A properly configured and utilized computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) is a foundational element of every successful maintenance and reliability program. However, implementing this technology by itself will not ensure that users will achieve greater efficiencies or maximum value from their investment. Trying to obtain value from technology alone is like trying to stand on a three-legged stool that is missing two legs. The other two critical items (legs to this stool) are well-designed work processes and engaged people.

We as a maintenance and reliability community need to educate our management and co-workers on the benefits and potential value a CMMS brings to the entire organization, not just the maintenance department. Empowering and encouraging the plant staff to learn how to use this critical tool can pay huge dividends in improving plant performance and increasing the efficiency of maintenance and reliability programs. Through better analysis of asset failures, resource utilization and lost opportunity costs, a CMMS helps simplify the process of implementing value-added maintenance strategies that focus on failure elimination and risk mitigation on assets having the greatest impact on plant safety and availability.

We also need well-designed work processes that focus on utilizing the features of our CMMS to document maintenance activities in support of the above-mentioned analysis with a strong emphasis on accountability to ensure consistent and accurate data entry is performed. Although inventory and spare parts management is an important integrated component of a valuable CMMS, this article will focus on the value that can be realized when the equipment and work order components are optimized.

A key point to remember is that the CMMS is only an enabler for an engaged work force utilizing well-designed work processes. You must consider and develop all three of these elements — technology, processes and people — if you want to achieve value from your CMMS.

You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure

Those of us who use our CMMS as nothing more than an electronic work order system are truly missing out on the benefits of capturing and analyzing powerful data that can be communicated throughout an organization to impact key business decisions involving the operations and maintenance of a facility. Any number of user-defined metrics can be supported by data extracted from a CMMS and then utilized by maintenance and reliability professionals as well as plant leadership to manage assets and resources (both personnel and capital) with the common goal of operational excellence.

Metrics can be designed to reveal things such as whether current maintenance strategies add value and are effective; the financial impact of asset reliability associated with equipment failures and lost opportunity costs; labor and cost data associated with particular plant areas, systems or asset types; asset failure history by asset type and cause of failure; or the number of reactive maintenance labor hours versus the number of proactive maintenance labor hours.

The key to obtaining meaningful information from a CMMS is to define your objectives, consider the data that would support those objectives and build/edit field names and attributes within the CMMS that can be used to provide important performance data that reflect progress toward your established goals. Some common examples of attributes necessary to organize CMMS data for analysis include work type (corrective, preventive, predictive, etc.), work priority (1, 2, 3 or A, B, C), asset group (pump, fan, valve, etc.), asset type (centrifugal, vane axial, etc.), failure codes (bearing, impeller, coupling, etc.), as well as other key work attributes to address environmental controls, process safety management, etc.

When configured with some of these key attributes, the CMMS becomes an essential tool in the documentation and analysis of equipment and work history that can improve our ability to identify and understand equipment failure and maintenance work-flow characteristics that significantly influence maintenance focus and strategy development.

If you are currently in a reactive maintenance mode, the ability to mine data from a CMMS that supports a simple Pareto analysis to identify at first glance on a macro level where the majority of your labor hours are spent (Figure 1) or where the greatest maintenance and/or lost opportunity costs exist is a solid first step. You can then follow up with a deeper look into the specific assets that are the major contributors and quickly drill down to the underlying causes. In the end, you can make more informed data-based decisions that will positively influence asset operating procedures, maintenance strategies, engineering designs or purchasing requirements focused on eliminating the observed failure mechanism and its negative impact on personnel safety and the bottom line.

This simple and efficient analysis process is possible because we took the time to configure the CMMS in a manner that would support our desired objectives, define and implement the work process and data-entry requirements for work-order completion/closeout, and develop an engaged workforce through effective communications and training.

Having the proper attributes configured in a CMMS is also extremely helpful in measuring the performance of various areas within the maintenance work-flow process. For example, if you wanted to measure the overall effectiveness of your preventive maintenance program, you would need to consider what might be an acceptable goal and then look at how you would define the metric and data requirements to accurately measure performance.

In this example, you want to consider work type and work priority categories to ensure you have the correct attributes to search or query from in the CMMS work history. A work type of PM (preventive maintenance) and CM (corrective maintenance) are required for this metric. You must then consider a work-priority scale that will differentiate emergent work orders that impede scheduled maintenance activities versus those that allow for orderly planning and scheduling at least one week in advance. You will also need to utilize the total number of labor hours required to complete these maintenance tasks as entered on their respective work orders when they were completed and closed out in the CMMS. You can then select your query date range for one month, one year, year-to-date, etc.

PM effectiveness can be defined as:

For example, a query of the CMMS work history by work-order types, work priority and labor hours for the previous month indicated that there were 1,225 hours associated with PM work orders and 275 hours logged against emergent priority (i.e., priority 1) corrective maintenance work orders. With this information, we can then use the formula above to calculate the PM effectiveness for the month.

This monthly PM effectiveness can then be factored into a cumulative year-to-date figure that communicates the overall PM performance for a given time period, i.e., year-to-date (Figure 2). This information is instrumental in measuring the impact of proactive maintenance strategies on reactive resource utilization. A lagging indicator at a macro level, this metric can be utilized to manage continuous improvement efforts that target ineffective operating and maintenance practices that have resulted in equipment failures and lost opportunity costs.

In another example to illustrate the value of CMMS data, consider a safety committee that would like to report back to co-workers the efforts being made by the maintenance department to work off the backlog of CM work orders that are flagged as safety-related. A properly configured CMMS with a searchable attribute field designating the work is associated with the environmental health and safety program will provide an efficient way to capture estimated labor hours to determine the backlog as well as the actual number of labor hours spent performing work on these work orders. This will help communicate what percentage of total labor hours for a given time period was spent on safety-related work (Figure 3).

Assess Your CMMS Utilization

Of course, there will be skeptics who see a CMMS as an unnecessary administrative burden that takes too much time for data entry and provides very little value when that information is already stored in their memory. Ironically, it is these same people who will inefficiently expend resources, sometimes two or more people and anywhere from one to three or more hours, trying to figure out what was done, how it was done, what spare parts were used or what was discovered the last time a particular equipment anomaly occurred. Even then, in some cases, less than adequate corrective actions are initiated on incomplete or inaccurate information as it was recollected from memory by those involved in the last repair activity that took place six months ago, two years ago or even longer.

This inefficient method can be compounded by making costly mistakes that result in rework, additional lost opportunity cost and even more severe collateral damage than the original problem. Not only does this scenario reflect a poor return on investment in the CMMS, it adds fuel to the reactive maintenance mode “fire” and could mean the difference between bankruptcy and being the lowest cost producer in a marginal market.

On the other hand, a CMMS can be an extremely valuable maintenance and reliability tool when you understand how it can be utilized to make your jobs easier and more efficient on a daily basis. It is critical that proper work documentation and closeout be defined in the maintenance work-flow process and its importance stressed to the plant staff responsible for operating and maintaining plant equipment.

Whether you are trying to investigate a particular equipment anomaly, measure and analyze your PM effectiveness or desire to improve maintenance strategies that directly impact plant availability and costs, all of these key business decisions rely on information. Proper utilization of a CMMS provides the means to access this information as a result of proper configuration of the CMMS and accurate, detailed and consistent data entry.

Take a closer look at your CMMS configuration and utilization. You may be surprised at the untapped capabilities and power you find under the hood.