MRO Magazine

What’s Bugging You?

By Peter Phillips   

In the past month or so, I've heard a lot of CMMS users complain about small issues regarding their software. Overall, they are happy with how the software performs, but the small issues and glitches are driving them crazy. Subsequently, the...

In the past month or so, I’ve heard a lot of CMMS users complain about small issues regarding their software. Overall, they are happy with how the software performs, but the small issues and glitches are driving them crazy. Subsequently, the person who sold them the software is getting an earful.

Conversely, there are other companies that use the same programs that have few or no issues at all.

So why do we have this difference in satisfaction? We’ve done an investigation. Here are a few reasons from unhappy people we’ve talked to, as well as some problems we’ve heard about.

At the PEMAC conference in Toronto in November 2010, I heard a CMMS trainer say that he doesn’t understand why facilities spend many thousands of dollars on the purchase of a software product and the infrastructure to support it — and then spend practically no money on training.


I support his opinion, because we experience exactly the same issue. When buying programs under $10,000, maintenance departments expense the cost of the soft ware from their monthly budgets and think that the implementation will be easy. We’ve received many calls right after these companies have purchased a program, looking for a quote to help them set up and launch the software — only to hear them say that this cost is not in their budget.

As a result, they do the best they can with the software, but 90% of the time they end up with something that doesn’t work properly. Then we receive another call to come and help them, which costs even more because we need to fix the mess they’ve created and then re-implement the CMMS.

On large implementations of EAM and ERP systems that cost $20,000 to $100,000-plus, the project budget may not include enough money for training. Often, users are jammed into a classroom for generic training and then are expected to go back to their plant and try to use the software with their own data. No follow-up training is scheduled and people are left on their own to figure out the software. This seldom, if ever, works.

Every CMMS on the market runs principally from menus and screens, just like any other software we use in our day-to-day electronic life. So most of the CMMS problems come from the lack of basic knowledge of the program.

Running maintenance software is all about navigation of the program — knowing what screens are available and how they function. Most programs have shortcut keys, which really help you to get your work done quickly. Very often there are special screens for closing work orders that really are fast and save a mountain of time.

Reports are always important. Knowing how to create them to extract the information you want in an easy-to-understand format is important to everyone that uses the program.

Not knowing these basic skills can really slow you down and give you a poor impression of the software, and can result in nasty calls being made to the person who sold it to you.

Program bugs

The next thing that bothers a lot of CMMS users are the little program bugs. All programs have them and like any other unwanted infestation, they can cause all sorts of problems.

The good news is that there is RAID to help you. It doesn’t come in a spray can, but follow these directions and apply them properly and they will work just like the bug spray from the hardware store.

R: First you need to Read the documentation and manuals that came with the software. Many program issues can be resolved by using the software utility functions. There will be a number of quick fixes for you to apply. However, most people don’t know they exist, or the security function in the software doesn’t give them access. So the bug wins.

A: If you are still having problems, Ask your CMMS support line. They can tell you what you need to do to rectify most problems and issues. Many vendors have on-line support on their websites to help you resolve issues by yourself. Call your support line or log on to the website today and start fixing your problems.

I: Still having problems? Identify what they are and exactly when they are happening. Where are you in the program and what buttons have you clicked to cause the error or fault? Once again, call your CMMS support line and explain your problem. The experts will probably want to do an online meeting to view your issues first hand. I’ve found these support analysis people really know their stuff. It’s pretty hard to stump them. If they can’t help you right then, they will do some research and call you back promptly. They also may ask you for a copy of your database so they can do a further analysis of your data.

D: Many times your problems can be resolved if you Download the latest patch or version of the software. These fixes are generally released by the software manufacturer every two to three months. They usually rectify a host of program errors that have been reported by users. Typically, a software company will release a new version of its program every year or so, and you should download and install it.

In order to receive new releases of their programs, software providers will require you to be on a support contract. We always advise our clients to keep their support up-to-date. Many facilities decide to let their support contracts expire, but in the end realize that this was a mistake. The patches, new releases and technical support are worth the yearly cost.

CMMS software needs periodic care and attention to keep it healthy. If you have an IT department, you need to educate those people about your software. They need to be aware of what the program needs to work smoothly. Put them in contact with your CMMS tech support and provide them with all the documentation you have available.

Many maintenance departments have purchased their software without consulting or including the IT department in the purchasing process. If this has been the case, get them involved now, because they will be the ones to apply program patches and install new software versions. You need their support.

So there you have it. Getting basic CMMS training and eliminating the bugs in your program can save you a lot of frustration. The companies that don’t have issues have received training and followed the RAID tips.

There’s a saying that goes: “Have you ever been bitten by an elephant?” Of course, the answer is “No.”

“Have you ever been bitten a mosquito?” The answer is “Yes.”

The moral of the story? It’s the little things that eat you up.

So make a goal to eliminate those pesky little things that bite you — and stop blaming your software.

Peter Phillips of Trailwalk Holdings, a CMMS consulting and training company based in Nova Scotia, can be reached at 902798-3601 or by e-mail at


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