Is one third of a CMMS enough?

Editor's note: This is the first of a two-part series on the value of CMMSs. The second part will appear in the October issue. On the surface, the idea of investing in only 1/3 of a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) would seem as odd as buying 1/3 of a hula-hoop. Yet many companies achieve practically the same result by using far less than the full potential a CMMS can offer.


On the surface, the idea of investing in only 1/3 of a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) would seem as odd as buying 1/3 of a hula-hoop. Yet many companies achieve practically the same result by using far less than the full potential a CMMS can offer.

The number-one problem with CMMS programs today is the same as it was 7 yr ago — no matter how much we talk about it or extol its many benefits, maintenance workers commonly use only 10%_30% of the features in a CMMS system.

In other words, if you are an average user and your CMMS cost $300,000 to implement, $210,000_$270,000 of your investment may be going to waste.

Ironically most maintenance departments often blame the workday time crunch for failing to implement a system that can save them both time and money.

Overcoming the vicious circle

After working with dozens of companies facing the same shortage of resources, I have identified four steps that successful maintenance managers use to address the real barriers preventing full utilization of their CMMSs:

1. They educate themselves and their staff members, creating a shared vision of how the CMMS will provide tangible benefits to the department and the company.

2. They convince employees — including themselves — that they will personally benefit from the system, thus winning buy-in to the program.

3. They generate commitment from top managers by quantifying the cost of downtime.

4. They develop strategies for collecting and entering the necessary data with the resources they have available, or justify hiring staff and obtaining additional resources.

Making effective use of a CMMS enables you to quantify your department's worth, increasing the likelihood of obtaining additional future resources.

Sharing the CMMS vision

To turn plant managers into CMMS advocates, a maintenance staff needs a clear vision of how full implementation can increase equipment uptime, improve deployment of maintenance workers, and minimize maintenance, repair, and overhaul inventory.

This is called "closing the loop." For example, a company that uses its CMMS for work orders may have reduced downtime through effective use of preventive maintenance. Conversely, they may squander the entire gain if an emergency breakdown occurs and they find themselves without an essential part. Had they implemented the inventory-tracking component of their CMMS — or closed the loop — the outage would likely not have occurred.

However, a company that uses its CMMS for inventory but not work orders won't be able to document how parts are used, and will lose the ability to accurately forecast parts utilization. The result in both cases is the same — wasted time and effort, and preventable cost expenditures.

By educating management and staff about the benefits of closing the loop, maintenance managers can maintain the necessary momentum to complete a multistage implementation.

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

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