What is a CMMS? (Computerized Maintenance Management System)

What is a CMMS? (Computerized Maintenance Management System)

Businesses are always on the lookout for systems that improve the efficiency of daily tasks—especially those that are necessary for the overall success of that business. Hopping on the CMMS train has the potential to be an end all be all solution to a previously messy and unorganized collection of files and information that ultimately inhibits the employer’s ability to maintain equipment in a way that allows for maximum equipment productivity.

What is a CMMS? - Definition

A Computerized Maintenance Management System, or CMMS, is exactly what the name implies—an automated and information centralized program that assists employees with regular preventative maintenance measures and other necessary daily tasks. It is a management software that is intended to be used by companies that are looking to improve their already existing maintenance schedule.
Regular maintenance can be a tricky ordeal to manage from the start due to the number of assets a facility is responsible for, and the need to keep track of them to effectively streamline the workflow.

Maintenance troubles are magnified when the business has to keep track of all this information manually. In short, manual processing can result in accidentally forgotten, forgone, or even improperly completed repairs and replacements by those tasked with that responsibility. By putting it simply, a CMMS allows maintenance workers to easily access information they need to complete their tasks more effectively, and helps management make more informed decisions regarding repair and maintenance operations.

CMMS is built upon the idea of facility management through scheduled maintenance, and it isn’t necessarily only restricted to industrial facilities that prioritize manufacturing. A CMMS can be implemented in warehouses and distribution facilities, technology companies, healthcare, the food industry, construction, property management, and even the energy business. With that being said, the size of the company doesn’t pose a restriction on the use of this strategy—small or large companies may benefit from using a CMMS.

Utilizing this specialized system prevents facilities from running their equipment into the ground, causing the need for entirely new equipment or extraordinarily expensive repairs. Businesses that run on the flawed model of “use it until it breaks” believe that they have the ability to save on maintenance costs all together, when in reality, ignoring the needs of regular cleaning, replacement of parts, and making sure an asset is performing to the top of its ability, results in equipment that doesn’t last as long. Not only that, but industry’s enemy number one, down time, is highly likely to occur and that can cost a company thousands if not millions in revenue.

The Five Different Types of CMMS Work Orders

The primary way of properly allocating resources and information to the right people using a CMMS is through what are called work orders. There are five main categories of work orders that can be identified within a CMMS that work to formally request services to be performed on machinery. Work orders also communicate what has been completed and what needs to happen next. Those categories include:

  • General work orders – These are used for any maintenance task that is not considered to be that of preventative maintenance. As an example, this can be anything from cleaning or setting up new equipment.
  • Scheduled preventative maintenance work orders – Preventative maintenance is always scheduled; it keeps everything in working order before something breaks. The work orders themselves define instructions, notes, checklists, and anything else that might help the maintenance technician.
  • An inspection work order – These are also time based. Employees performing the inspection have the opportunity here to check for compliance issues that may lead them to fill out a work order to remedy the problem.
  • An emergency work order – This type of work order appears when an unscheduled down time from broken equipment occurs. Following an immediate fix to the problem, the employee should record information on what happened and what was done to fix the problem.
  • A corrective maintenance work order – When a maintenance worker discovers a problem during any of the above-mentioned work order categories, then they create a corrective maintenance work order and have the problem scheduled to be fixed sooner rather than later. This type of work order can constitute a replacement, repair, or restoration of equipment.

These five categories are important to identify in a CMMS because each of them holds varying information that will determine the next step a technician or management must take to ensure everything is running smoothly. It is also good to mention that all of these work orders and the recorded outcomes are kept on file to reference for potential obvious patterns in malfunctioning machinery. Overall, this helps to make later decisions on whether or not the machine needs to be replaced and/or catch problems before they manifest into something worse.

What is Preventative Maintenance?

Preventative maintenance is essentially routine maintenance that acts to prolong a piece of equipment’s life rather than using it until it breaks. This means that maintenance is regularly scheduled and performed based on the amount of time that has passed. In the safety world, there is what is called Total Productive Maintenance, or TPM, that has the added bonus of involving the operator. This method emphasizes the need for operators to take responsibility regarding basic maintenance for the machine they run.

Shifting basic maintenance responsibilities to the operator not only gives them a chance to learn something new, but it also frees up the time of actual maintenance workers to handle larger and more complicated tasks that keep machines running smoothly. This change also directly correlates with an improvement in efficient workflow patterns since everyone’s time is managed more effectively.

As a reminder, there are eight pillars of TPM that work well within an established 5S program, those are:

  • Autonomous maintenance – Operators hold responsibility for basic maintenance
  • Planned maintenance – More complex maintenance tasks are scheduled regularly
  • Quality maintenance – Improving defects and problems are sought out consistently
  • Focused improvement – Teamwork is regularly used to improve equipment operation
  • Early equipment management – Equipment design is considered during the planning stage
  • Admin related TPM – Total productive maintenance can be used in admin and support functions
  • Training and education – Essential information is given to all of those involved
  • Safety, health, and the environment – The goal here is to keep the workplace accident free

Including Total Productive Maintenance in any facility management program, especially CMMS, focuses on reducing waste and clutter within the workplace by integrating equipment maintenance into the manufacturing process. Furthermore, reducing waste and keeping the area clean and tidy will play a hand in eliminating what is referred to as DOWNTIME.

Using CMMS for Preventive Maintenance

I'Having the opportunity to implement CMMS and use it to improve the company’s outlook on preventative maintenance is ideal because all the information needed by maintenance workers is condensed into one space that is easy to access whenever needed.

The key to using preventative maintenance with a new CMMS is to remember that it must be associated with an appropriately classified work order that denotes the time for the maintenance to occur. Time is the main catalyst for any CMMS because the goal is to catch problems before they become serious and cost the company even more time and resources to fix.

Reliability culture is a good term to bring up here because it is deeply intertwined with Total Productive Maintenance and preventative maintenance. By Introducing a reliability culture, employers have the chance to transform their business into one that is proactive instead of reactive. With that being said, reliability and preventative maintenance are not the same thing. Reliability culture is a concept that works to involve everything the machinery interacts with. This includes the maintenance strategy, design, the technology used, and the established culture of the people working with the machine. To sum up, reliability culture is a more in-depth version of preventative maintenance that introduces more responsibilities to think about that ultimately improve machine conditions.

Reliability culture has the potential to increase productivity and make the workspace one that is wholeheartedly committed to preventative maintenance for maximum productivity.

How does CMMS Help Reduce DOWNTIME?

DOWNTIME is one of the worst enemies of production and manufacturing facilities. Some of the problems associated with DOWNTIME, also known as the eight wastes of Lean, even have the potential to lead to serious injury, especially when that waste pertains to defects or malfunctioning equipment.

As a refresher, the following are known as the eight wastes of Lean:

  • Defects are the products or services that do not meet the company’s standards.
  • Overproduction is when the business oversaturates the market with their product even though customers are not needing the material.
  • Waiting is the down time between process steps.
  • Non-utilized talent is when the organization doesn’t apply the employee’s talents to the fullest extent of what they are capable of.
  • Transportation is the unnecessary movement of materials within the production process.
  • Inventory involves the company making too much of a product and storing it all, wasting valuable storage space and money.
  • Motion involves people and equipment moving more than needed.
  • Excessive processing occurs when a company has implemented extra steps and features that are unnecessary in the customer’s eyes. This becomes a problem because it uses up company resources.

Remembering DOWNTIME is the key to providing efficient and effective preventative maintenance though a new CMMS objective as DOWNTIME itself is almost always pulled by the waste “waiting” in manufacturing facilities. Unfortunately, waiting is most often caused by maintenance issues such as:

  • A lack of correct parts for repair or replacement
  • Quality problems
  • Equipment failure
  • Changing from one sequence to the next but doing so inefficiently
  • Frequency of malfunction

Gaining a bit of headway in the art of preventative maintenance will work to eliminate these problems, especially if the maintenance is done at times that do not impede workflow. This can be on days when those machines are not being used, after normal hours, and even on holidays where no one is in the building.

The point of preventative maintenance and or Total Productive Maintenance within a CMMS is to catch the problems and immediately fix them before they become a serious problem that leads to bottlenecks and slowdowns, as those are instances where the rate of injury has the potential to skyrocket.

Types of CMMS Software

There are two different types of Computer Maintenance Management Systems that can be used for managing daily tasks more easily. Those are web/cloud-based CMMS and on-premise CMMS. Choosing which one to use entirely depends on how easily manageable and how much the company is willing to pay for the service.

With that being said, the on-premise option for a CMMS program is run on the company’s server and accessed over the internal network. With this CMMS option, the company will be entirely responsible for:

  • Installation
  • The IT infrastructure
  • Firewalls
  • Security
  • Updates and upgrades
  • Around clock monitoring
  • Configuring the mobile option

The other option, a cloud-based or web-based CMMS, is entirely hosted on the vendor’s server and is easily accessible via the internet. Oftentimes, the web-based option for CMMS is much easier to implement and maintain because the maintenance is entirely taken care of by the provider. That includes, the installation, all the upgrades, etc. Essentially, everything that the company must do by themselves for an on-premise CMMS is taken care of by the vendor if a cloud-based system is chosen. Aside from that, this version always has a subscription fee, but it will be well worth it in the end to not have to waste time on a system that is almost as bad a keeping paper files.

What is the difference between CMMS and EAM? 

EAM stands for Enterprise Asset Management and it primarily focuses on maximizing the productivity of assets in a way that is successful over the entire lifecycle of that piece of equipment. CMMS and EAM have evolved in a way that has muddled the thin lines that define one and the other. However, it still stands that EAM is capable of performing the tasks of a CMMS system, but can do more in the realm of asset targeting features.

Unlike CMMS where work orders, inventory management practices, preventative maintenance, and customizable programs are the only things that it is able to make simpler, EAM software and technology has the ability to widen its scope of control to:

  • Fleet management with GIS integration
  • Track warranties
  • Incorporates MRO (Maintain, Repair, Overhaul techniques)
  • Involves interactive schematics
  • Has the possibility of energy monitoring

Not only that, but EAM is also used by a wider range of sectors within a business. These can be accounting, regulatory compliance teams, and C-level employees including managers, CEOs and other higher ups looking to manage budgeting and asset issues.

Streamlining Operations with CMMS

Streamlining operations by using CMMS is no easy feat, but it can be done if the company is aware of all the necessary moving parts. As a specialized facility management system, there are a few core objectives that a CMMS aims to takes care of in a wide range of facilities. Many of those include:

The consolidation of data – This can also be referred to as an asset registry. Those who need information about the equipment itself, costs and codes, location, performance and downtime statistics, repair manuals, safety precautions, and machine warranties can find them easily with the help of a CMMS rather than in a traditional file or physical stack of papers.

The simplification of team management efforts – Work order management is prevalent in this core concept of CMMS. Standardizing anything related to work orders, repairs, replacements, and scheduling employees, as well as the use of equipment, are only some of the aspects included in this simplification process.

The implementation of preventative and predictive maintenance – These are always planned with time in mind or triggered by an event. However, both of these types of maintenance are more interested in prolonging the life of equipment. In short, there never is an instance where machinery is left to be run until it’s broken and unrepairable.

The allocation of resources for inventory control – CMMS aims to efficiently manage suppliers, keep track of inventory costs, and fully automate the task of resupplying needs across all departments. This is an incredibly important aspect of being able to streamline workflow during the manufacturing process. Overall, bottlenecks and slowdowns will be reduced if CMMS is implemented correctly.

The automation of once manual processes – CMMS has the ability to replace a multitude of once manual organizational methods. These can include anything from emails, excel spreadsheets, phone records, physical documents, and even work orders. By not only reducing the sheer amount of paperwork and files that must be sifted through, CMMS ultimately works to save the time and energy of employees which allows them to then focus their efforts on more important tasks.

If all of the above objectives are taken seriously at the time of the strategy’s implementation, the company can look forward to benefitting from the following end results:

  • Operational efficiency and agility will be improved
  • The amount of downtime will be reduced
  • Work orders will be properly prioritized
  • High maintenance costs will decrease
  • Asset visibility will improve
  • Employee safety will improve
  • Visibility of workflow will improve

The benefits to applying a more technology driven strategy such as CMMS allows the company to ultimately improve the facility’s capacity to save on costs and enables machines to work more efficiently and last for a longer period of time. Overall, CMMS creates a more efficient way of retrieving necessary information to achieve those two main goals.

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