MRO Magazine

Gathering your data

In our previous column (MRO April 2003, p. 34), we introduced the first of six stages of implementing a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). The article covered CMMS software installatio...

June 1, 2003 | By Peter Phillips

In our previous column (MRO April 2003, p. 34), we introduced the first of six stages of implementing a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). The article covered CMMS software installation and its daily care. This issue, we’re going to begin Stage 2, gathering equipment and inventory data to establish a database.

Equipment and inventory information will take the most time to gather and input into the software. If you have previously recorded information on paper or in a separate computer file, you’ll be able to save a lot of time. Let’s assume for this article that you’re starting from scratch.

Facilities typically have hundreds of pieces of equipment and thousands of parts in inventory. Stocked bearings alone can add up to several hundred. Collecting information on these two CMMS components can and does take weeks.

A popular solution to complete this job is to hire a co-op engineering or mechanical student. Generally they are first- or second-year students who are taking a program that provides them with a six-month co-op portion of their studies. Not only does this method get your data collecting done, it also provides the students with an opportunity to gain some experience and helps them pay for their education.


I know of several facilities that have participated in co-op programs and the results have been excellent. The students have done everything from gathering and inputting the data to totally reorganizing the inventory parts area.

What information should you collect? In short, get as much as you can. Here is a list:

Equipment name or number, description and physical location.

Equipment nameplate data, model, serial number, manufacturer, purchase or start-up date, plus financial information such as the ledger number, if you’re going to track costs.

Support information such as the location of drawings and the manufacturer’s technical manuals.

Inventory item number and location (if available).

Full description and specifications of each item.

Inventory model, manufacturer and vendor.

Manufacturer-recommended spare parts inventory and other supporting documentation and drawings

Also collect or note where to find any current maintenance records and preventive maintenance checklists, as you’ll use them later to start building PM tasks.

Many CMMS packages will have collection forms you can print off that mirror the data fields in the software. Check your administrative or user software manual to see if they exist or create your own on a spreadsheet.

Whether you decide to start collecting equipment or inventory data first is based on your priorities. What is most important — scheduling equipment maintenance or controlling spare part inventory? If both are equally important, I suggest you start with equipment. The reason is that after the equipment information has been completed and entered into the software, you can begin to develop preventive maintenance tasks. Meanwhile the person gathering information can begin to collect spare part and inventory data.

Another reason to start with the equipment inventory first is that many facilities need to organize their stockroom. If your stockroom (or stores at it is commonly called) is helter-skelter, then it will obviously take some time to sort, organize and catalogue what you have on hand. This is a project all on its own and can happen after or during equipment data collection.

Our next article will focus on stockroom organization and setup, so watch for it in the September 2003 issue.

The key to getting this information collected is to delegate manpower, otherwise the implementation will seemingly go on forever and it will take longer to reap the benefits of the CMMS.

I have had the opportunity to visit many facilities that have been struggling to get their system to a stage where it can be used effectively. The problem usually boils down to the time dedicated to collecting and entering the data into the program. Everyone knows it is difficult to dedicate resources within tight budgets. However, I also hear maintenance people say they don’t have the manpower to gather information because they’re too busy putting out fires.

Remember, if this is an upper management initiative, make sure that adequate planning and resources have been designated to the project. If this is a maintenance initiative, then designate resources as well, because the reason you probably put a maintenance program in place was so there would be fewer fires to put out.

Some other downfalls of taking too long to implement your system are:

People lose interest in the value of the CMMS and why it was bought it the first place. It becomes just another management idea that never got off the ground.

People leave the company and data gets lost or doesn’t make sense.

The initial training that people had on the system is forgotten by the time you get around to getting started.

Here are a couple of examples of these downfalls.

I recently revisited a client I hadn’t seen in over a year. The program still wasn’t up and running, and to top it off, the maintenance supervisor had left the company. He had entered over 300 equipment records, 1,400 inventory items and 70 PM tasks. He had entered the data when he had time and much of it was incomplete. As a result, the majority of the records made no sense to the new supervisor or the other maintenance people.

They found it easier to delete most of the data and start over. This effectively put them back to square one after a whole year. On the bright side, they realized the error of their ways and created a plan to properly implement the program. They also hired a co-op student to give them a helping hand.

Another organization I met with recently had been trying to move the project along for over two years. After determining the ultimate value of getting their system up and running, they realized that some of the original people that had been trained in the software had moved on to new jobs. The people still in the department realized they had forgotten the training they had received two years prior.

I’m a firm believer that training on the software and refresher courses are good, however in this case, several thousands of dollars had been spent on CMMS training, only to have most of it forgotten. It’s important to offer training at the right time. As the old saying goes, “use it or lose it.”

Gathering data is a critical beginning to your CMMS. It must be done using a consistent and systematic method. A good beginning will help guarantee a good ending.

In our next article, we’ll discuss organizing the stockroom and entering equipment and spare part data into the CMMS.MRO

Peter Phillips of Trailwalk Holdings Ltd. in Windsor, N.S., is a certified millwright, industrial electrician and electronics technician. He can be reached at 902-798-3601 or by e-mail at


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