ERP and CMMS: The ties that bind

A best-of-breed computerized maintenance management system can fulfill requisite integration with an enterprise resource planning system to share cost data and reduce redundant data entry.


Whether you follow engineer-to-order (ETO), make-to-order (MTO), batch process, or any other manufacturing style, there’s an enterprise resource planning (ERP) strategy to fit your firm. Manufacturers invest in ERP to gain control of major business processes. Depending on the size of their organization, manufacturers can pick and choose from a range of ERP systems with a choice of modules to automate both business and production processes—from sales, service, inventory, and accounting, to production, supply chain, and shop floor management.

But not all ERP modules are created equal. When it comes to maintenance management, ERP may fall short in ease of use and quick implementation. Expensive customization can be required to fit the ERP’s enterprise asset management (EAM) system to the maintenance organization’s workflow, including routine preventive maintenance (PM), work orders (WOs), and detailed asset-maintenance analysis.

However, maintenance managers do have a choice. A best-of-breed computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) that has proven to cut maintenance costs and increase machine uptime can often stand alone and act independently from an ERP system, but it also has the capability of integrating with the ERP if your organization wishes to integrate asset information. At the same time, the CMMS can be faster to implement and produce better return on investment (ROI).

A best-of-breed CMMS tends to have functionality that can be comparable to an ERP EAM module, yet packaged in an easier-to-use interface.The CMMS ties together asset documentation, maintenance production, and parts inventory. Its database can handle a heavy load of information about an asset, and users can easily add custom fields to append images, schematics, manual instructions, and more. A powerful CMMS also turns a simple WO into an asset’s audit trail for repair history, safety maintenance, and contractor relations.

An ERP EAM tends to naturally be more complex, given its operational breadth. Its functionality may require many more steps to enter a piece of equipment, like adding a PM or issuing a WO. This is an important point, whereas best-of-breed CMMS should shorten the learning curve for users, from implementation to routine, daily usage to asset maintenance analysis, with a modern intuitive interface that enables them to accomplish their goals in as little steps as possible.

This comes by way of vertical scrolling and few horizontal tabs. Modern CMMS solutions enable users to scan for information instead of searching through numerous tabs at the top of a screen to get to other pages. While this type of vertical scrolling is commonplace on smartphones and tablets, modern CMMS user interfaces are adapting to present-day user behavior.

But a best-of-breed CMMS also fulfills requisite integration with an ERP, shares cost data related to maintaining assets, and reduces the need for redundant data entry. Take spare parts, for example. Within two or three clicks of a mouse, the user scans the part into a WO and the CMMS automatically adjusts inventory.

Best-of-breed CMMS can also sync with ERP purchasing, inventory, and order management, and share cost information related to asset maintenance. When a WO requires spare parts to be used, those parts are noted in the WO, and the CMMS seamlessly adjusts inventory and order management on the ERP side and generates or shares an ERP purchase order if parts need to be replaced.

And when the user closes out the WO, the CMMS automatically adds the spare parts to a bill of materials.

At the end of the day, there are options when it comes to maintenance management, particularly within an organization utilizing a corporate ERP system. Today’s best-of-breed CMMS solutions can come with the integration points necessary to bridge the gap between maintenance operations, accounting, inventory, and other organizational functions—all while providing the simple user interface, powerful functionality, and quick implementation maintenance managers need to ensure their department stays on target.

Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.

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