Expert Tips for Planning a CMMS Project

Kris Bagadia
Tags: CMMS and EAM, preventive maintenance, planning and scheduling, maintenance and reliability

A well-planned and executed computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) project can yield a maximum return on your investment. This return is realized through increased efficiency, productivity and profits. However, a poorly planned and executed CMMS project can result in a loss of revenue. These losses can be measured in terms of the overall investment in the project, as well as from wasted time and lost projected revenue forecast tied to the successful installation and implementation of a CMMS.


Properly planning the CMMS implementation project is one of the key elements. In the planning phase, you determine the “what,” “why,” “who” and “how.”

Equipment Data

Developing a plan for equipment data is a good first step because it will provide a CMMS with a foundation of hard, verifiable data. Some maintenance departments may already employ an equipment numbering scheme that is effective. This can easily be translated into the CMMS. If there is no scheme currently in place or if the current one is flawed, it is time to develop an equipment numbering scheme.

Determining an equipment hierarchy is the next step. This involves setting up parent/child relationships among equipment. For example, an air handler can have pumps and motors as children. If you are going to keep track of both the parent and children, the relationship must be documented. Make sure to include every piece of equipment that falls under that hierarchy scheme. Parent/child relationships also can be constructed for whole facilities. For instance, a building could be the parent with each floor a child. Each room could then be a child of the floor.

Information on spare parts should be tagged to the individual pieces of equipment. This is referred to as the bill of material (BOM).

Finally, you need to decide what you want from your CMMS in terms of downtime monitoring. You should choose which pieces of equipment you want to monitor as well as how you want to track planned vs. unplanned downtime. Plan based on impact or loss of operation. You should have this information for each piece of equipment or at least for critical equipment.

Preventive Maintenance

The following decisions have to be made for each preventive maintenance (PM) task:


Procedures can be preventive maintenance, safety instructions or any other set of instructions. Each piece of equipment should have identified for it all the preventive, corrective and predictive maintenance tasks necessary to properly maintain that equipment. Along with the maintenance task, information regarding maintenance frequency, responsible craft, repair and/or consumable parts necessary to compete the maintenance task, and time estimated to compete the task are some of the additional information that will enhance the usefulness of your CMMS database. These procedures can then be applied anywhere within the CMMS.


You need information on each maintenance technician such as name, address, phone, Social Security number, etc. You also have to decide if you are going to use some sort of ID card for your technicians that can be scanned by a reader. If you do, will the cards be produced in-house or by an outside vendor?


The following actions must be taken:

First, you have to develop a part-numbering scheme. This is similar to the process used for equipment numbering. Some companies use a 20- to 30-character-long part-numbering scheme. It includes every detail of that part (i.e., type of part, thickness, diameter, location, etc.). With advances in CMMS and a field available for each of these details (category, dimensions, location, etc.), you don’t need a part-numbering scheme to include all of the details. It just increases the potential for data-entry errors.

Implicit in the development of a part-numbering scheme is the need to concretely define the details of parts. The most useful in terms of work flow is defining the location of a part. Is there one or multiple stockrooms? Is there a location scheme within the stockroom (i.e., aisle, bins, shelves, etc.)?

In the data-gathering phase, you will compile a list of all the vendors from which you buy parts and services. One of them should be assigned as a primary vendor for each part. The CMMS automatically generates purchase orders to the primary vendors. This can be changed by the users if desired.

At this stage, you have to decide the criteria for selecting a primary vendor (i.e., price, delivery, overall service, etc.). Additionally, you should track vendor/manufacturer part numbers for cross-referencing purposes. You also need to decide the issue units that you are going to use (metric, British or a combination of both). How are you going to handle inventory of pipes, beams, etc.? Are you going to keep track of lengths? If a piece is cut, are you going to keep track of the remaining pipe length? Once vendor and tracking information is decided upon, you also need to determine:

In the overall planning of the physical inventory process, you must make the following decisions:

Associated with this step is development of a parts label design and barcode label design. What information do you want to print on the parts labels? Part number, description and location are typical. If you are using barcoding with inventory, you have to decide which information items you want barcoded. Part number and location are typical.

If you have multiple plants/facilities, it is important that every facility follows the same schemes. Without consistency, the CMMS will not be very effective. If you are looking for a part at a different facility and that facility describes the part differently than you do, you may not find it even if it is in stock.

Purchasing and Accounting

You likely will need the purchasing and accounting departments involved in the planning phase for these:


You should determine what plan and design codes will be used throughout the CMMS. During the planning phase, you need to decide on strategies for the basis of codes. Actual compilation of codes will be done during the data-gathering phase. Determine the following:

Mobile Applications

If you are employing mobile applications, you need to identify each application and work on articulating the details. Some examples include using a hand-held remote data-entry device to collect equipment meter readings, parts can be issued and/or returned using a hand-held device, hand-held devices can be used to count and track inventory parts, etc.


Decisions also need to be made regarding data backup. An articulated backup scheme should be formed that takes into account both hardware and setup. Determine how often backup will be done (daily, weekly, etc.).


Plan for the type of maintenance history you want to maintain. Your decisions should include date performed, task performed, the person(s) who performed the job, estimated and actual time to perform, equipment performed on, material used, and any outside contractor cost incurred.


Several decisions need to be made regarding the general operation of your CMMS. These questions provide information not only for planning but also for evaluating current capabilities:

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Develop a list of KPIs for your application. At this stage, you should review them and revise, if necessary. Also, determine how you would compute those KPIs. Most of the KPIs should come from CMMS reporting.

Assign Responsibilities

Plan on who will:

The planning stage of a CMMS is perhaps one of the most important in ensuring success. Granted, implementation itself is not a short process, but with a well-laid-out plan where all possibilities are considered, the process will be simpler and streamlined.

The major challenge in planning a CMMS is considering the entire breadth of your operation down to every last piece of equipment, part and facility, and then remaining realistic with your goals. Consider the abilities of your operation to adapt to a new technology in a manner that will not unduly disrupt workflow. With a laid-out plan, you will reap the rewards for many years.