- Buyer's Guide
A local area network (LAN) is a group of computers and associated devices that shares a common communications
line or wireless link. It typically shares the resources of a single processor or server within a small geographic area (for example, an office building). Usually, the server has applications and data storage that are shared in common by multiple computer
users. A local area network may serve as few as two or three users
(for example, in a home network) or as many as thousands of users. Most LANs are confined to a single building or group of buildings. However, one LAN can be connected to other LANs over any distance via telephone lines and radio waves. A system of LANs
connected in this way is called a wide area network (WAN).
PC-based computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) systems became available in the early 1980s. Initially, they were DOS based and available on a single PC. They gradually progressed to LAN- and WAN-based systems commonly referred to as client server technology (CST).
More recently, we have seen the availability of Web-based CMMS. With a Web-based system, you can access your maintenance data securely from anywhere in the world. All you need is Internet access. Simply log in through your Web browser and a full-featured application comes up for your use.
For years, organizations have put up with CMMS systems that take forever to install, crash your servers, are a pain to upgrade and require a ton of expensive hardware. There is also the challenge of multiple databases (multiple plants) and synchronizing data between locations, not to mention day-to-day maintenance and support. All of these hidden costs add up in a hurry.
The Web-based CMMS model has taken off because it solves these problems. Let's review why organizations are moving to Web-based CMMS.
Figure 1. National Client Server SetupWEB-BASED BENEFITS
Use anywhere and anytime
Lower overall costs
Avoid project delays
Less potential for viruses
In general, Web-based technology offers much flexibility. If your server is down, you can quickly host the application with a third-party vendor.USE ANYWHERE, ANYTIME
Work request: Typically, the maintenance department receives requests from other departments. These requests can come from anywhere. They are usually delivered verbally or sent by phone or e-mail. A work order is then created by a clerical staff member. Commonly experienced problems with this setup are:
Miscommunication leading to the loss of time and money
A certain percentage of requests are forgotten if verbally communicated
Labor intensive (answer phones, handle paperwork, etc.)
With a Web-based CMMS, this process is simplified. The requesters can access the system from anywhere and easily enter the information into the system. The request instantly becomes a work order.
Off-hour calls: It isn't uncommon to receive phone calls in the middle of the night when there are serious breakdowns. With a Web-based CMMS, you can access the system right at home, review the history of breakdowns and offer a solution to the problem within a short time. This eliminates a trip to the site (saving time and money) and minimizes downtime.
Managing remotely: If you deal with fleet vehicles (semis, trucks, etc.), with Web-based, you can perform maintenance activities and record them at the point of performance using a laptop or personal digital assistant (PDA). The information will be transferred to your CMMS instantly (real time assuming proper set-up is available).
Work assignments: Imagine that you are stranded out of town. You have a staff of 20 technicians. You are supposed to assign them work on Monday morning. But, you are stuck hundreds or thousands of miles away. However, you have Web-based CMMS. You check into a hotel, access the system through the hotel's wireless service and assign work orders to your technicians. You sleep well instead of feeling stressed out.
Figure 1. Web-based ArchitectureLOWER OVERALL COST
Installation costs: With client server technology, you have to install CMMS on both client PCs and the server. This is labor intensive. If you use a vendor to do the installation, it could become very expensive. With Web-based, there is little if any installation (if using an ASP model).
Maintenance costs: With CST, maintenance costs are much higher since you have to support multiple PCs. Something can go wrong with the CMMS installed on any one of the PCs.
Hardware costs: With CST, you may have to invest in hardware if current hardware doesn't support the CMMS requirements. With Web-based, as long as you have Internet access, you don't need to upgrade your hardware.
IT costs: With the ASP option, there is no installations, no daily backups and no hardware headaches. Another issue is printer support. With CST, you need to have device drivers on each workstation. With the Web-based option, you are essentially printing off your browser. Less work for a company's information technology department means less money spent.
Lower overall costs mean a better overall value.AVOID PROJECT DELAYS
Another beneficial security feature is confirming data entry against predefined criteria. For example, users who forgot their password might be asked a question that only they would know. Only after answering this obscure or personal question could the employee gain access into the system.CUSTOMER SUPPORT
With a Web-based CMMS, the provider's tech support can log right in and see exactly what you are seeing and then troubleshoot. That means faster resolution of problems, concerns or questions.MULTIPLE FACILITIES
Also, multiple locations can work on the same real-time data all the time. There is never a need to merge, synchronize or duplicate CMMS data. CMMS reports are always up to the minute, no matter where you are.RELIABILITY
Here's an application example. Typically, an organization deals with many outside contractors. These contractors perform a variety of activities including repair, preventive maintenance and inspection. It's important to keep a history of work performed by these contractors. With a Web-based system, it's possible to give limited access to your contractors so they can directly enter details of work performed into the CMMS. This eliminates duplication of work.BACKUP
The first type is serious in nature and should be fixed immediately. With CST, the vendor sends a CD to all users, or fixes are sent via e-mail. Either way, the user has to go through installation, etc. Imagine finding a bug of this nature and having to go through this with hundreds or thousands of customers (that's a ton of work for the vendor).
The second type is not serious in nature; however, these bugs cause inconvenience or are annoying. With CST, you accumulate these kinds of bugs and send the fixes along with another release. Until then, the users have to put up with annoyance or inconvenience. Also, with CST, you normally fix a "pool of bugs" at one time closer to the upgrade release date. Fixing a bug in something written six months ago is much harder and involves more work. Again, with a Web-based system, you fix bugs as soon as they are discovered.
The advantages of a Web-based CMMS system are clear. It offers better quality service at a lower overall cost. The fact that plant and maintenance managers can use Web-based CMMS from anywhere is very beneficial. This is an option that offers better service, lower overall costs and more convenience.
Kris Bagadia is the president of PEAK Industrial Solutions. Contact him at 262-783-6260 or firstname.lastname@example.org.