MRO Magazine

Maintenance Software: CMMS systems can maximize critical KPIs


February 25, 2010
By PEM Magazine

How many times have you heard a variation on the expression, "What gets measured gets done"? As computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) systems become more sophisticated, our desire to measure seems to grow even stronger. Key performance indicators (KPIs) have become an important means of focusing the effort of maintenance, operations and engineering on the goals and objectives of the organization.

CMMS vendors have improved their analysis capability and subsequent reporting of results. For example, many of the more advanced CMMS packages allow users to establish a home page, portal or separate module to customize the presentation of KPIs. Each high-level measure can then be drilled down in detail to determine the root cause of variances. Additionally, measures can be combined to form ratios or indices. This data can then be used across the enterprise for internal benchmarking or comparison to external best practices. Finally, measures can be linked to some form of action, such as activating an alarm.

One of the most practical features for users of all levels is the ability to personalize the home page. The more sophisticated web-based CMMS packages have a number of navigation tools and can present data in a variety of formats as follows:

• Links: Users can move to the more frequently used screens and reports within the CMMS system through links listed on the home page. Links can also provide access to other web pages on the company’s Intranet, connect users to web sites on the Internet, or launch applications external to the CMMS (i.e. export to a spreadsheet that summarizes KPIs).


• Search: If users are having trouble finding the information they’re looking for, some CMMS packages allow comprehensive search capability that uses a powerful search engine. Searches can be conducted on people, work orders, reports and assets, etc.

• Ticker tape: Just like a stock ticker seen running along the bottom of a TV screen, a ticker can be set up on the home page to display any number of statistics, alarms, messages, or other KPI-related data.

• Dashboard: One of the most effective ways of presenting KPIs is in the form of "dashboards." Similar to the dashboard on your car, measures can be easily displayed in formats, such as speedometers, odometers and "idiot" lights. For example, when downtime exceeds three percent for a key production line, a light will turn red, thus warning the user to investigate and take immediate action.

• Stoplights: A red, yellow or green "light" adjacent to a given measure, signifies respectively, that immediate attention is required, the measure is straying outside an acceptable zone, or no action is required. Stoplights allow users to more effectively manage by exception.

• Alarming: Instead of, or in addition to the items above, an actual warning message can be displayed when a KPI strays into yellow or red status. For example, when a PM has been skipped for more than a month, a warning message can flash across the home page of the appropriate supervisor.

• Trend graphs: Graphics on or linked to the home page are an important visual aid in spotting trends in both conditions being monitored, as well as KPIs being reported. For example, a trend graph might be helpful in showing the availability of a given asset or production line for the day and for the past 12 months. Also helpful would be three lines on the graph that show minimum, realistic and stretch goal targets for availability. This can serve as a tremendous motivator and daily reminder to the appropriate supervisor that availability is an important KPI to bring under control.

• Tables and charts: Sometimes the most appropriate means of displaying KPIs is using a simple table or chart. This is especially useful for displaying variances, such as a budget versus actual cost summary. By colouring rows or columns red, yellow or green, a simple table can be improved visually. This highlights KPIs trending outside an acceptable variance range. Another enhancement is to have arrows at the end of a row or graph, which show the trend direction as up or down.

In some cases, it may be useful to combine KPIs into ratios or indices. For example, by dividing total spare-parts expenditure by total value of assets or perhaps by units of production for the same period, you can develop a more useful KPI. This is because if just spare-parts spending is tracked, a slight upwards trend might be seen as very negative, until one realizes that production and/or the asset base has doubled over the same period. As a result, a slight increase in spare-parts spending isn’t so bad after all.

Advanced CMMS packages allow users to double click on any of the KPI measures, links or objects (i.e. a stoplight) described above. This enables you to zoom in on problem areas. This drill-down feature is very important in determining the cause of variances, alarms, non-compliance and unsatisfactory trends.

Quick access to root-cause analysis tools, such as Pareto Analysis, can also be helpful. For example, if there were a period that reports poor equipment availability, access to a Pareto diagram (showing the top 10 most costly problem codes for a given asset) would be very helpful. By drilling down further to the work orders that underlies the top three problem codes, you can rapidly isolate the root cause and take corrective action.

By using sophisticated workflow or equivalent technology, some CMMS packages provide an automated control-loop option when a KPI reaches a certain level. For example, if preventive maintenance compliance goes below 95 percent, an email or beeper message can be sent to the relevant production manager, with a copy sent to the maintenance supervisor and manager. If it drops below 93 percent, an email is sent to the plant manager with a copy to the maintenance supervisor and manager. This escalation process will help underline the importance of meeting KPI targets. 

Other than notification, actions that may be linked to KPIs are the printing or re-printing of work orders, exporting of information into other applications and adjustment of targets or standard data that’s based on actual results. Note that before the program initiates any of these actions, a warning message can be displayed giving the user the power to override the option.

David Berger, P.Eng. (Alta.) is PEM’s production/operations editor and a principal with Western Management Consultants. He’s also the founding president of the Plant Engineering and Maintenance Association of Canada (PEMAC). For more information call (416) 361-6863 ext. 237; email: or visit