When your organization buys a CMMS/ maintenance software program one of your first challenges will be how to set up & use your new system. While your IT department, consultants, etc. can install and do some initial set up the system for you, you as the maintenance planner or maintenance manager have to decide how to setup and use the system.
You will need to find some way to start using the system without bogging down or slowing maintenance operations. After all the critical job here is ongoing equipment & facility maintenance – the maintenance management software is just a tool and should not hold up or delay maintenance work because it needs to be set up or it has a complicated workflow. How can one do this with a minimum of disruption?
Some CMMS software setup decisions to make:
- How will you enter data into the system? What order should you put in the data? Do you need to put in all your data? One of the first items you will put in is your equipment and facilities. If you have the information in a comma delimited file you probably will be able to import much of it in. Comma delimited text files are something most programs can create e.g. if you have a list of equipment in a spreadsheet you should be able to use Excel to save it to a comma delimited file. Once you have all your assets and facilities in the system you will want to add other information in such as spare parts and supplies, technicians and so on. Once you have some information in the system you can start defining the different types of unplanned and planned maintenance tasks you may have on different equipment or facilities. Since this process can take up some time, you may initially just want to start with a few breakdown type tasks or a generic breakdown task for any type of maintenance so that you can start creating work orders and using the system. See "CMMS/ Maintenance Software – Setup Tips For First Time Users" for suggestions on how to proceed especially if have not used CMMS software before in the organization.
- What type of maintenance – breakdown or preventive, should you target first? You probably should target breakdown maintenance work first. Create task definitions for this type of work and create work orders. To make it faster to start using the system you may want to create a few generic breakdown tasks and create work orders. As you use the system you can add more specialized tasks and instructions. The faster you can start managing breakdown maintenance, the faster you can get it under some sort of control – this is the most expensive maintenance and the cause of most dissatisfaction and operational problems and delays.
- What sort of maintenance workflow will you use? Who is going to be responsible for sending out work orders and collecting feedback? You will normally have a workflow where someone accepts work requests, creates work orders, schedules preventive maintenance and passes them on to technicians or contractors to complete. This person will basically play the role of the maintenance planner or maintenance supervisor (see "Role Of The Maintenance Planner In Maintenance Management Programs"). In small maintenance setups the person could even be an office administrator or some other non-maintenance person. Once completed there has to be some way the work order status and any other feedback gets updated into the system. Depending on the capabilities of the maintenance software package you use, this must be done manually by someone or in an automated way by the technicians themselves. Still the maintenance planner or supervisor has to keep an eye on things and make sure that work is completed in time and not left pending.
- What sort of results do you expect? What reporting or data analysis will help you identify if you are getting those results? Reporting is a very important component of your maintenance management system. Without it you and others have no way of knowing for sure how you are performing. Ideally the maintenance software must be able to present you with a short summary of useful statistics like work order backlog, average days to complete work orders, pending work orders and work requests, equipment requiring most breakdown maintenance time and so on. See "Key Maintenance Management Statistics For Maintenance Planners" for more information. Use this information to identify areas of concern and improvement. You should start seeing a gradual reduction in breakdown maintenance over time and a corresponding increase in planned/ preventive maintenance. Once this happens your maintenance management software is well on the way to paying for itself!
Maintenance management software selection guide:
If you are currently looking for a CMMS software package for your organization you will find the CMMS Software Selection Guide very useful to help you make the right choice. With a series of questions and checklists it can help you identify the right choice for your specific needs among several competing products.
When an organization purchases CMMS software (maintenance management software) besides the usual features comparison, ease of use and other criteria there are a few technical items that one needs to be aware of. These items if ignored during the software selection and evaluation process can result in much grief at a later date. These items are really not specific to CMMS software but can also trip up other types of software deployments.
- Maintenance database: Different CMMS software products use different database systems to store the maintenance data. Ideally you want the type of database to be a well known and well supported platform e.g. Microsoft Access, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, IBM DB2, MySQL, SQLite, PostgreSQL and so on. This will become very crucial in case you have database problems or need to integrate other applications with the database. A popular and well supported database system will have a wealth of third-party consultants who can help you with troubleshooting, optimization, setup and integration. You will also have a variety of third party tools that can be used to extract information, create custom reports and so on. Make sure to have some process in place for regular database backups. Databases are not invulnerable and can sometimes get damaged or corrupt.
- Software as a service (SaaS)/ Cloud based CMMS: If you are looking at SaaS applications (e.g. CMMS software hosted on a vendors website) remember that your data will be on their servers. You should take periodic backups of this data and download the files. This will provide you some level of protection in case the SaaS vendor runs into problems and goes out of business. If one of the reasons you chose a SaaS application is to allow remote access or multi-device support, check performance with a lower bandwidth network subject to connection drops (e.g. a cell phone network) as well as the devices you plan to use. See if the support and help pages are usable on smart phones if you plan to use them.
- Upgrade path: Frequently you may start with a more limited edition of the CMMS software. However, as you use it you may need to upgrade to an edition with more capabilities. Ensure that the vendor has a good upgrade path. You do not want to lose your existing data if you have to upgrade to a different software edition.
- Transferring data: When purchasing a CMMS software package you should also consider how easy it will be to bring in any existing data you may have. Most CMMS packages will allow you to import much data in comma delimited formats. You also want to consider how data can be exported from the system. This will be useful if you need this data in a separate system (e.g. purchasing, costing, etc.) or in the worst case you decide to move to a new maintenance software package at a future date!
- Adding more users: How easy is it to add more users? Some packages may require you to move to a completely different product if you want to upgrade from one user to multiple users. You should check and see if the pricing and ease of adding users makes sense if you plan to do this soon.
- Hardware & software required: Make sure you have the technical skills available to manage any special hardware or software that may be required. Keep track of installation disks, software downloads and passwords. We frequently have found that administrator passwords are lost and no one in the organization knows them! Losing downloads and installation disks is less of a problem since most software vendors will be able to provide you software download links for even old versions if you have proof of purchase.
CMMS Software Guide:
You may find the free maintenance software selection guide below very useful in your CMMS software selection process. It has a set of questions and checklists that you can use to identify the right products for your needs. With hundreds of products available it can be very hard to find the right one for your organization. This guide will make it a lot easier!
Public utilities cover a wide range of services from power generation & distribution, water supply, gas supply, waste water treatment and more. They provide essential services in a specific geographic area and have unique challenges. Most are heavily regulated and are required to provide uninterrupted services with few or no complications.
These demands pose unique challenges to public utility operators. Failure to deliver service produces hundreds if not thousands of irate customers. Pricing changes for services are regulated and need to go through formal approval processes so profit margins are usually slim. Infrastructure costs are very high and very expensive to replace and maintain.
This means that equipment and facility maintenance becomes a very critical function. Equipment failure leads to inability to provide service or in the worst case hazardous conditions (e.g. a waste water spill, a gas line leaks, a retention pond fails and so on). Equipment and facility replacement is very expensive – so good maintenance helps them have a long working life and reduces replacement costs. An effective maintenance management program requires the right tools to be effective and CMMS software (maintenance management software program) is one of them.
Ways Utility Maintenance Managers Can Use CMMS Software Tools
- Schedule preventive maintenance & calibration activities: With a variety of different equipment each with its own preventive maintenance tasks and calibration tasks there are quite a few maintenance tasks to schedule and keep track over the year. Maintenance software make it much easier for the utility maintenance manager/ planner to organize and make sure they are done.
- Identify problem equipment that needs to be replaced or overhauled: Equipment can be very expensive to replace – however, they do need to be replaced or completely overhauled at some time! A good maintenance software program offers a variety of reports (e.g. an equipment history report) that can be used to review maintenance costs, maintenance work duration and recorded problems over time. With this information it is possible to identify equipment/ facilities that are causing a majority of maintenance issues and their costs – so it makes it easier to justify doing a replacement or overhaul.
- Identify missed or delayed maintenance that can result in equipment breakdown: With so many maintenance work orders to do, it is quite common for some to fall by the wayside. Maybe it got bumped off the list because of a more urgent job, there was not enough time to complete it, spare parts were not available or the equipment has problems that require troubleshooting from an expert and so on. Sometimes the most mundane of missed tasks results in a big problems later e.g. not checking a cooling water intake filter for debris results in an entire plant/ generator shut down because the cooling water intake gets blocked. With reports provided by maintenance software it is easier to identify such missed/ delayed/ incomplete maintenance work.
- Work request management so that maintenance can be requested: External users and others such as equipment operators need a way to report problems or request maintenance. This information can be used to generate maintenance work orders that are tracked. Work request submitters can also have a way to check the status of their requests rather than having to call maintenance staff for updates.
- Integrated asset management: Since you will be entering information on all your facilities and equipment you now have a database of all equipment and facilities and their relation to each other. For example you could create an equipment hierarchy. So if a sub-equipment breaks down or needs to go out of service you can easily see what other equipment will be affected. You can do roll-up reports of all maintenance work done on an equipment and its sub-equipment or all equipment at a specific facility/ location.
- Reporting that is useful for compliance purposes: You may need to provide regular reports for auditing or regulatory purposes. In the worst case for an investigation after an incident. The maintenance software reports will be very useful to show what maintenance work orders were done, if anything was missed, if any problems were reported and so on.
- Spare parts & supplies management: Maintenance software typically come with spare & supplies management. While typically not a full inventory control system it has enough features for you to track consumption of spare and supplies, the costs involved, the equipment it is used for, vendors, etc. When planning/ generating work orders it can help you ensure that you have enough spares on hand to complete the job. You can re-order in advance and avoid delayed maintenance. Being able to identify good vendors for spare and supplies ensures that you have good quality spares. Poor quality parts can lead to problems completing maintenance or even worse result in equipment failures.
Maintenance Software Selection Guide
You may find our free “CMMS Software Selection Guide” useful to help you identify the features you need from your maintenance software. With hundreds of different products available it can be quite difficult to identify which ones will meet the needs of your public utility. The free guide offers tips and questions you should ask to find the right maintenance software program for you.
- Analyzing Machine/ Equipment Breakdown Reports From CMMS Software
- Maintenance Backlog Management For Equipment & Facilities
- Six Ways CMMS/ Maintenance Software Can Improve Vendor Management
Unfortunately in many manufacturing companies big and small there is a tendency in higher management to see maintenance as a not very important but necessary evil. It is really not something they wish to deal with. They frequently see the maintenance team not as a crucial part of the organization – sometimes possibly a few steps above the janitorial staff! This unfortunately results in disastrous decisions being made for the maintenance team. CMMS/ maintenance software gets selected on how nice it looks (beautiful and extensive reports are always welcome!) or how well it integrates with other software (ERP, financial and so on) rather than functionality that will help the maintenance team.
We have even spoken to maintenance managers who have told us they have had to threaten to quit before they could purchase our FastMaint CMMS software! While this may sound unbelievable it is a sad fact that in many manufacturing organizations the maintenance team “gets no respect”. Here we will attempt to list some benefits that CMMS software can offer a manufacturing plant – this may make it easier to get the approvals you need to purchase the right product for your organization.
Manufacturing Problems That CMMS Software Can Help Reduce:
- Unable to deliver product because of machine breakdown: This can be an extremely expensive problem that CMMS software can help reduce. When you have a wide variety of equipment each of which performs a crucial step in the manufacturing process, breakdowns of any of them creates a logjam where no more product can be made or delivered to customers. Each machine will have its own maintenance cycles. Some cycles will be based on time, others on quantity of product made and so on. CMMS software helps maintenance managers create preventive maintenance (PM) tasks and work orders based on these frequencies. Many CMMS software programs also enable keeping track of maintenance inventory (spare parts & supplies). Not being able to bring a machine back into service because you do not have the spare parts on hand can cause significant product losses.
- Unable to deliver quality desired because of machine not working to specifications: This can be a much more insidious problem and may not be caught early enough if product quality control is not rigorous. The worst case results in poor quality product being sent to customers. Dissatisfied customers then cancel orders resulting in enormous losses to companies. This can be fatal if the company is selling to a few big customers – losing them may force the company into bankruptcy. Again proper maintenance of machinery especially preventive maintenance helps ensure that equipment is running as per specifications. Having records from CMMS software of maintenance work done can help identify problem equipment that need to be replaced.
- Machines requiring early replacement because of poor maintenance: This results in large costs over the long term. If the maintenance team is able to maintain and keep equipment up to specifications they usually will not need to be replaced early. In many industries replacing machinery is a big capital expense. CMMS software can help keep track of maintenance requirements on different equipment so that they do not get forgotten and are done correctly.
- Regulatory penalties due to non-compliance: In quite a few industries there are various regulations that companies need to follow during the manufacturing process. Not being able to show or prove that maintenance was properly carried out after certain “incidents” or when inspections are done can result in significant financial penalties as well as become a public relations disaster. Again the record keeping offered by CMMS software can be very helpful in providing a record of work done as well as show that the manufacturer was diligent in maintaining assets and equipment.
- Inability to manage costs of maintenance & equipment downtime: Maintenance statistics collected by the maintenance software makes it easier to report to upper management on the status of the maintenance management program. These statistics can be put in a short easy to understand report that can be easily shared and understood. More detailed analysis can help maintenance managers identify problems with equipment, staffing, spare parts and more resulting in a much more effective maintenance management program over time.
Maintenance Management Software Selection Guide
Since there are hundreds of CMMS software products available it can be quite a challenge finding the right one for your manufacturing plant. To help you identify what you need we have a free “CMMS Software Selection Guide” that you can download and use.
- "Equipment Failure & The Cost Of Failure" from Bin95.com provides a detailed analysis of different costs.
- "Quality Costs" from the Wikipedia attempts to categorize different costs that arise from trying to maintain product quality or lack of it.
- "Equipment Breakdown Insurance" an article on Smart Business Online discusses the benefits of purchasing this insurance and its availability.
- "The value, and cost of quality" from Plant Services Magazine discusses how quality starts to slowly go bad due to bad practices.
- "Software solutions can simplify on site compliance" from Industrial Maintenance & Plant Operation Magazine.
E.I. DuPont de Nemours Co. (Delaware) reported that "The largest, single controllable expenditure in a plant is maintenance, and in many plants the maintenance budget exceeds annual net profit." (1996)
Maintenance planners and maintenance managers are responsible for making sure that equipment and/ or facilities are properly maintained and function as needed. Keeping track of such maintenance can be a chore when there is a lot of equipment and/or facilities to maintain. This is where maintenance management software/ CMMS software can be really useful. These packages offer a variety of features that can help keep track of maintenance and identify potential problems and areas with scope for improvement.
Based on our experience working with customers, convincing management of the value of CMMS software and getting a budget for it can be quite a challenge. Quite a few organizations believe that a paper based or spreadsheet based system will continue to work for them. At other times you may get a budget to buy maintenance software but some else selects the product – and they get seduced by beautiful graphics and reports that give a great illusion of control – but the selected CMMS software may lack the features that make it effective. Here we will try to present some of the important features that you should look for and how they will benefit you and your organization.
Key CMMS software features:
- Task templates for frequent maintenance jobs: They allow you to create reusable task templates that can be used to create work orders for frequently occurring jobs e.g. a monthly HVAC check, a quarterly pump inspection and so on. How is this useful? It will reduce the amount of time you spend re-entering instructions on work orders. You can also sit down with your best technicians and put together detailed instructions on how the job is to be done using best practices. Now even if you get a new technician or board or get someone unfamiliar with this type of task, it is less likely that work will be incorrectly done and cause equipment breakdowns at critical periods. This is really a big benefit since you are capturing knowledge stored in the brains of your best technicians into the system where it will be available to the organization when needed.
- Schedule maintenance tasks in a variety of ways: Maintenance could be scheduled by time (e.g. every week, every 21st of the month, etc.), as needed (unplanned), based on another task/ work order being completed, by a change in meter reading or by an alarm condition. How is this useful? This makes it easier to put together a maintenance plan and schedule maintenance that will be due months or even years into the future. Now your maintenance team is less likely to forget critical maintenance that results in a breakdown. Secondly you can use this to create a calendar of future maintenance (aka Equipment Maintenance Calendar) and work with other departments (e.g. operations) to ensure that scheduled maintenance will not affect their plans e.g. customer deliveries, seasonal business and so on. Being able to do this is something that other departments will appreciate and is a very good reason to consider the purchase of maintenance management software.
- Easy ways to send work orders to maintenance techs and collect feedback: If you have many maintenance technicians and they move around a lot it can be quite difficult to keep them appraised of open work orders as they come in. You could do a daily generation of work orders using the CMMS software and print or email them out to the technicians. More advanced CMMS software may even allow technicians to update work orders by email or SMS text messages. This makes it a lot easier for the maintenance planner or manager to update work orders rather than having to chase after technicians to see if they are completed or not. How is this useful? Well to begin with it saves your time. You will spend less time pushing paper or being on the phone trying to get information. It helps the organization since completed work orders mean that the equipment is back in operation – less production is lost. Knowing that certain work orders are delayed and why can help you focus on those work orders and find out how to get them completed faster. Having an easy way to update status saves your maintenance technicians time – they can spend more time on actual maintenance work.
- Ability to track pending/ past due work orders (aka Maintenance Backlog): When many work orders are being generated every day it is easy for some work orders to be missed. For example they may not get done because a higher priority job came up or are delayed because parts or technicians with the required skills were not available. CMMS software will allow you to track such work backlog and the work orders that form part of this backlog. You may even be able to send reminders when the work orders are overdue by a specified number of days. How is this useful? Missed maintenance can frequently result in equipment failure – this means lost production, operations issues and other costs on the organization. Alternatively equipment that is not working properly will produce poor quality product or a bad customer experience depending on your industry. So being able to track overdue work orders and complete/ close them adds a lot of value!
- Statistics to share with management: Maintenance being a fairly important function is something management does like to keep track of. There are a variety of maintenance statistics you could collect but most are not meaningful to non maintenance personnel. Important statistics that can be shared are items like work order backlog hours, number of pending work orders, machine downtime, breakdown vs. planned/ preventive maintenance and so on (see Key Maintenance Management Statistics For Maintenance Planners). How is this useful? Being able to share statistics that are easy to understand will help management and other departments understand the state of the maintenance program and what it needs to improve. Meaningful statistics that higher management can understand is something they can act upon e.g. increase your budget!
- Equipment/ machine breakdown reports to identify problem equipment: Frequently a subset of equipment is the source of most maintenance problems and emergencies. While advanced maintenance software may offer a variety of ratios and other statistics to compare such equipment even a historical record of issues and statistics identifying equipment work and costs can be helpful. How is this useful? Being able to identify these equipment and take pro-active action to ward off such emergencies or replace such problem equipment goes a long way to making the maintenance manager more effective. Equipment breakdowns should decrease resulting in fewer production outages or operational issues. Being unable to ship product, not being able to provide customers services and having operations staff wait till equipment is fixed are all significant costs that can balloon over time. Hence having a tool that helps you identify equipment that tends to breakdown is going to save your organization money & reduce customer issues. See "Analyzing Machine/ Equipment Breakdown Reports From CMMS Software" for more details.
- Track usage of spares & consumables: CMMS software allow you to associate parts & supplies with work orders and track usage as they are consumed. They may also offer support to create and manage purchase orders/ purchase requests. How is this useful? One of the biggest source of maintenance program costs is spare parts and supplies. Being able to keep track of them and knowing how much you have on hand is very useful to help reduce wastage. Experts say that a computerized maintenance management solution (CMMS) can help organizations save between 5-15% of their maintenance budgets.
Looking for CMMS/ maintenance management software?
If you are interested in seeing how CMMS software can help you manage maintenance you can download a 30-day fully functional trial of the FastMaint CMMS program and see how it will work for you. FastMaint CMMS offers the features mentioned above and more. This can help you more effectively plan and manage maintenance of equipment and facilities.
1) "5 maintenance backlog traps to avoid" from PlantServices magazine covers issues that can trip you up when trying to reduce maintenance backlog.
2) A sample case study "CMMS justification, benefits & return on investment (ROI)".
3) Industrial Maintenance & Plant Operation magazine "More Wrench Time, Less Downtime" covers some of the business benefits of having CMMS software.
When you are looking for CMMS software you frequently will have to provide a justification for the purchase in terms of expected costs and benefits. This can be hard to do and quite tedious. You need to understand both the possible costs involved as well as the benefits to make the right decision on not just to purchase CMMS software but the type of product you want as well as the budget you should have for it.
What are the CMMS software costs?
Purchasing and using CMMS software for your maintenance management will incur a variety of costs. These costs are not just financial but are a variety of other costs incurred by your organization covering implementation, training, on-going use and so on.
- Software license costs: This represents the cost of the software license – typically a one-time cost unless you are looking at buying upgrades.
- Ongoing support costs: This will be the cost of software support agreements that will usually involve maintenance and updates from the software vendor. Generally such software support includes updates/ upgrades besides support if you run into issues using the software.
- Consulting & training costs: You may need to get on site consultants (from the software vendor or some other company) to setup the software, perform other configuration or provide training to employees. You need to budget the actual costs for such consulting time plus things like employee time spent learning to use the software, your Information Technology department costs for setting up any hardware or other initial setup and so on.
- Other software & hardware costs: To run the software and its database you will need computers & servers. You may also need to purchase other third-party software to run the system e.g. database software, operating system licenses, web server software and so on. If you are using bar coding you may need to buy bar code readers and other software.
- Annual/ monthly subscription costs: If you are buying Software As A Service (SAAS) where you login and use a hosted solution you will be paying a monthly/ annual fee rather than a one-time license fee. Generally support costs & updates are included with such fees.
- Data migration costs: This involves the cost of transferring data from an existing system or copying data from spread sheets or paper into the new system. While this is something the maintenance team may do themselves there is still a cost due to the labor hours spent doing this. Plant Services magazine has an article "Converting data to a new CMMS might not be as easy as you think" that covers some of the pitfalls.
- System management costs: The costs involved for someone to maintain the software system itself e.g. taking regular backups, set up users, provide help desk support & other administration on an ongoing basis.
What about the benefits?
- Reductions in equipment breakdowns due to better maintenance: Since equipment maintenance will be planned better and preventive maintenance is less likely to be skipped, you should start to see fewer equipment breakdowns over time.
- Reductions in overtime costs due to fewer breakdowns: Fewer equipment breakdowns means fewer maintenance "emergencies" when all hands are needed on the deck to fix things fast. So you should see lower overtime costs since maintenance technicians should be doing less overtime to fix critical equipment that has broken down.
- Improved maintenance backlog management: Maintenance backlog represents outstanding maintenance that has not been done. With CMMS software you will better be able to keep track of maintenance work due as well as items that slipped through the "cracks". You can learn more about this from "Maintenance Backlog Management For Equipment & Facilities".
- Reductions in schedule conflicts due to maintenance being planned at the same time equipment is needed by operations: This can be a big benefit. If you have planned critical maintenance on an equipment but it clashes with schedules of production/ operations you are not going to be very popular. Equipment maintenance calendars created from your CMMS software can help you plan future maintenance and reschedule as needed. You can learn more about this from "Equipment Maintenance Calendars & Scheduling Preventive Maintenance".
- Reduced costs due to longer asset/ equipment life: Due to better maintenance most equipment is going to last longer before it needs to be replaced. This reduces the capital costs of buying new equipment over time.
- Improved inventory management: Better inventory management is a significant source of savings. Due to better maintenance planning you will keep fewer unneeded and possibly expensive spares around, you will reduce delays fixing breakdowns because you do not have spare parts and you will better be able to evaluate part vendors for quality and reliability.
- Improved analysis of problems and better reporting to management: Maintenance software will help you generate statistics on your performance that can be shared with management so that they have better insight into how the maintenance department is doing as well as get warnings on potential problems (e.g. unexplainable maintenance backlog increases, rising equipment maintenance costs, etc.). You can learn more about these statistics and how to use them from "Key Maintenance Management Statistics For Maintenance Planners".
- Standardization of maintenance work due to task templates: With good CMMS software you can create standard maintenance task templates to create work orders. Instructions on how to complete the maintenance can be standardized in these templates. This makes it easier to train new technicians as well as improve maintenance standards.
- Improved user/ customer satisfaction: Reductions in equipment breakdowns and better planning or preventive maintenance will create a better impression. Maintenance plans are less likely to interfere with operations or delay product delivery.
You can see a sample case study "CMMS justification, benefits & return on investment (ROI)" that actually tells you how to put dollar figures on all the above benefits to help you calculate the Return on Investment of your CMMS software. An article in Industrial Maintenance & Plant Operation magazine "More Wrench Time, Less Downtime" covers some of the business benefits of having CMMS software.
Looking for suitable CMMS software?
If you are currently looking at trying to justify the costs of buying a CMMS software product you may find it useful to try out the 30-day fully functional trial of the FastMaint software that we have available. It will give you a chance to evaluate the costs and benefits involved in using maintenance management software and hopefully make a better case to your management on why you should purchase it!
"Break down maintenance planning" certainly does sound like an oxymoron! How can one plan for break down maintenance which by its very nature is unpredictable? However, there are some things that you can do to make your maintenance team more effective in handling unplanned equipment breakdowns and other maintenance emergencies.
- Prioritize your preventive maintenance tasks into "High" – must complete on time, "Medium" – must complete but can be rescheduled, "Low" – good to do, can be skipped once in a while. Using your maintenance software try to put together a preventive maintenance plan that includes all these types of tasks during your working day. Then when something unexpected and urgent comes up you can reschedule or skip preventive maintenance work of "Low" and "Medium" priority so as to make time to attend to unplanned break down maintenance.
- Analyze your historical work orders to see if there are trends when equipment tends to break down e.g. you may see a seasonal variation when the weather turns hotter/ colder or during a busy season when equipment is heavily used and so on. Once you can confirm such trends you can make sure that your maintenance staffing levels are adequate during those periods – encourage people to take vacations during less busy periods, schedule training during quieter periods, hire temporary staff and so on.
- Prioritize equipment that can break down based on whether delays in fixing them are acceptable. For example if one machine of several similar machines fail it may not be so much of an emergency if the other machines can handle the lost production. Alternatively you may be able to "borrow" a replacement from the vendor. This will give you some flexibility in deciding when to fix equipment break downs.
- Use historical data to identify equipment that breaks down frequently. Identify the most common causes and see if regular preventive maintenance would have reduced these breakdowns. You may also want to consider replacing such equipment especially if more reliable alternatives are available. See the article "Analyzing Machine/ Equipment Breakdown Reports From CMMS Software" for more information on using these reports.
- Use historical data to identify the most common types of break downs. Ensure that they are not occurring because of user/ operator errors e.g. overloading a machine, ignoring equipment warnings and so on. Make sure that technicians are properly trained to fix such break downs quickly. This will ensure a rapid turn-around of such problems and greatly increase customer/ end user satisfaction.
- Spare parts availability can be a problem since breakdowns are unpredictable. Not having required spares to fix a break down will results in delays. On the other hand keeping a large supply of (possibly expensive) spare parts on hand adds significantly to maintenance expenses. Again historical data can be useful to give you an idea of spares you need to have on hand to handle most types of common break downs. You may also be able to identify vendors who can get you spares and supplies quickly as needed. The article "6 Ways CMMS/ Maintenance Software Can Improve Vendor Management" has some useful information.
- Review manufacturer recommendations periodically to make sure that you are following recommended practices when performing maintenance. Some missed maintenance steps could be the reason for certain equipment failures.
Do you have problems collecting this information?
These suggestions require you to collect and analyze quite a bit of maintenance data using your CMMS/ maintenance software program. If you do not have CMMS software or find the reports provided by your existing solution inadequate you can download a fully functional 30-day trial of FastMaint CMMS software. The import feature can be used to import much of your equipment from comma delimited files. You can then try out various reports to see how it can be used for better breakdown maintenance planning.
- ReliabilityWeb offers a free chapter from "Zero Breakdown Strategies" by Terry Wireman.
- The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a section for Lean Manufacturing and Environment has an article "Lean Thinking and Methods" which has several tips on reducing & managing breakdowns.
Maintenance backlog refers to maintenance work that is overdue. It is usually measured in hours or days. It represents the total estimated time it would take to complete the pending maintenance work orders. As a facilities/ maintenance manager or maintenance planner this is something you need to keep an eye on and make sure that it does not go out of control.
Maintenance work orders can remain incomplete for a variety of reasons:
- Spare parts not available to complete the work: If these are preventive maintenance work orders you should be able to predict in advance spares & supplies that may be needed using maintenance work order reports for future periods in your CMMS software. Based on previous unplanned/ breakdown work orders you may be able to identify equipment that breaks down frequently and the parts that need to be available so that work can be completed. Keep track of vendors and try to have alternative vendors for all parts so that you have other vendors to go to in case of supply problems from some vendors. You may find the vendor management tips in "6 Ways CMMS/ Maintenance Software Can Improve Vendor Management" useful.
- Maintenance technicians (with required skills) not available for the job: This can happen when equipment needs specialized skills to fix/ troubleshoot but the technicians with those skills are too busy or not available because of sickness/ vacation/ other work. If this is one off or infrequent you probably can live with this. However, if you see it happen quite frequently you should plan to upgrade the skills of other technicians so that someone else can step in as needed.
- Equipment problems that require troubleshooting from vendor/ outside specialist: While similar to previously mentioned problems of technicians not being available, this is something you have less control over. If this occurs often to certain equipment, try to escalate the issues with equipment vendors so that they will send you help faster. Also see if it makes sense to replace equipment because it is too old or can be replaced with more reliable equipment. The article "Analyzing Machine/ Equipment Breakdown Reports From CMMS Software" may be useful in helping you do this.
- Task dropped because a higher priority task came up: This is something that can happen quite frequently. In fact in our "Maintenance Management – Tips For Success" e-booklet we recommend organizing a schedule where it is possible to drop lower priority tasks when higher priority unplanned/ breakdown tasks come up. For such dropped tasks you should try to catch up when you can and make sure that they get completed/ canceled in a reasonable time period.
- Work order no longer needed: For example you may have a monthly preventive maintenance check where a filter is replaced. The equipment breaks down just before this check is due and as part of the service the technician replaces the filter and does the other steps in the preventive maintenance check. The check is no longer required this month. Another cause could be that the equipment on which the work is being done is no longer in service or is out of service for other reasons. In such cases you need to cancel these unneeded work orders.
- Unable to get access to the equipment/ location because it is in use: You may be unable to complete work because another department (e.g. operations) is using the equipment and cannot afford to have it shut down for maintenance. If this is critical maintenance that is being delayed you need to escalate this to management because such delayed maintenance may result in premature equipment failures. At this point the maintenance department will most likely take the blame! Ideally you should use something like the Equipment Calendar Report to identify and schedule maintenance with other departments to reduce such missed work. Read the article "Equipment Maintenance Calendars & Scheduling Preventive Maintenance" for more information.
- Someone forgot about it: This can happen more often than not especially when you have many work orders to track. This is where CMMS software can be really useful and can help you keep track of missed maintenance as well as give you reminders as needed.
It is important to have a way to keep track of your maintenance backlog. Ideally over time it should decrease but due to factors mentioned above you may see jumps in some periods. CMMS software can be very useful to keep track of such pending/ past due work orders and help you ensure that they are closed/ canceled as needed.
Looking for CMMS/ maintenance software?
You can download a 30-day fully functional trial of FastMaint CMMS software and see how you can use it to manage your maintenance backlog. The one page Statistics report available from the main screen/ Home page (Web edition) shows how much backlog you have as well as check for pending work orders from prior periods. The maintenance work order history report can be used to locate only pending/past-due work orders so that you can complete/ cancel them as needed.
- "5 maintenance backlog traps to avoid" from PlantServices magazine covers issues that can trip you up when trying to reduce maintenance backlog.
- "Maintenance Work Backlog Management" from Lifetime Reliability Solutions has some useful tips on classifying and managing backlog.
Maintenance management is quite a wide field since ongoing maintenance is required for a variety of equipment and facilities. Having a CMMS software program that can keep track of such maintenance and schedule work orders becomes very useful. A maintenance software program is not only useful in locations with a lot of machines (e.g. manufacturing plants, mining operations, etc.) but useful where you have a lot of facilities needing maintenance (hotel, resorts, restaurants) as well as those with other equipment (e.g. utilities, vehicle fleets).
Does it make sense to look for software specialized to the type of maintenance requirements you have?
This may not be such a good idea if you are going to be using the same system to handle different types of maintenance e.g. at a manufacturing plant you handle maintenance of machinery as well as facilities (assembly lines, work stations, storage areas) or at a commercial facility you handle maintenance of rooms as well as equipment (HVAC, water pumps, electrical) or say a trucking company wants to handle maintenance of their truck fleet as well as other equipment (e.g. repair equipment) and facilities (e.g. loading docks, repair bays). This means that a product targeted at say fleet maintenance may not offer good facility/ equipment maintenance features. In such cases a more general purpose maintenance management product would be a better choice.
What about integration with other products e.g. an ERP system or accounting system?
A few other software suites, generally ERP systems have maintenance management modules. However, these usually do not have all the features that a CMMS software package will offer. So they can be hard to use and create user dissatisfaction. Some CMMS systems may offer integration with other systems but in all such cases I would recommend buyer beware – make sure the integration is what you want and what you need. These integrations may require you to buy expensive consulting time to setup or do not transfer the correct information between systems. Rather than depending on vendor promises make sure to test such integrations and make sure that they are genuinely useful before deciding to pay a premium for a CMMS software product that offers such integration.
With the advent of a smart mobile phones and tablets does it make sense to look for maintenance software that supports them?
Many maintenance software packages advertise mobile phone features and capabilities. Some features such as the ability to push out work orders to technicians in the field and handle their updates can be quite useful. Others can end up being dangerous – what happens if a technician can modify equipment records, makes changes and drops out of the network due to phone issues? How do you handle lost phones? Who pays for Internet access? You can learn more about these and other questions you need to consider in a related post "Mobile Phone Support In CMMS/ Maintenance Management Software".
How useful are maintenance software reviews?
Quite a few websites and magazines offer reviews or comparisons of different CMMS software. There are a few underlying problems you need to be aware of before you put too much faith in particular reviews. For example you need to consider the target audience the review is for. If your organization/ team is not really a target or does not fall in the solution size range, the review will not be useful. Reviewers conflicts of interest are also a cause of concern. You can learn more about what you need to consider when checking reviews from "CMMS Software Reviews – How Good Are They?".
Maintenance software selection guide
Besides the ones mentioned above a variety of other items need to be considered when selecting CMMS software for an organization e.g. hosted/ self-hosted, number of users, types of reports, scheduling features and so on. To help you consider such items we have put together a “CMMS Software Selection Guide” that you can download and use. It offers a checklist of different criteria that you can use to help you narrow your choice among the hundreds of products currently available.
- See "50 questions to help your CMMS search" from the Plant Maintenance Resource Center for a useful checklist of CMMS features.
- See "Ten Pitfalls To Avoid When Selecting A CMMS/EAM" from Industrial Maintenance & Plant Operation Magazine.
It is the start of a new year and time to get an idea of maintenance due for the coming months. You especially want to see if too much work is being clubbed in some weeks while nothing much is scheduled during other weeks. Low periods could also be time some of your maintenance technicians could take time off or go for additional training. When you have several hundred equipment it can be hard to get an idea of preventive maintenance that is due for all the different equipment. This is where reports from your CMMS/ maintenance software can be quite helpful. You may find a report called Equipment Maintenance Calendar or Maintenance Calendar. Use it to get an idea of preventative maintenance due in the coming months week by week.
Watch out for:
- Remember that unplanned maintenance probably will still come up during some weeks due to equipment breakdowns or other issues. So make sure that you have maintenance technicians available with required skills even during weeks that not much maintenance is being planned. Having a look at prior year breakdown work orders can give you an idea of the possible work load – but remember that it probably is not accurate since unplanned maintenance due to equipment breakdown is quite unpredictable!
- Some adjustments may be needed in the maintenance calendar if old equipment is going to be replaced during the course of the year or new equipment is expected to be installed.
- Check carefully and make sure that planned workloads are not unreasonable and you have the staff to do them. You will need to change your maintenance task scheduling if you are going to be overloaded in some weeks.
- Discuss with operations staff if it is acceptable to remove some equipment from service at certain periods – you may find it is a busy period and the worst time to do any planned maintenance! You can tweak settings on maintenance task schedules to ensure that planned maintenance dates are adjusted to accommodate such needs.
- It is also be a good time to get an idea of expected maintenance spare parts demands over the coming months. This will help you order items early from suppliers as well as give you an idea of quantities needed so that you will be eligible for applicable discounts. CMMS software reports on work orders for future periods may have an option to calculate parts usage and availability. This can come in useful to get an idea of spares you need and when you will need them. You can see "6 Ways CMMS/ Maintenance Software Can Improve Vendor Management" and "3 Ways To Improve Maintenance Spare Parts Management" for some additional spare parts management tips.
Have a look at a related article "CMMS Software Tip: Why You Need An Equipment Maintenance Calendar" for more information.
Looking for CMMS software?
If you do not have a maintenance software package or are dissatisfied with your current maintenance program you can download a fully functional 30-day trial of FastMaint CMMS Maintenance Management software and see how it works for you. Use the import feature to load in your equipment and maintenance tasks. You can then try the Maintenance Calendar Report to get an idea of the preventive maintenance due in the coming months.