Is one third of a CMMS enough?

Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part series. In the eyes of some employees, a CMMS is a source of extra work for maintenance staff that is already struggling to do more with less. That's why it is vital that the CMMS is portrayed, not as a source of additional tasks, but as an opportunity to increase job security while demonstrating the value of a strong maintenance team.

By Leland Parker, Senior Consultant, DPSI October 10, 2003

In the eyes of some employees, a CMMS is a source of extra work for maintenance staff that is already struggling to do more with less. That’s why it is vital that the CMMS is portrayed, not as a source of additional tasks, but as an opportunity to increase job security while demonstrating the value of a strong maintenance team. By documenting every corrective action, preventive task, emergency repair, and system overhaul in the CMMS, maintenance employees and managers can obtain the data needed to generate reports that show management the link between their efforts and increases in product quality, as well as reductions in production costs.

In addition, most plants have standard operating procedures and monthly reports that are displayed for the entire plant — downtime is a classic one. Some of these reports can be pulled from the CMMS. They document the department’s contributions and show the positive impact of its work to people who may not always understand what maintenance does.

Another way to draw attention to the department’s contribution is through implementation of a rewards program that celebrates the improvements charted using the CMMS. Begin by assigning goals to individuals or teams, publicly recognizing the team that makes the most significant impact on downtime or overall maintenance costs for that period of time. Using the reports generated by the CMMS can raise the department’s profile and reinforce the benefits of using the system, which will encourage further usage.

Generating commitment from top management

Organizations that realize the full benefits of their CMMS have a culture in which everyone up and down the chain of command truly understands the importance of CMMS. Maintenance is often viewed as overhead — a necessary evil. There can be the perception and misconception that maintenance employees do nothing all day but wait around for something to break.

Your goal should be to educate top managers about the return their CMMS investment yields, and, conversely, the consequences of failing to use it. Help managers understand how downtime costs can escalate if the loop isn’t closed. Show them the decision-making value of having information about the plant’s equipment, inventory, and work history at their fingertips.

This insight is rarely gained without effort. It occurs when steps have been taken to quantify downtime costs for each major piece of equipment or assembly line. It is vital that everyone understands and agrees with these costing values. By using these figures, the costs involved in carrying a particular part can be proven to be negligible compared to the cost of downtime. In the fight for more resources, this is the best ammunition.

One process for measuring downtime costs could be:

Calculate how much it costs to pay workers who are idle when production stops

Add overtime costs that may be necessary to meet deadlines missed due to work stoppages

Add any penalties incurred if shipments are delayed (common in the automotive and aerospace industries)

Consider the additional costs of premium shipping, if applicable

If a product is late, attempt to quantify the cost of the damage to a company’s reputation. One or two times shouldn’t make much of a difference, but if it becomes a regular problem, it could be a deal-breaker when a contract comes up for renewal.

Another way to document and expose downtime costs is to note every time someone runs across town in the company truck to get a part that should have been in stock. Immediately write a report explaining that, simply by stocking a $7.50 bearing, you could have avoided four hours of downtime, at a cost of $X. Or, to phrase it another way, if you had carried this part, you would have been able to save the company $X.

However, this is a subjective process. The accounting department is likely to counter with some resistance about the carrying costs of the inventory — and it’s a real concern.

The objection can best be addressed by fine-tuning the inventory to maintain a happy medium between overstocks and shortages, and the only way to accomplish this fine-tuning is with data. Data collection is most easily accomplished through thorough utilization of a CMMS.

Documenting savings is more likely to get the plant manager’s attention than uttering complaints. You’ve put dollar signs in front of him or her — additional bottom-line income, which should earn extra buy-in for the CMMS. You may even find additional assistance in the form of more hardware, floor space, shelving space, and IT support.

Available resources or additional staff?

Of the people I talk with, 99% have concerns about finding someone to input data, close work orders, or staff a storeroom. It usually comes down to questions such as, “How can we accomplish this data entry without becoming a slave to the PC — an overpaid data-entry clerk?”

Again, it amounts to the importance top management places on CMMS, which often depends on how well the costs of unnecessary downtime have been documented. If maintenance managers don’t have the support from senior staff, data entry will be put aside.

Often it is possible to find someone within the organization who can spend one or two hours a day to input data and put repair time and part numbers on work orders. When a maintenance department shows success in reducing downtime, senior staff can often find the resources somewhere. At the very least, maintenance earns more recognition for its contribution to the company’s bottom line.

Benefits beyond CMMS

As a former maintenance manager, I’ve lived and fought the same battles as the men and women I talk to. It’s a continuing struggle to prove our worth and receive enough resources to do the job right.

Some managers feel overwhelmed or doomed from the beginning, knowing the environment at the plant. To them, a CMMS just means additional work. But good maintenance managers — the determined ones — affect real change, as well as an enormously positive return on their CMMS investment.

The successful CMMS practitioners concentrate on the long-term benefits of CMMS and use them to demonstrate their contributions to the company.

Yes, we’re busy putting out fires. But we need to get out of the reactionary mode and be more proactive. The best approach is to take control and get a good preventive and predictive program going — one that extracts the maximum equipment life while minimizing downtime. We used to trust our gut. Now, let’s start trusting data. Make it policy to document everything we do and use this information to make truly informed decisions.

Author Information

Leland Parker, a senior consultant for DPSI, Greensboro, NC, has spent more than 12 years implementing CMMS. He can be reached at 931-537-7424 or