How to convince maintenance to use the new CMMS

When it comes to selecting a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), get the maintenance staff involved in the process

By Bryan Christiansen September 26, 2021
Courtesy: Cincinnati Incorporated/Steve Rourke, CFE Media and Technology

A major information technology (IT) upgrade is a bitter pill for most organizations — hard to swallow but essential for the long-term health of the business. When it involves changes to critical platforms like a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), the resistance can be stiff and vocal.

Unfortunately, software obsolescence is a reality in modern business. Firms only consider a new CMMS implementation when the benefits outweigh the risks: improved efficiency, lower costs, better compliance.

But success hinges on the ability to get the staff fully on board> after all, they will be the ones who must use the system daily. Thankfully, it does not involve rocket science or significant expenses; a look at some common mistakes would be a good starting point.

Why CMMS implementations fail

The modern CMMS market is a well-developed ecosystem — a true buyers’ market where firms have the luxury of choice. There are numerous options of varying complexity and flexibility. This also means that one can no longer blame the software when the implementation becomes a fiasco.

In all but a few instances, the ultimate responsibility for a failed CMMS implementation falls on management. It is usually the result of one of these common errors:

  1. Picking a CMMS that does not match the firm’s needs and capabilities.
  2. Improper customization/configuration of the CMMS features.
  3. Failure in using the vendor support team for the implementation.
  4. Not involving the in-house maintenance teams in the software selection and implementation.

While these can derail a CMMS implementation, the fourth mistake is probably the most egregious one. A well-organized maintenance department is a major asset — it can provide critical inputs and insights to help identify the perfect CMMS solution for the business.

As the ones who bear the brunt of the disruption from a new CMMS, maintenance teams are often highly resistant to an upgrade. This is an entirely human response — a fear of drastic change is hardwired into our brains as a self-defense response.

This reaction can be aggravated if the legacy system has been in use for years, or even decades in some situations. Likewise, firms making the jump from traditional to fully digital CMMS solutions often face extra resistance, simply due to the magnitude of change involved.

As creatures of habit, we get attached to familiar interfaces, controls and shortcuts. With a new CMMS comes the need to learn new things — and the risk of loss in productivity and efficiency, at least in the short term.

4 steps for a smoother CMMS implementation

The top echelons of the organization will have to play a proactive role in convincing the maintenance staff about a CMMS upgrade. Managers must try to involve maintenance staff across the entire process of selecting, configuring and implementing a new CMMS. This can be divided into four steps:

1. Create awareness among maintenance staff. The first step is to explain the rationale behind a CMMS switch to the maintenance employees. Tell them why it is important for the company in terms of costs, efficiency and compliance. Explain how continued reliance on an outdated system is hurting the company through meetings and presentations.

Highlight direct benefits to the employees themselves, if possible. A modern CMMS can reduce employee workloads, improve safety, increase accountability, lead to more balanced schedules and lessen the need for overtime. Build a convincing case for a new CMMS — for the firm and the maintenance staff — and the battle is half won.

2. Identify the parameters of the best CMMS for your needs. Picking the right CMMS solution is not an easy task, as we have explained in a previous post, it involves a critical examination of internal maintenance processes. The maintenance team is the best source of data here. Standard maintenance process reviews will provide a quick overview of key areas that need to be addressed by the new CMMS.

Also, have them dig up other vital details to help narrow the list of potential solutions available on the market. Look at maintenance schedules, asset statuses, repair speeds, inventory situation and more — ask teams about pain points that need to be addressed.

The idea is to make a list of common workflow issues and discuss with potential CMMS vendors on how their software could alleviate those problems. Maintenance staff is way more likely to get onboard if using software that speeds up their tasks, instead of just adding another layer of administrative work.

3. Involve the maintenance teams in the procurement process. It is a good idea to have one or more senior members from maintenance involved throughout the CMMS selection and implementation process. Have them look at commonly used features like interface complexity, ease of scheduling maintenance, work order management and inventory tracking, among others.

Vendors usually offer ongoing support throughout the CMMS implementation process. Make full use of such support and have them interact heavily with maintenance teams for best results. This can considerably soften the bumps during the transition from legacy to a new CMMS.

Note: One thing to watch out for is the length of the suggested training process. People should be able to get the hang of the software in a few days, not in a few months. If the training process is long, this could be a red flag that suggest how software is not particularly user-friendly.

4. Focus on the early days. The early days of the implementation should be focused on training and familiarization. Again, try to make optimal use of vendor support and documentation during this critical phase — extra monitoring will help identify mistakes before they turn into bad habits. Additionally, creating basic guidelines (e.g., setting data entry standards) is the best way to ensure data integrity, keep everyone on the same page and have a straightforward way to filter and search for different records in the future.

All of this makes the software more efficient and easier to use, which will help increase its adoption among the maintenance staff.

Final thoughts

There are many variables that contribute to resistance against CMMS implementation. Some individuals are more accommodating of change in the workplace than others. Some solutions are less painful to implement. As long as you pay adequate attention to both ends — the software and the human using it — a smooth CMMS implementation is well within your grasp.

Author Bio: Founder and CEO at Limble CMMS.