MRO Magazine

Virtual gauges measure maintenance success

Let's take a look at one of the latest additions to popular CMMS programs -- something known as the 'dashboard.'...

Machinery and Equipment Maintenance

April 1, 2006
By Peter Phillips

Let’s take a look at one of the latest additions to popular CMMS programs — something known as the ‘dashboard.’

The dashboard is a feature in some of the newer software programs. The trend to use this feature is catching on and many CMMS developers are working overtime to design ‘dashboards’ for their products. If your current program doesn’t have one, don’t worry; you’ll probably see it an upcoming version of the software.

If you don’t have it now, you’re probably wondering what a dashboard is. It’s simply a single screen that visually shows you critical information, like in the dashboard of a car.

The dashboard screen image (Fig. 1) helps to demonstrate how it works. This particular dashboard is from Datastream’s 7i program. This program allows you to extract and display key information about your maintenance department. The accuracy of the data it pulls is based on the quality of the information recorded in the program when work orders are created, results are recorded and work orders are closed.


This dashboard includes two objects, the KPI and the Inbox. In 7i, a KPI (Key Performance Indicator) simply means that there are certain key values stored in the program that indicate the performance of your maintenance activities. Therefore, the values that are displayed reflect how the maintenance department is operating.

The Inbox can display information about the number of work requests, released work orders, etc., so at a glance, the user can see what is happening in the program. The Inbox can also serve as a shortcut in the program. Double-clicking on the Inbox can take you directly to the work orders.

The writing of scripts or queries creates the KPIs and Inboxes for this program. If you or your information technology (IT) department can write SQL queries, then you can design a KPI or Inbox to virtually extract any information you want to display on your dashboard.

After the SQL script is written, other criteria can be added to the KPI, such as the type of icon you’d prefer. In the example here, a gauge icon is used to give the dashboard a maintenance look. Then data ranges can be selected to control how the information is displayed.

The example displays six different KPIs. These are simple KPIs that show a single value. More complicated ones can be written to show multiple values. The first gauge, Percent of Safety Work Orders Completed, is displaying 25% and the gauge needle is in the red range. This simply means that only 25% of the submitted safety work orders are complete. The gauge is showing red because this company considers it unacceptable to have only 25% of the safety work orders complete.

The same reasoning applies to the second guage — Percent of PM Work Orders Completed. The third gauge shows Breakdown WO (work order) percentage for the past 30 days. The gauge points to green because the percentage is low at 2.3%, obviously an okay value by this company’s standards.

The three KPIs on the bottom display values of PMs Overdue, Work Orders over 30 days old and Work Requests not scheduled to be worked on. The gauges point to a colour that reflects the corresponding degree of acceptability.

KPI’s can be designed to display any information you wish to monitor. The gauges update themselves as the values in the database change.

So what can these dashboards do for you?

The biggest advantage to the dashboard is that it displays key information about how the maintenance department is doing at managing its work — without creating reports. The values show you a quick report card and visually display a grade of pass, fail or barely getting by.

I find plant managers like the dashboard idea as it gives them a quick snapshot of the overall state of the maintenance department. It indicates achievements, and where there is a need for investigation or possible improvements to the maintenance program.

I also believe it brings some responsibility and pride to the maintenance department. If the gauges are in the yellow or red, then it needs to pull up its socks and get busy. By the same token, green gauges tell when you’re doing a great job and to keep up the good work.

With dashboards, information is right there in front of you every time you log in to the program. Yes, it generates questions from management; it also emphasizes the importance of managing work orders and doing your best to get the work done and the program updated as soon as possible.

They are a constant reminder to plan your work and work your plan to achieve an effective maintenance program.

Peter Phillips of Trailwalk Holdings, a CMMS consulting and training company based in Nova Scotia, can be reached at 902-798-3601 or by e-mail at He will answer your questions on CMMS issues or problems. His previous columns can be viewed at