MRO Magazine

More than maintenance in CMMS

Despite the proliferation of technology in industrial settings over the past decade, there are still many factories, mines and mills that do maintenance planning and scheduling with pen and paper. It'...


December 1, 2002
By Peter Phillips

Despite the proliferation of technology in industrial settings over the past decade, there are still many factories, mines and mills that do maintenance planning and scheduling with pen and paper. It’s to these facilities that this column is addressed.

What can a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) do for your maintenance department? This is a question that many maintenance managers ask themselves when faced with the decision of whether or not to purchase maintenance software.

Here are a few benefits of CMMS and a few reasons why many companies decide to take the leap.

A significant factor for computerizing the maintenance function seems to be a fear of losing information. Many maintenance departments depend upon the manager or maintenance supervisor to remember the maintenance requirements for the equipment, where to purchase parts and when to schedule maintenance activities.

Certainly in today’s increasingly busy workplace, with the multitude of responsibilities people face, we can’t expect everyone to remember the department’s maintenance program. What if one of these people retires or goes on sick leave?

Once set up, a CMMS can routinely produce scheduled maintenance activities, record the history of work done, maintain a list of spare parts, and take care of many other maintenance functions that were previously stored in someone’s memory.

With training, the whole department can share the responsibility of maintenance activities, so it won’t necessarily rest on one individual’s shoulders. Everyone can share the knowledge of what needs to be done and where to find the materials to do it.

CMMS programs can benefit any size of organization. In smaller locations, a small maintenance crew and its maintenance manager wears several hats. They can benefit from having the maintenance scheduled and planned by the software program. The crew then simply executes the work orders and records the data in the program. This makes the staff in the smaller maintenance shop less dependent on the manager and makes the crew self-sufficient and more responsible for equipment reliability.

Medium to large organizations benefit by eliminating the scheduling and planning nightmare of trying to organize the maintenance of hundreds of pieces of equipment. A CMMS can generate scheduled PMs (preventive maintenance work orders) and maintain a record of the history of work done and the associated costs.

Another aspect of a CMMS is its blending with other company programs like ISO quality standards, food industry HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) rules and other regulatory requirements. Any of these programs rely on procedures and documentation. The performance of calibration, equipment maintenance and environmental functions and their documentation are the backbone of these initiatives.

A CMMS can provide the evidence that inspections and procedures are being carried out on specific frequencies or times intervals. It can provide documentation of these activities and produce corresponding reports that regulatory agencies and auditors require. (Some federal agencies may require your CMMS to be validated to ensure the integrity of its data.)

Like any other software, the usefulness of the information is only as good as the data that is input. This means that there must be some responsibility within the maintenance department to update the CMMS records. Of course, this takes time and manpower. Not only does the program cost money, so does its care and upkeep.

GIGO, that old garbage-in garbage-out rule, applies here.

Peter Phillips is the owner of Trailwalk Holdings Ltd., a consulting company based in Windsor, N.S. A certified millwright, industrial electrician and electronics technician, he rose to the position of preventive maintenance co-ordinator at Michelin Tire Canada Limited in Bridgewater, N.S., before leaving after 18 years. Now, Phillips consults in various industrial arenas, including CMMS, industrial safety and employee dynamics. He also develops and delivers training programs, including training on MP2 software from Datastream Systems Inc. of Greenville, S.C. Phillips is a graduate of St. Francis Xavier University in Adult Education and has a Certified Quality Technician designation from the American Society for Quality. His next column will discuss how to pick a CMMS program to meet your needs.