MRO Magazine

Implementing CMMS software

By By Peter Phillips   

Machinery and Equipment Maintenance Operations

This is the final segment of an eight-stage program on achieving world-class maintenance. Stage 7 was described in the December 2012 issue of Machinery & Equipment MRO and examined the establishment of maintenance systems. This issue offers...

This is the final segment of an eight-stage program on achieving world-class maintenance. Stage 7 was described in the December 2012 issue of Machinery & Equipment MRO and examined the establishment of maintenance systems. This issue offers 10 questions you must ask before selecting a new CMMS system.

This concluding article in our world-class maintenance (WCM) series continues the discussion about establishing maintenance systems described in the previous issue, and specifically deals with the implementation of computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) software.

Although we have talked about CMMS throughout these WCM steps, in this issue, we concentrate solely on how to choose and implement the software.

I have discussed this subject over the years in this column. However, WCM leaves this step to the very end. The reason for this is the number of other steps and stages that need to be developed, documented and implemented on paper first. Only then are we ready to use the software. In WCM we often say, “If you can’t do it manually on paper, you’ll never be able to do it with maintenance software.”


After we have combined all the information in the previous steps, it’s time to bring it all together into open CMMS software. When everything is at your fingertips, your CMMS provides one-stop shopping.

What do I mean about one-stop shopping? Here are a few things you must program into your CMMS:

• All the equipment documents, electronic files, drawings and material lists

• Inventory of vendors, manufacturers, model numbers and cost

• Preventive maintenance checklists, labour costs and replacement parts used during maintenance

• Rebuild schedules, procedures and drawings

• Equipment meter readings, hours, cycles, parts produced

• Predictive maintenance measurements, motor amperage readings, temperatures, vibration readings

• Contractor work orders and contractor costs

• Maintenance employee costs while working on equipment

• Planning and tracking of the progress of projects

• Equipment warranty information.

Now let’s discuss how to choose a CMMS to work with your WCM program. Remember, it must coincide with all the strategies developed during our WCM development.

As it is still early in a new year, many maintenance departments will be budgeting for a CMMS acquisition. Here are some issues to think about before selecting a new CMMS system.

What is the purpose of the CMMS?

The purpose of implementing a computerized maintenance management system is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the maintenance of your company’s assets.

As with any computer system, a CMMS can automate and improve processes that you are already performing. It cannot change your company’s maintenance department from a state of chaos into a place of order — not without a lot of work and careful planning.

A reasonable set of functions for a CMMS includes:

• Managing the inventory of spare and replacement parts used in maintenance

• Tracking the suppliers of those spare parts

• Tracking any external service providers

• Retaining the warranty

• Retaining the maintenance schedule

• Tracking unexpected outages and costs by work order, by machine and by department.

Planning: Current maintenance

Before you start shopping for a system, prepare a list of the features that you need. Be sure that you understand what you are currently doing. You may maintain some inventory, but how do you control the re-ordering of spare parts? Do you make plans for preventive maintenance? Do you track unexpected outages by machine? Do you track repair costs against the depreciated value of each machine?

When planning for any computer system, an important question to ask is “What should we do?” In other words, how will you use the maintenance software? You can do this through the development of a Business Process Flow for the CMMS.

Planning: Typical functions

Most CMMS systems cover the following functional areas:

Asset management: Include the type of machine and its serial number, through to cost, depreciation and warranty, to the list of required parts with order quantities, and so on.

Inventory management: Which parts are kept in which bins in which storerooms? Who are the suppliers? What are the minimum and maximum reorder points? What is the order quantity?

Personnel management: Which employees are certified to perform what maintenance activities on which machines? What tasks have they been assigned, and for what dates and shifts?

Preventive maintenance: What are the triggers for a machine, calendar days or hours of use? Can multiple machines be included in one maintenance order? Can multiple maintenance plans be made for one machine, depending on the type of maintenance to be performed? Can you set blackout dates so critical productivity periods are exempt from downtime for maintenance? Integrate the machine and personnel schedules to ensure that people with the right skills are available for a particular task.

Procedure management: Maintain a list of tasks for each maintenance assignment, including the skill requirements, parts list, estimated time, and both safety and other associated procedures or notes.

Purchasing: Generate purchase orders when stocks reach the reorder point. Consolidate requirements for one part across several storerooms.

Work order management: Provide a unique W/O number, plus description, date, reason for the maintenance, etc. Record the actual costs, such as downtime and parts used. Accept maintenance requests with different priorities, such as the basic, “My drill press squeaks a bit. Could someone check it tomorrow?” to the more urgent “Pump 3 is running really hot!”

Extra features: Can this system send messages to appropriate personnel by e-mail or text messaging? Does it support bar code readers or RFID (radio frequency identification) to facilitate the recording of stock movement? Are there other systems with which it should integrate, such as the plant’s manufacturing resource planning (MRP) software?

Buying the software: 10 questions to ask

Think about these 10 questions before you select a CMMS system. It will save you a lot of time and frustration.

1. Is management behind the project? Most CMMS projects fail as the management is not pushing for it or does not provide enough of a budget for implementation.

2. Are you satisfied with your existing maintenance procedures, work orders, preventive maintenance and continuous improvements? Do you want a system that is built on your established methods or will you try to use the new system to change your habits?

3. What do you want to track with the system?

• Do you want to track asset history and identify problematic assets and protect your investment?

• Do you also want to track maintenance costs? Will you allocate costs for parts, labour and contractors associated with scheduled maintenance and breakdowns?

• Do you want to control your spare parts inventory based on your assets requirements?

• Do you want to track facilities maintenances such as ventilation systems, chillers and building management systems?

• Will you use the system for documentation control, such as blueprints and manuals?

• What about planning and project management? Not all CMMS systems offer that option.

4. Who will use the system?

• Only one person, the maintenance planner or supervisor?

• All technicians?

• Supervisors in production?

• All operators? (This is standard for a WCM-type organization.)

5. What kinds of reports do expect from the system?

6. Are you looking for a scalable solution, where you start small and then develop it over time?

7. Who are the people who will be doing the implementation? What is their background? Do they have maintenance experience to be able to assist you in regard to maintenance management?

8. Do you need integration with other existing business systems?

9. Do you need paperless solutions like handheld devices?

10. Do you need to integrate your condition-based monitoring?

In most cases, it is wise to stick to a standard computerized maintenance management system and keep customizations to a minimum. When choosing a system package, make sure you specify what you want the package to do; there are many expensive solutions with capabilities you may never use. Think of some typical scenarios, and let the salesperson show a group of users (operators, technicians, supervisors and others) the system and how it would handle these scenarios. If you don’t like the usability or if customizations are needed to do the job, consider another system.

CMMS packages require work and it is very important to choose the proper system that will do what you need it to do.

CMMS implementation

While no software package has every desirable feature, the advantage of buying one is that it should already have most everything you need. Insist on visiting one of your software vendor’s customers to see the product in action. Ask them what has been challenging during the implementation process.

Generally, it is best to have the vendor team configure the system and begin entering data in a test environment. Ask about their recommended best practices.

Obviously, a CMMS needs a vast amount of data to support all the features noted above. This is not a trivial task; expect this process to take some time. Often, an implementation will take between six months to a year, with much of that time being spent on data entry.

Use that implementation time to ‘sell’ the new system to its users. Develop a training plan, or have your vendor provide training. Ensure that people are comfortable with the specific tasks they need for their roles. It is helpful if they know what happens outside of their area of focus, such as why a work order needs a priority code, for example.

It is a really good idea to keep a training database for ongoing training for ‘what-if’ scenarios. Some systems are not very forgiving. It’s better to make a mistake in a practice database than in a live environment.

Train both the technical skills and supervisors to work with the new processes. One of the most important aspects of a system is that the user needs to know what is really happening within the system. Knowing how to navigate through the program is essential; moving around the system easily will take practice. Be sure that people appreciate the need to have complete data entry so that reports display useable data.

Going live

At best, your implementation team will be excited and distracted on the first live day of using your CMMS. Having a solid plan for them to follow is a good way to keep everyone focused.

Have trainers available to answer questions and assist users at their computers. Have clear lines of communication, so people can report problems to the implementation coordinator and be sure that the problems are addressed.

Part of the implementation plan is to log problems and questions. Ensure that all defects and concerns are addressed promptly, well before the end of the CMMS warranty period.


Without planned maintenance, you get unplanned outages and repairs. To manage a factory-wide maintenance plan without a computer program means relying on a few people to accurately handle a huge number of details. It also means that it will be difficult or impossible to track costs at a level to support decisions about the reliability of each machine.

In planning for a CMMS, you will face challenges. However automating maintenance with the most suitable system can make the whole maintenance management process manageable.

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


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