Functioning

There are many aspects of any company that are beyond the capabilities of standard spreadsheet programs. These include monitoring labor utilization, creating work orders and submitting supply and parts orders. Considered together, maintenance software helps facility managers make informed decisions about allocating technicians, the best times to schedule routine maintenance and replacing equipment.

Today, businesses across a wide range of industry sectors are challenged to find the most efficient and effective ways to grow and be profitable. At one time, spreadsheets were an excellent low-cost solution for facility managers. However, for large organizations, maintaining a spreadsheet program with hundreds or even thousands of data points is unrealistic. As an organization’s assets and services grow and evolve in a fast-paced and challenging environment, it becomes logistically difficult to keep the information up to date in a spreadsheet and in particular, to produce comprehensive reports needed for informed decision making. CMMS software is an answer to this problem, and it is why they are attracting an increasing number of organizations who have outgrown spreadsheets.

Read more about the most valued CMMS features

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