CMMS considerations

Jon Lawson

Why a computerised maintenance management system (CMMS) may fail. By Usman Mustafa Syed

A computerised maintenance management system (CMMS) is an integral part of today’s industrial and commercial maintenance operations. During the past many years there have been a lot of advances made on improving CMMS and many products are now available in the market. Evolution of CMMS functionalities have now made it a vital component of enterprise asset management (EAM) systems employed by many medium and large organisations around the globe. EAM as a whole is not the scope of this article; rather the focus is only on the CMMS.

Before delving into the reasons behind any CMMS failure it is pertinent to outline the key objectives of having a CMMS in first place.

Key objectives of CMMS

1.      Work processes standardisation

Maintenance is a craft that requires its processes to be consistent in practice. This helps in avoiding inefficiencies and also ensures that organisational procedures are followed. This is where CMMS comes in. It provides a platform for the organisations to implement and practice consistency in their maintenance processes.

2.      Maintenance works management automation

A basic premise of CMMS is the automation of maintenance works management. This includes maintenance planning, scheduling and failure reporting. Human errors are avoided & the maintenance function is able to focus more on its core maintenance activities in an efficient manner.

3.      Inventory management

Inventory management and mintenance are as close as two coats of paint. CMMS ensures that this interlink is utilised in a manner that is efficient, cost effective and current during all stages of operations.

4.      Reporting

CMMS acts as a source of data related to physical assets of any organisation. This data source is important to acquire valuable information regarding the assets. Reporting requirements of a CMMS may include organisation’s asset hierarchy, key attributes of different asset classifications, maintenance KPIs (equipment availability, reliability, downtime, work management backlogs, resource utilisation, maintenance cost), equipment failure reporting/analysis, compliance to safety/criticality handling through maintenance and inventory management.

Now that we have outlined the key objectives of a CMMS let’s look into some reasons that may prevent any CMMS from achieving these objectives.

1.      Lack of management commitment

Like any organisational initiative, CMMS also requires commitment on part of the management for its success. This commitment should be in form of complete support for CMMS implementation during the initial stage and then transform into a guiding role for effective CMMS utilisation during the operational phase.

Importance of CMMS and its proper usage can only be demonstrated to the maintenance function once they see its true reflection on part of the Management.

2.      Wrong CMMS selection

Many organisations often make their biggest mistake while deciding on which CMMS to select. CMMS selection requires review from multiple perspectives that may include maintenance functionality, IT infrastructure/architecture, cost of ownership and interface with other organisational systems. At times, this decision is taken only from one perspective while ignoring the others. It is necessary that a cross-functional team should be assembled to identify the requirements of CMMS from every perspective, develop specification, carry out thorough market research, weigh in the trade-offs between different solutions and take a well-informed decision.

Many organisations fall into the trap of going for the most fancy system available in the market without realising their actual requirements and end up incurring undue costs. Remember, you don’t need a Ferrari if you are only required to drive at 40km/h.

On the other hand, quite a few organszations select the CMMS based on the initial acquisition cost only. Initial cost alone should not be the major consideration for CMMS selection, rather the ‘total cost of ownership’ should be evaluated in an objective manner.

3.      CMMS data quality requirements not met

CMMS is a data driven tool. The notion of ‘garbage in, garbage out’ is very much applicable to it.

It is vital to ensure that proper and accurate data goes into the system during the implementation and operational stages. Master data should always be handled with care because that is the source of all evil or good things originating from any CMMS. It always helps if all functions have a common understanding of it.

CMMS data-fields should not be populated only for the sake of being required by the system but the real intent and functions of these data-fields should be well understood and filled accordingly. Verifying the data source is important to make sure that only the correct information is entered in the CMMS.

During the operational phase it is important that CMMS data is kept secure, updated regularly and operational data-fields are given due consideration when filling them. An effective change management procedure should be adopted for incorporating any changes in the system.

An important area that many organisations do not pay much attention to is proper processing of failure data. In order to develop a comprehensive history of any asset and subsequent root cause identification for different issues, failure reporting in CMMS is of utmost importance. Any reliability initiative to be undertaken also relies heavily on past history of the asset.

With predictive maintenance and condition monitoring technologies gaining grounds, it is also important that they are included within the realms of CMMS and the relevant data requirements are properly met.

4.      Broken or complicated maintenance processes

CMMS is a maintenance management tool and not a replacement of maintenance practices or processes. The significance of having good maintenance practices should never be dwarfed by CMMS. Remember, a horse is only as good as its rider. If the actual maintenance processes are broken then no amount of investment and efforts in CMMS can bring about positive results.

CMMS only automates the maintenance processes but the actual qualityand& value of those processes dictate the real outcome in terms of improvement to the maintenance bottom-line.

5.      Lack of proper training and vendor support

Lack of proper training and support is another important cause of CMMS failure. If the users are not properly trained they cannot be expected to fully utilise the system.

Training should not only be provided during the initial implementation stage but periodic refreshers should also be arranged to ensure that all users reach similar level of expertise and their skillset is updated. New people joining the organisation should be provided proper orientation of the system. It is more often economical to have some in-house resource available to conduct refresher courses.

Vendor support is critical during the operational phase to ensure that the system is kept updated and issues are resolved on priority. With the current trend of cloud technologies, vendor support services maybe one of the key deciding factors for selection of any CMMS.

6.      Lack of periodic audits and reviews

Like any organisational system, CMMS should be subjected to periodic audits and reviews. Quality of data should be the main focus of such audits. These audits can help the organisation in accessing the overall effectiveness of CMMS. Findings of these audits should be shared at all appropriate organisational levels.

Any organisation whether big or small can benefit from a proper implementation and application of its CMMS by avoiding these mistakes.

Usman Mustafa Syed is a maintenance and reliability consultant with 12 years of experience within the Oil and Energy sector. His areas of expertise include CMMS, Reliability Centred Maintenance (RCM) & Safety Critical Elements (SCE). He is currently based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and can be reached at: