Without a doubt, making the shift to a Computerized Maintenance Management Software (CMMS) system can be a daunting experience especially for business owners who for many years have relied on spreadsheets to manage their maintenance operations. Recognizing the need for change can be a challenge on its own because it means finding a more robust and efficient solution to replace a method that is no longer meeting company needs. Furthermore, many business owners struggle with getting their heads around adopting an automated maintenance system that is completely unlike traditional “pencil and paper” approaches. Here are some common questions they ask:
Will a CMMS really improve my maintenance operations?
How much will a CMMS software cost me in terms of financial outlay, resources and time?
How much effort is involved in transitioning to a CMMS?
How easy is a CMMS to operate?
Will my employees actually utilize a CMMS?
How will the CMMS adapt to my company’s changing needs?
Can I access the CMMS from wherever I am?
In the end, will a CMMS save my company money?
Given these and other concerns, it is understandable why many business owners are hesitant in moving forward with a fee based maintenance software system. Fortunately, there is a way to take test drive first with a free simple CMMS software system. While these systems are not fully featured or as customizable as fee based CMMSs, they will give business owners with a sense of how they operate and what they can do. For some business owners, the free CMMS software may be the perfect long term solution while for others it may be a stepping-stone to a more advanced system. Here are some things to consider when acquiring a free and simple version of automated maintenance software.
Begin with the Basics
A good starting point for those new to automated maintenance management software is to first understand what these systems are all about. Current maintenance management softwares offer businesses the ability to track work orders, quickly generate accurate reports, and instantly determine which of their assets require preventive maintenance. This improvement has led to extended equipment lifespans, improved organization, better time management and labor utilization and ultimately, reduced operational costs and increased company profits.
At the core of an efficiently managed operation, is well-maintained equipment and assets. Poorly maintained equipment generally results in unanticipated breakdowns, costly repairs and often equipment replacement. Conducting regular preventative maintenance is the best way to avoid unforeseen equipment failure while also prolonging their lifespans. When it comes to preventative maintenance, CMMSs provide a checklist of all tasks involved in maintaining each piece of equipment as well as create routine schedules, send notifications and reminders, and generate reports. Since preventive maintenance is the most valued aspect of a CMMS, it is important that whichever automated system chosen – free or otherwise, is capable of monitoring routine maintenance checks.
Features offered in Free CMMS Software Systems
These systems are offered by a number of CMMS vendors primarily as a trial for their fee based systems or as a platform for advertising. Free CMMS software is available in a downloadable format or as an on premise format, meaning that the software must be housed and maintained on a company’s server. In a word, free maintenance software is “basic” where you will find reasonable preventive maintenance features with some vendors now offering email capabilities. These systems are best suited to small scaled operations with fewer than 100 assets.
Things to be Aware of with Free CMMS
When thinking about acquiring free simple CMMS software, two sayings immediately come to mind: “you get what you pay for” and “nothing in life is free”. It’s important to note that while the basic software is free or open access, there are some important limitations that resulting in added costs and time restrictions. Here are a few worth considering:
- Access to some free CMMS software systems come with time limits such as 30 or 60 days.
- Some open access software is loaded with advertising.
- If an on premise format is selected, the user is totally responsible for installing and maintaining the software. Additional costs include an onsite tech who will be responsible for the system maintenance, computer hardware as well as the cost of purchasing antivirus software.
- Free CMMS systems do not come with routine updates to the software.
- There is no tech support or tutorials available with free CMMS software.
- Open access CMMS software is static meaning that it cannot be customized to meet the specific needs of a company.
- Features such as mobile access, bar code scanning, document uploads and other imaging which are routinely available with fee based CMMS systems are not included with free CMMS software.
Making the move to an automated maintenance management system is a huge decision not just when it comes to cost, but also in terms of time and resource allocations. Because of this, it makes perfect sense that business owners want to be well informed about what they are buying before signing on the dotted line. A test drive seems seems a reasonable approach only if it can be done cost effectively and with minimal energy investment. Operations that may benefit most from free CMMS software are those with:
- Fewer than 100 assets
- A limited supply of spare parts
- Minimal reactive maintenance
- No need for technical support
- No need for mobile access
For companies that are able to work within these parameters, a free simple CMMS software package may be an excellent choice either as a long term maintenance management solution or as short term option when determining if a CMMS is an appropriate way of managing maintenance operations over time. Alternatively, if open access CMMS systems are not a viable option, vendors for fee based systems offer demos on their systems as well as opportunities to have in depth discussions about their products, service options and fee structures. Being aware of the limitations noted above will serve as a helpful guide in deciding if acquiring fee simple CMMS software is the correct route for your business.