CMMS with OPC interface creates real-time savings

Integrating a CMMS with an open platform communications (OPC) server can lessen breakdowns and manual entry, helping maintenance managers get information in real time.

By Paul Lachance, Smartware Group October 27, 2014

When a CMMS is integrated with an open platform communications (OPC) server, preventive maintenance rises to a whole new level of performance, resulting in fewer breakdowns, less manual entry-and fewer lost bags at the airport.

OPC technology essentially works as a conduit for transporting and translating data. It picks up information from hardware sources, like building automation software SCADA, and sends it directly to a robust CMMS program without needing a technician to manually enter that data.

This means maintenance managers get information in real time, as the OPC interface scoops up readings from "data points," such as meter data, production data, and temperature gauges, and instantly delivers those readings to the CMMS. One aviation services company uses OPC technology to link its CMMS and aircraft avionics data to critical ground-based monitoring, diagnostic, and tracking systems on gate equipment, facility systems, ground support equipment-and of course, baggage handling systems.

By meshing everything into a unified technology, the company not only experienced a quicker return on investment, but it also saw an uptick in the efficiency of ramp personnel, shortened aircraft turn times, and better on-line ratings for flights. For companies that make the connection between CMMS and OPC technology, cost savings can amount to millions of dollars. One food processing company, in fact, reported a savings of $140,000 per week!

Because the plant had to flush fresh vegetables with water before processing, the issue of managing wastewater was crucial, since that water had to be treated and deemed clean enough for discharge into a local river. Unfortunately, pumps on the system kept breaking down, causing 20,000 gal of wastewater to flow out of the main tank on a fairly regular basis.

Searching for a solution, the company had a database expert retrieve data from its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system while other personnel gathered data from its SCADA system and from the separate, stand-alone CMMS. All of the data was disjoined and required a significant amount of manual manipulation.

By using the OPC interface to connect the other systems with the CMMS, however, maintenance managers were able to analyze the problem by viewing 20 data points delivered in real time. They discovered clogged filters were causing the wastewater tank to overflow.

Instead of continuing to replace the pumps again and again, managers harnessed data from the OPC and directed it to the CMMS to set up preventive maintenance tasks and work orders to change the filters and pumps on a regular schedule. With this strategic approach to integrating its technology and data, the company not only saved money, it reduced water waste as well.

Adding an OPC interface to a CMMS gives maintenance teams another important advantage: mobility. An oil and gas company used that advantage to streamline operations. At one time, engineers in the field would take readings from flow meters and then they had to physically travel back to the main office to examine production data on a particular well. Essentially, the engineers were locked out of their own data when they worked anywhere other than the office.

Since OPC technology can translate data across various platforms and programming languages, the company was able to use it to break the lock on the information the engineers needed. Now, data from the CMMS and other systems is decentralized and the engineers can access what they need when they need it using mobile devices. Again, production went up and costs went down.

Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group, Inc. Contact Paul directly at