Small plants can benefit from CMMS, too

Most managers find it increasingly difficult to control rising maintenance costs because of inadequate or outdated procedures. One tool that can help is a computerized maintenance management system. The need for and use of a CMMS is not specific to any one industry or type of application. Any industry requiring equipment and/or asset maintenance is a potential candidate for using a CMMS.

By Kris Bagadia, PEAK Industrial Solutions, LLC February 1, 2006
Roadblocks to CMMS acquisition
Selecting the right CMMS
Setting up key performance indicators
The Bottom Line…
Why so many CMMS projects fail
Emerson acquires Saftronics
ISA returns to Houston
Intergraph to supply technology for Chinese reactor project

Most managers find it increasingly difficult to control rising maintenance costs because of inadequate or outdated procedures. One tool that can help is a computerized maintenance management system.

The need for and use of a CMMS is not specific to any one industry or type of application. Any industry requiring equipment and/or asset maintenance is a potential candidate for using a CMMS. Computerized systems are becoming more attractive as more maintenance personnel have become computer literate and prices of hardware and software have dropped significantly. These factors make CMMS an attractive option for even smaller plants.

CMMS packages are available in modular format. In other words, you don’t have to buy all the modules and options. For example, for smaller plants, you can purchase only the equipment, PM and work order modules if that’s all you need. Also, there are many CMMS programs designed with scaled-down functionalities for smaller plants. These programs are fully functional and relatively inexpensive.

Managers must determine if CMMS is beneficial to their operations. Questions to ask include:

  • How long can the plant tolerate a production line breakdown due to part unavailability? (If maintenance stores are not properly monitored, the company may face more costly breakdowns.)

  • How much more (or less) are we spending on maintenance today than five years ago?

  • Do we have the information we need to plan maintenance operations effectively?

  • Can we get this information when we need it?

  • Is it in usable form?

  • What are the company’s plans for operations? For equipment?

    • Answers to these questions — or inability to answer them — may indicate a definite need for a CMMS.

      Continuity of the company’s knowledge base is another important issue to consider. How much information will leave the company when a key maintenance employee leaves? Years of critical information can be lost the moment that employee walks out the door.

      Roadblocks to CMMS acquisition

      Opposing the CMMS acquisition are the internal roadblocks that stand in the way of the system purchase in small companies. The following list will help you prepare for common roadblocks associated with acquiring a CMMS:

      Company too small for a system — This attitude suggests a basic lack of understanding of the true benefits and functions of CMMS. A CMMS that is ideally matched to the company’s needs should pay for itself — even for very small companies. There are many companies with just one maintenance technician successfully using a CMMS.

      A CMMS can help record and maintain the equipment histories that will be the basis for future repair/replacement decisions and associated justifications. An accurate and complete history can also describe how the job was done the last time, thus, saving time associated with job or task redesign.

      Lack of management commitment — Management’s failure to approve a budget for a CMMS is evidence of the lack of acceptance of, or commitment to, implementing a CMMS.

      Inadequate project payback or savings — One must do a thorough job of determining benefits and savings in order to show real ROI of a well-chosen CMMS.

      MIS or IT doesn’t give CMMS high enough priority — This is a very common situation. If MIS supports the project, its chances of success are increased greatly. CMMSs are complicated to many decision makers. Helping MIS understand the importance of CMMS should be a primary goal of every potential user.

      MIS and maintenance speak different technology languages. Being able to translate the technological and business benefits effectively can go a long way toward overcoming this roadblock. With MIS on your side, it is easier to convince others.

      Failure to reach consensus — When parties involved disagree on either the need for a CMMS or the features required in a CMMS, it becomes virtually impossible to gain approval for CMMS funds. There must be an internal champion who is empowered to select a team and act on results. Empowerment ties back to management buy-in, which can be difficult to achieve — but not impossible.

      Not enough computer capability — This is a very common excuse. Computer hardware and software costs are part of the justification process. Once the project is justified, purchasing computer hardware is not a problem.

      Lack of belief that a CMMS will work in your situation — As long as equipment requires maintenance, a CMMS will work. Computerized maintenance management has been around for more than 30 years. There are many successes. However, there are many failures – mostly due to either a lack of support internally or failure to embrace a company culture change if required.

      Prior attempt failed — Try again. Don’t give up.

      Selecting the right CMMS

      Selecting the right CMMS is crucial to a successful implementation. Here are some guidelines:

      System features — There are numerous features that the system should include. One such feature is flexibility. The CMMS should be flexible in terms of allowing you to enter information pertaining to your organization. It should also accommodate both your present and future needs. Your organization should also be aware of the system’s limitations. Before buying a particular system, you should check the limitations of the system. For example, if the number of records in the database increases significantly in the future, the system’s searching and reporting capabilities should not be slowed down.

      Another thing to consider is the system’s interfacing capabilities. Essentially, the CMMS should be capable of interfacing with other information systems. Self-sufficiency is something else to consider. Programs should be capable of direct, full use without needing to consult a manual or other outside sources. The instructions onscreen should explain what the program will do and how to use it. Other features to consider include the system’s security, data security, user customizable screens, modifications and user customizable reports.

      Ease of use — The CMMS should be easy to learn; it should come with training aids and documentation. It should also be easy to use. The package should be icon and menu driven, contain input screens to enter information in an orderly manner, provide error handling and context-sensitive help.

      Vendor profile — Consider the qualifications of the potential CMMS vendors. You obviously want a vendor who is both knowledgeable and experienced when it comes to CMMS. Also consider the vendor’s financial strength. A CMMS project is an investment in time, resources and money. Therefore, the vendor must be established. Don’t be afraid to ask about references, delivery, payment options, source code and warranty.

      Vendor support — You should make sure that the vendor has provisions for demonstrating the software. Clearly, you must know that the software is going to work for you. Another aspect regarding vendor support is training. Whether this training is done at their facility or on site, this small investment can save you a great deal of money and frustration in the long run. Other factors to consider include the vendor’s system support, upgrade policy and overall system cost. You should go out of your way to make sure that there are no hidden costs.

      Select the vendor that provides the best combination of characteristics for your particular situation. With right selection, you can use your CMMS successfully for many years to come.

      Setting up key performance indicators

      Once the CMMS is implemented, you have to make sure the savings documented in the justification process are being realized. One reason for this is to prove to your management that your decision (and theirs) was a good one — and back it up with the numbers. The task of quantifying these seemingly nebulous numbers is eased when you set key performance indicators to monitor and control the progress.

      You can define your own KPIs. For example, if you are operating at 40% labor efficiency and your goal is to increase that to 75%, your KPI in this case will be Labor Efficiency in percentage and your goal will be to attain 75%. You have to monitor progress and make sure your goal is achieved. You can revise your KPIs on an annual basis (or more frequently, if necessary).

      Here are some examples of KPIs:

      Maintenance cost per unit of production — obtained from completed work order CMMS reports and company financial reports. This KPI benchmarks actual costs against goals.

      Percentage of planned work orders completed as scheduled — obtained from CMMS. For completed work orders, compare date required to date completed (typical goal = 95%). This KPI measures planning effectiveness.

      Percentage of craft hours charged to work orders — obtained from CMMS. Reports actual craft hours charged to work orders (typical goal = 100%). This KPI monitors resource accountability.

      Percentage of planned vs. emergency work orders — obtained from CMMS. (typical goal = 90% planned vs. 10% emergency). This KPI evaluates PM and planning effectiveness.

      Craft performance — obtained from CMMS. Compares actual vs. estimated time. (typical goal = 95%). This KPI monitors and helps to maximize craft resources.

      Percentage of equipment availability — obtained from CMMS. (typical goal = 90%). This KPI monitors and helps to minimize downtime.

      (The goals indicated are typical industry examples. You can set your own goals.)

      The Bottom Line…

    • There is a need for a CMMS for maintenance no matter how large your plant is.

    • You should be aware of the roadblocks so you can be well prepared to face them during the justification process.

    • You can avoid failure by looking at why so many installations have failed and making the right selection for your application and organization.

      • Author Information
        Kris Bagadia is President of PEAK Industrial Solutions, LLC, in Brookfield, WI. He can be reached at (262) 783-6260 or .

        Why so many CMMS projects fail

        Many CMMS projects fail to reach their full potential. Here are some of the reasons:

        Not having management support for the CMMS

        Selecting the wrong CMMS system for your operation

        Employee turnover

        Lack of adequate training during implementation

        Employee resistance

        Being locked into restrictive hardware/software

        Lack of follow-up and monitoring

        Inadequate supplier support for the CMMS.

        Emerson acquires Saftronics

        Emerson Industrial Automation, a business of Emerson, has acquired Fort Myers, FL-based Saftronics Inc., a manufacturer of drives and drives systems for industrial applications. Saftronics has assembly locations throughout North America. It becomes a unit of Emerson Industrial Automation and strengthens the drives and drives system portfolio of Emerson’s Control Techniques division.

        “We are very excited by the addition of Saftronics capabilities to our North American operations” said Jean-Paul Montupet, Emerson’s business leader for industrial automation. “This strengthens our offering in some key growth areas of the North American Drives market, including energy savings and mining.”

        ISA returns to Houston

        ISA EXPO will be held at the Reliant Center in Houston on October 17-19, 2006. A primary event for automation and control professionals, ISA EXPO is a catalyst for the exchange of information and ideas.

        The ISA EXPO 2006 technical conference will focus on:

        Safety and security

        Process automation

        Environmental controls

        Industrial networking

        Systems Integration

        For more information on ISA EXPO 2006, visit

        Intergraph to supply technology for Chinese reactor project

        Intergraph Corp. announced that Chinergy, the organization commissioned to build the world’s first commercial, modular high-temperature, gas-cooled reactor in China’s Shandong Province, has selected SmartPlant 3D and SmartPlant Enterprise as the core technology for project design and implementation requirements.

        The Chinese media has recently announced that the Chinese government will be the first to commercially venture into this type of nuclear technology. The reports state this technology is safer and significantly less harmful to the environment, and that a by-product of this type of nuclear reactor is hydrogen, a cleaner fuel providing alternative, energy-saving options. The reports further state that once in production, expected around 2010, China will provide a new type of nuclear power to reduce China’s dependence on coal and oil to fuel its rapid growth and industrialization.