What is a CMMS?

CMMS Definition
CMMS
Stands for "Computerized Maintenance Management System". CMMS systems are computer software that helps maintenance teams keep a record of all assets they are responsible for, to schedule and track maintenance tasks and to keep a historical record of work they performed.

What CMMS is Used For

Tracking Work-Orders

Maintenance managers can select equipment with a problem, describe the problem and assign a specific technician to do the work. When the machine is fixed, the responsible technician marks the work-order "complete" and the manager gets notified that the work is done.

Scheduling Tasks

As a team starts to schedule preventive maintenance in advance, they need a reliable work calendar. CMMS systems are especially good at scheduling recurring work and sending reminders to the right people. Organized scheduling helps even out the workload for a maintenance team, and makes sure that tasks don't get forgotten.

Recording Asset History

Many maintenance teams have to care for assets that are 10, 20, even 30 years old. These machines have a long history of repairs. When a problem comes up, it is always useful to see how this problem was solved last time. In CMMS systems, when repairs are done, they are recorded in the machine's history log and can be viewed again by workers. This saves a lot of time - technicians can rely on past experience to solve problems.

 External Work-Requests

Maintenance teams often have to take a work-request from people outside the team. This can be a request from an assembly line operator who is hearing a strange noise from a drill, or a tennant at an apartment building who is requesting shower repairs. The CMMS is a central place for recording these requests and tracking their completion.

Managing Inventory

You might not think about it at first, but maintenance people have to store and manage a lot of inventory: spare parts for machines, and supplies like oil and grease. CMMS systems let the team see how many items are in storage, how many were used in repairs and when new ones need to be ordered. This inventory management ability saves the organization a lot of money, because purchases can be pre-planned (shopping around for savings) instead of done last-minute (paying any price just to have the component now).

Audit and Certification

Many CMMS systems keep an unchangeable record of every action, so an asset's maintenance history can be audited. This is useful in case of an accident or insurance claim - an inspector can verify if the proper maintenance was completed on a machine. CMMS systems also keep data in a centralized system, which helps keep "one version of the truth" for ISO certification. By helping keep up regular maintenance of HVAC systems, CMMS systems help with getting LEED certification.

Where do you install a CMMS?

There are two common places where CMMS software runs: on a computer at the client's business, or on the web.

When a business is responsible for running its own CMMS, it is called on-premise CMMS. The benefit of this kind of installation is full control of the network access to the CMMS server, and complete privacy of the data (relevant for defense contractors, for example). The drawbacks are that this is expensive: the IT department has to be constantly looking after the server. Also backups have to be done by the maintenance team, and are often forgotten. Finally, the software can quickly go out of date if updates aren't regularly installe.

When the CMMS runs online, it is called a Software-as-a-Service CMMS. Here, the CMMS company takes care of all the IT, hosting, security and backups for the system. The system can be accessed through any computer with a browser like Internet Explorer - no extra software is needed on the maintenance person's computer. Another strength of a SaaS CMMS is that new software updates are constantly applied to the system, the client is always using the latest version. The drawback of having your CMMS hosted by someone else is that you can use the CMMS only as long as the internet connection is working. Also, it is important to use a SaaS CMMS that lets you export the information in your system, so that you can migrate it if needed.

Benefits of a CMMS system

When you implement a Computerized Maintenance Management System, you can expect these real-world benefits:

  • Less work outages: because it is easy to do preventive maintenance, there are less surprise breakdowns.
  • Better accountability: you can see if a technician did their work on time, and get alerted when a task is complete.
  • Less overtime: better scheduling of work means that your team isn't sitting idle or working overtime, work can be distributed evenly.
  • Information capture: technicians can record problems and solutions, so this information is in writing - not just in their head.
  • Savings on purchases: inventory planning features give you the time to shop around for spare-time pricing, instead of having to buy in a hurry.
  • Certification & analysis: a full record of assets and performance helps managers analyze energy usage and plan maintenance spend.

Who uses CMMS systems?

Just about every kind of industry needs maintenance - and CMMS systems help record and plan that maintenance. There are 4 major types of users for these systems:

  1. Production Maintenance - these are companies that make things. They have machines, assembly lines, forklifts and heavy equipment.
  2. Facility Maintenance - these are companies that take care of buildings. Apartment buildings, theaters and government buildings all need maintenance, and CMMS systems help them deal with structural, HVAC and water-supply problems.
  3. Fleet Maintenance - these are companies that take care of vehicles. Car rental companies, pizza delivery cars and fleets of towing trucks all need to have repairs scheduled and maintenance done. CMMS systems help take care of fleets of mobile vehicles. But, transportation doesn't just mean cars - fleets of ships, city buses and long-haul trucks can all go into a CMMS system.
  4. Linear Asset Maintenance - this is a special category of maintenance for companies that have assets that are kilometers long. For example, a city's linear assets are roads and water pipes, a telecom company needs to maintain fiber-optic cabling and an energy utility needs to maintain long spans of electrical wiring.

The future of CMMS

Modern CMMS companies are focusing on these areas as a direction for future development:

Mobile CMMS Applications
By the nature of the job, maintenance workers spend most of their time outside the office - fixing machines and taking care of buildings. Making the CMMS available right there on their mobile phone is a great benefit. With a mobile interface to the CMMS, the technician can record what they are doing as they are doing it, recording pictures of the work and requesting help onsite.
Easy to Use CMMS
Many established CMMS companies make products that are very difficult to use - the interface hasn't changed since the late 1990's, and many exotic features have been added to the product. Newer CMMS companies often try to simplify the maintenance process and to make the software easy to use without needing a thick manual.
Fast CMMS Data Entry
The majority of CMMS projects that fail, fail because it is too difficult and time consuming to enter data into the system. The next frontier in CMMS design is in designing fast ways to enter data into the system. For example, Maintenance Assistant took on this challenge by designing an application called "SpareTime". This program lets a technician enter CMMS data by walking through the facility and taking pictures. A full asset hierarchy can be built in a 2 hour walk through the location.
Web-based CMMS systems
Older CMMS systems are all based on a downloadable piece of software, which needs to run on a server at the client company. New CMMS companies are mostly focused on providing a private CMMS system for their clients which runs online. The fact that the CMMS-maker takes care of all the IT, security and backups appeals to many maintenance teams - this hosting model is becoming more popular.

Should I be using a CMMS?

Chances are, your current approach to maintenance works. But would you like to save ~4 hours on paperwork each week by going digital? Would you like to have an instant view of what's done and what isn't? How about showing your boss a graph of how well your team is doing?

If so, then you should read our report on the 4 big benefits of CMMS software. You'll learn exactly how maintenance software can improve your life:

> Show me the 4 benefits! <

Further reading

If you are interested in learning more about CMMS systems, then have a look at these other webpages: