What is a computerized maintenance management system?

A computerized maintenance management system or CMMS is software that centralizes maintenance information and facilitates the processes of maintenance operations. It helps optimize the utilization and availability of physical equipment like vehicles, machinery, communications, plant infrastructures and other assets. Also referred to as CMMIS or computerized maintenance management information system, CMMS systems are found in manufacturing, oil and gas production, power generation, construction, transportation and other industries where physical infrastructure is critical.

The core of a CMMS is its database. It has a data model that organizes information about the assets a maintenance organization is charged with maintaining, as well as the equipment, materials and other resources to do so.

The information in a CMMS database supports the functions of the system:

Resource and labor management: Track available employees and equipment certifications. Assign specific tasks and assemble crews. Organize shifts and manage pay rates.

Asset registry: Store, access and share asset information such as:

  • Manufacturer, model, serial number and equipment class and type
  • Associated costs and codes
  • Location and position
  • Performance and downtime statistics
  • Associated documentation, video and images such as repair manuals, safety procedures and warranties
  • Availability of meters, sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) instrumentation

Work order management: Typically viewed as the main function of CMMS, work order management includes information such as:

  • Work order number
  • Description and priority
  • Order type (repair, replace, scheduled)
  • Cause and remedy codes
  • Personnel assigned and materials used

Work order management also includes capabilities to:

  • Automate work order generation
  • Reserve materials and equipment
  • Schedule and assign employees, crews and shifts
  • Review status and track downtime
  • Record planned and actual costs
  • Attach associated documentation, repair and safety media

Preventive maintenance: Automate work order initiation based on time, usage or triggered events. Organize and associate assets across multiple orders. Sequence and schedule preventive work orders.

Materials and inventory management: Inventory, distribute and reclaim maintenance and repair operation (MRO) equipment and materials across storage areas, distribution centers and facilities. Manage suppliers, track inventory costs and automate resupply.

Reporting, analysis and auditing: Generate reports across maintenance categories such as asset availability, materials usage, labor and material costs, supplier assessments and more. Analyze information to understand asset availability, performance trends, MRO inventory optimization and other information to support business decisions and gather and organize information for audits.¹

What’s the difference between CMMS and EAM?

The term CMMS is often confused or used interchangeably with EAM or enterprise asset management. The two share very similar functions and objectives but are essentially different. To discern key differences between CMMS and EAM, it’s helpful to take a brief look at the evolution of CMMS and the progression towards EAM.

Before CMMS, obtaining centralized, dynamic visibility and automated management was impractical because maintenance information was buried in paper files, and later, scattered across spreadsheets.

The earliest versions of CMMS appeared in the 1960s and were typically used by large enterprises. Technicians used punch cards and IBM mainframes to inform computerized records and track maintenance tasks. In the 1970s, punch cards gave way to checklists fed into CMMS systems by technicians at the end of their shifts.

CMMS gained greater prevalence with smaller and mid-sized businesses in the 1980s and 90s as computers became smaller, more affordable, more distributed — and more connected. In the 1990s, CMMS began to share information across local area networks or LANs.

The 2000s saw the emergence of intranets and web-based connectivity that expanded CMMS capabilities to a range of mobile devices, field applications and operational sites. The latest generation of CMMS is cloud-based and highly mobile. It offers greater functionality with faster implementation, easier maintenance and greater data security.²

As CMMS evolved, it established a foundation for EAM. Essentially, EAM contains the functionality of CMMS,³ and their functions can overlap. What EAM brings to CMMS — thanks in part to greater connectivity and information sharing — is the ability to span sites, foster collaboration across departments and provide deeper integration with other systems like enterprise resource planning (ERP).⁴

These capabilities give EAM solutions a broader business context that considers the overall asset lifecycle and its impact on financial analysis, procurement, process management, risk and compliance, asset disposal and more. CMMS solutions tend to focus on fixed asset availability and uptime by automating work orders and workflows, scheduling labor, managing materials — and providing reports and audits about those tasks.

Why is CMMS important?

CMMS — and EAM — are important because they make it easier and more efficient for maintenance managers and departments to meet their primary objective: reliable uptime. The longer assets and physical equipment are kept up and running, the greater the value they deliver. As IBM blogger Sarah Dudley points out, “The longer we can keep a piece of equipment running without major repair, the more money we save in the long run.”

Delivering uptime reliably means that businesses can accept and fulfill orders, meet customer demands, shape customer experiences and confidently make a range of asset-dependent decisions. IBM reports that a survey of asset managers found that 75 percent cite system reliability as the main reason to invest in EAM.

CMMS plays a critical role in delivering reliable uptime by providing:

  • Asset visibility: Centralized information in the CMMS database enables maintenance managers and teams to almost instantly call up when an asset was purchased, when maintenance was performed, frequency of breakdowns, parts used, efficiency ratings and more.
  • Workflow visibility: Dashboards and visualizations can be tuned to technician and other roles to assess status and progress virtually in real time. Maintenance teams can rapidly discover where an asset is, what it needs, who should work on it and when.
  • Automation: Automating manual tasks such as ordering parts, replenishing MRO inventory, scheduling shifts, compiling information for audits and other administrative duties helps save time, reduce errors, improve productivity and focus teams on maintenance — not administrative — tasks.
  • Streamlined processes: Work orders can be viewed and tracked by all parties involved. Details can be shared across mobile devices to coordinate work in the field with operational centers. Material and resource distribution and utilization can be prioritized and optimized.
  • Managing field workforces: Managing internal and external field workforces can be complex and costly. CMMS and EAM capabilities can unify and cost-effectively deploy internal teams and external partnerships. The latest EAM solutions offer advances in connectivity, mobility, augmented reality and blockchain to transform operations in the field.
  • Preventive maintenance: CMMS data enables maintenance operations to move from a reactive to a proactive approach. Data derived from daily activities as well as sensors, meters and other IoT instrumentation can deliver insights into processes and assets, inform preventive measures and trigger alerts before assets fail or underperform.
  • Consistency and knowledge transfer: Documentation, repair manuals and media capturing maintenance procedures can be stored in CMMS and associated with corresponding assets. Capturing and maintaining this knowledge creates consistent procedures and workmanship. It also preserves that knowledge to be transferred to new technicians, rather than walking out the door with departing personnel.
  • Compliance management: Compliance audits can be disruptive to maintenance operations and asset-intensive businesses as a whole. CMMS data makes an audit exponentially easier by generating responses and reports tailored to an audit’s demands.
  • Health, safety and environment: In line with compliance management, CMMS and EAM offer central reporting for safety, health and environmental concerns. The objectives are to reduce risk and maintain a safe operating environment. CMMS and EAM can provide investigations to analyze recurring incidents or defects, incident and corrective action traceability, and process change management.

Considerations and trends for effective CMMS

Selecting and implementing an effective CMMS requires consideration of functional and technological factors. Providers and adopters may use the terms CMMS and EAM interchangeably in this context, which is acceptable because of the overlap in their capabilities.

One of the central functional considerations, according to IT analyst IDC, is handling increasing amounts of data: “As the number of data sources available to the asset manager continues to grow (sensors, spatial data, visual data, etc.), managing, merging and analyzing these pools of data at speed will be a tremendous challenge for EAM professionals over the next five years.”

IDC also points out that aligning staffing and development resources with asset management can be critical: “The function is often under-resourced in terms of staffing, training and development. This under-resourcing erodes motivation and creates a counterproductive culture among the staff.”

Finally, IDC points out that modernizing CMMS and EAM functions is important and that “some organizations have yet to move past legacy systems and spreadsheets for critical EAM functions like repair order management, work scheduling and replace/repair decisions.”

CMMS and EAM solutions address these functional challenges in a number of ways, but one of the key technological approaches is to deploy CMMS and EAM solutions hosted on the cloud as software as a service (SaaS). According to IBM, “When choosing asset management software, organizations are increasingly gravitating toward software as a service (SaaS) — a cloud-based delivery model in which software is hosted centrally by a vendor and available on demand.”

SaaS, as a technology approach, addresses some key functional factors:

  • Hosted in the cloud, SaaS CMMS offers the flexibility to expand and contract with data demands. Users benefit by only paying for the data resources they need, rather than committing large initial investments to ensure there is capacity to handle the growing influx of data from IoT instrumentation — virtually eliminating hardware costs.
  • SaaS can help with staffing and resource challenges because it requires far less intervention and support from IT than on-premises deployments. CMMS engineers, CMMS administrators and technical teams in the field can manage the system largely on their own. As a result, capital expenses related to IT can be converted into operational expenses and resources.
  • Legacy systems, modernization and using the latest technologies to keep pace with maintenance and operational pressures are also areas where SaaS can help. Upgrades are made by service providers in the cloud, so the latest versions and functionality are always applied. Further, SaaS also integrates new technologies faster and with less risk. According to IBM, it “allows organizations to test out new approaches and offerings for their asset-intensive businesses and find new insights and operating models for competitive advantage."

IDC: Worldwide SaaS Asset-Intensive EAM Applications 2019 Vendor Assessment

Read an excerpt from the IDC report and learn more about the emerging role of SaaS-enabled EAM, considerations for technology buyers and how IBM fits in.

Buyer’s Guide: Supercharging enterprise asset management with SaaS

Learn why maintenance operations are moving to cloud-based CMMS and EAM for flexibility, reliability, cost control, predictability, ease of use and innovation.

Experience IBM Maximo Enterprise Asset Management SaaS

Register for this interactive demo on work order execution to see how Maximo can help you create a world-class asset management program.

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