MRO Magazine

Be a Data Doctor

It's hard to believe but this is the fifth edition of the cmms software solutions column. if you been with us these past few months you would have read about how a computerized maintenance management ...

September 1, 2003 | By Peter Phillips

It’s hard to believe but this is the fifth edition of the cmms software solutions column. if you been with us these past few months you would have read about how a computerized maintenance management system can benefit your organization, how to pick a program to fit your needs, and in the past two issues, how to start the implementation process. in this issue, we’re starting step three, and we’re going to focus on entering the data into the cmms program.

At this point we should have the equipment and inventory data collected to a point that someone could take on the huge task of inputting this information into the software.

There may be two options to accomplish the data entry. In a previous issue, I mentioned the importing and exporting capabilities of some CMMS software programs. Here’s where it comes into play.

If the program you purchased can import other file types, such as a spreadsheet file, then you may want to input the data into a spreadsheet, then import the data file into the CMMS program. As an example, many programs will import Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.


To expedite this process, create the spreadsheet with the same field names as your CMMS uses. When importing the file, the appropriate fields will be populated with your data.

The import function can also be used to load equipment and inventory records from some other computer program, such as your company’s financial software program, for example. These programs usually can export files that can easily be imported into your CMMS, which saves time compared to manual entry.

Some comments I’ve heard about using the import function on CMMS programs have varied from good to a waste of time.

There are certain advantages to gathering data in a spreadsheet before importing it into a CMMS. First, the person keying data into a spreadsheet doesn’t need the know anything about the CMMS. An administrative person or a co-op student can enter the information. Almost everyone can use a spreadsheet program, so they won’t need any training on the CMMS.

Second, depending on the structure of the CMMS, it may be easier to enter data into a spreadsheet than to input it directly into the CMMS program.

Third, many of the equipment and inventory tables are automatically populated during importing process.

Still there are others that feel that inputting the data directly into the CMMS is the way to go. This method has advantages too.

First, entering directly into the CMMS eliminates the two-step process of entering the data and then importing it, plus it avoids any problems with this process, such as corrupted files, forgetting to save the file, and so on.

Second, if the person entering the data into the CMMS is going to be a user of the program, then they become familiar with the CMMS software along the way.

Third, no computer expertise is needed to import files, a step which usually can be done by the system administrator.

Equipment naming is important

Regardless of which way you get the data into the software, some important decisions need to be made regarding the naming format of the equipment and inventory fields.

Your CMMS manual should recommend formats for naming these key fields. Before you start, review the user manual regarding the types of characters that can be used in the program fields.

Some programs recommend using only capital letters and dashes in key fields. Follow these rules to a T. I’ve seen companies who failed to read the instruction manual and ended up going back to change hundreds of equipment and inventory records so the program would work properly.

Formats of the fields vary, however the way you choose to do it can save some time later on. Most programs limit the number of characters you can have in the key fields. In this case you may need to develop a code or short version for the name of certain equipment or inventory.

Here are some examples of formats used when the number of field characters is limited for equipment names.

AIR COMPRESSOR-1: This method easily identifies the equipment by putting the type of the equipment first, followed by its number.

CHILLER-1- BRM: This example signifies that the #1 Chiller is located in the Boiler Room.

Inventory names can follow the same format.

BRG-6305-2ZZ: This name identifies the item as a 6305 bearing with two seals.

SPROCK-32T-B: This example is a 32-tooth, B-type sprocket.

Both of these methods ensure that similar records are listed together in alphabetical order, which makes them easy to find in the program later.

Make sure that each piece of equipment and the inventory item has the best possible description in the description field. Unlike the key fields, the description field will have more room for you to adequately describe your air compressor, bearings or other equipment and components.

Equipment and inventory numbering, the associated descriptions and their locations are important so that maintenance personnel know where to find parts and can recognize the equipment number on the work order that is printed by the CMMS.

I recently visited two locations where the inventory names and descriptions were unclear the way they were originally entered and didn’t follow any type of format. Both locations had over 2,000 entries in the CMMS. The work to go back and correct this problem will take them four to six weeks.

You may be wondering why it is so important to have good naming formats and procedures. Here’s why:

1. The format of the inventory name or number needs to be understood by anyone who will access the program. Item numbers that only make sense to the purchaser or inventory clerk do not help a maintenance person when they’re trying to find a part. Poor naming will slow the maintenance response time to the repair. In fact, maintenance personnel will become frustrated with the system and go back to their old method of looking until they find the part, or simply give up looking and assume there isn’t any in stock.

2. A good description is also important for maintenance supervisors so they can easily assign parts to work orders as well as add items to the CMMS purchase requisitions.

3. Maintenance people will not use the program efficiently if the names and descriptions of the equipment and inventory are not what they call them out on the shop floor.

Many attempts to implement a CMMS have failed due to overlooking these three facts.

A way to control data entry formats and procedures is to have only one person with the authority to add new records into the program. This can be done in the security setup of the CMMS. It’s when more than one person can make program entries and changes that the system can fall apart.

Recently, I visited a site where anyone could enter inventory records. A simple broom used to sweep up the warehouse was in the inventory records nine times, each with its own name and description. You can imagine the confusion this created when trying to find or purchase a new broom.

The key is to use consistent formats and good descriptions for all CMMS records and to limit record access. You don’t want any of the problems I’ve seen happening to you.

Organization is a key component to have a smooth running storeroom. Next issue, we will dedicate a full article to storeroom setup.

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


Stories continue below

Print this page