MRO Magazine

Backups Worth the Effort

If you have been following this column you will remember that the previous two articles talked about the advantages of purchasing a CMMS (Dec. 2002, p. 42) and tips on buying a CMMS to fit your needs ...


April 1, 2003
By Peter Phillips

If you have been following this column you will remember that the previous two articles talked about the advantages of purchasing a CMMS (Dec. 2002, p. 42) and tips on buying a CMMS to fit your needs (Feb. 2003, p. 22).

This issue, we are going to plan Step One of the CMMS implementation, software installation and care.

I’ve just started three new implementations in the past month in Vancouver and central Canada, so this advice is fresh in my mind. With CMMS systems, as with any other project, there needs to be some serious planning and resource allocation to get the implementation started off on the right foot.

Forming a project group is a good idea. The project should be laid out with time lines and installation steps, just as if you were installing a new piece of equipment.

Most of the time, we divide up the implementation into several steps and work through them in stages. The major parts of the implementation include:

CMMS software installation and care

Gathering equipment and inventory data to establish a database

Entering the data

Designing routine PM schedules

Training personnel to use the program

Launch day.

Of course, some of these steps can occur at the same time. For example, the gathering equipment nameplate data can be done while someone documents current PM tasks and frequencies. All of this information will be entered into the program later.

The installation of the software can be very simple, or you may need expert help from your IT department or the software supplier. If you’re going to need expert help from the supplier of the software, don’t forget to negotiate the price of this service when you make the CMMS purchase.

A single-user program can be installed very easily, just like any other software package. However with multiple-user or multiple-site installations, it will be more difficult, and require loading the software onto a network system, necessitating some IT expertise.

On more complex installations, I have seen companies with strong IT departments purchase installation support via telephone or e-mail from the software supplier. Doing so gives your IT person some expert help if they need it. This can save a lot of money because on-site service can be expensive. I’ve seen on-site services cost anywhere from $600 to $1,800 U.S. dollars per day.

After installation, the program will also need some care and feeding to keep it up and running efficiently. There are two things that fall into this category.

1. Your database will need to be backed up at least once a day. If you’re using the program on a stand-alone workstation, then you can back up the database yourself on a daily basis. Take some floppy disks or re-writeable CDs for each day you use the program. Identify each disk with the day of the week and back up your database before you go home each night. Rotate the disks every week and remove the old files when the disks get full.

If your database is on a network, make sure it is backed up daily as well — check with your network administrator. Even if the database is backed up on a main server, it doesn’t hurt to make your own backup once a week on a disk or on your hard drive.

You’re probably wondering why all these backups are needed? I’ll give a couple of good reasons. First, your database is very important and like any other computer program, it can get corrupted. If it gets corrupted and can’t be repaired, at least you have yesterday’s backup data that you can restore.

Second, if you only do a hard drive or network backup, then what happens if your hard drive or server crashes? Again you will have your previous day’s backup data to restore.

You may lose a few records but at least you’re not starting from scratch.

This may sound like a lot of bother but here is a short story of why I’m so persistent about back-ups.

Recently one of my U.S.-based customers called and explained that a new network server had been installed at their plant. The server files were backed-up on a notebook computer by their IT department. After the new server installation, the saved files were loaded back on the network drives. But the CMMS database was gone.

No other workstation backups had been made of the over 1,500 inventory and equipment records.

The customer called me for help. Understandably they were a little frantic about recovering their data. Luckily, I had made a copy of the database when I had been there the previous month. I emailed them the copy and even though they had entered 100-200 new records during the ensuing month, at least they had the original 1,500 records. Without this backup, they would be back to square one, having to re-enter all their data. I hope this story scares you enough to faithfully back up your database.

2. I’ve also found it important to have at least two people trained to understand the program in depth. These two individuals are usually given the responsibility of being the program administrators. They will perform administrative functions of the program, such as setting up and changing user security, renaming data fields, backing up data, talking to the CMMS help line when problems occur, and handling many other program concerns.

I had a call recently from a client that had only trained one administrator. The person had left the company for a new job and nobody could get into the program to do the administrative functions because they didn’t have the password. Again we were lucky, as I had recorded the passwords on my previous visit. And don’t forget sick days and vacations — you’ll need the second person there when the other is off work.

Tune in next issue and we’ll get into Step Two, data collection and entry procedures.

Peter Phillips of Trailwalk Holdings, a CMMS consulting and training company, can be reached at 902-798-3601 or by e-mail at peter@trailwalk.ca.