How Maintenance Assistant CMMS software was born
The boom years
In early 2003, every US$ bought you approximately CAD$1.5 which meant Canadian exports were relatively cheap in comparison to our American counterparts. At the time, I was a scientist in the plastics industry and we were supplying engineered plastics to heavy machinery manufacturers at healthy margins. With the exchange rates favouring Canadian business, it was almost a license to print money.
In 2004, that started to change. The Canadian dollar was moving quickly toward parity with the US dollar and our exports were becoming more and more expensive by the week. The gravy train was coming to a grinding halt. Our organization saw the looming crisis and was quick to react. As the majority of our customers were in the US, the management team knew they had to reduce costs and improve productivity to remain competitive. With the dollar rising so quickly, every week seemed like another marathon to improve our competitiveness by cutting costs without jeopardizing long-term revenue, morale and the value we offered our customers.
Increasing operational effectiveness
The challenge was to improve our competitiveness by cutting costs without jeopardizing long-term revenue, morale, and the value we offered our customers. When we sat down to scrutinize the numbers, surprisingly, we found that maintenance accounted for double digit percentages of operating expenses. It was clearly the lowest hanging fruit and the initial temptation was to simply cut the maintenance budget in half. No doubt, this approach would have had a major impact on production. Too often maintenance is perceived as a cost when it should be seen as an asset that can be used to improve and refine operational efficiency. In our case, we recognized this, and made overhauling our maintenance practices our immediate goal. We became hyper-focused on reducing costs by increasing operational efficiency and optimizing our maintenance function without crippling production.
The elephant in the room, it had to be easy-to-use and add value!
Understanding that maintenance operations had such massive impact on operational expenses, I decided to do some digging. I found that we were paying $70k for preventive maintenance software that it turned out the maintenance guys didn’t even use. It had significantly more functionality than needed and it was difficult to extract valuable information from. We’d chosen to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut. The maintenance guys didn’t use it because it was too complex for them and they were embarrassed to admit it. As a result, they had gone back to a clipboard and paper-based system which led to organizational and accountability challenges within the team. Reactive maintenance was the norm rather than scheduled preventive maintenance. We had plenty of the parts and spares we didn’t need and usually none of the ones we did, resulting in endless trips to the local parts suppliers picking up emergency parts at twice the price. Every day was another fire-fight. Considering emergency repairs cost 3 to 9 times more than planned repairs, there was no surprise it had such a huge impact on the bottom line.
Management had two choices – invest in re-training the team on the existing software platform or migrate to another. Re-training the team meant getting the vendor back onsite on their terms and there was no guarantee it would be a success as the complexity of the system remained. Moving to another CMMS meant huge upfront on-boarding costs and another steep learning curve for the guys, and it could take years to get a return on investment. Overwhelmed by the complexity of the other CMMS solutions we looked at, I decided to build a powerful yet simple custom in-house CMMS in real basic. It was designed to do what we needed without all the additional bloat of off-the-shelf CMMS software.
A phenomenal success
It was built as a summer student project and the net result was a fast, intuitive and simple-to-use application that was an immediate hit with the maintenance team. They got it right away, with little to no training required. It gave them all the functionality they needed on a day-to-day basis without all the complexity. It also re-introduced a culture of accountability that was missing during the boom period. Our guys were now accountable for getting scheduled work done on time, thus reducing costs associated with emergency repairs. According to Sandy Richardson, “Building a culture of accountability is one of the building blocks of strategy execution success.” The system ensured knowledge was captured so it could be transferred to new employees over time. The guys could pull valuable information from the system to make informed decisions such as switching suppliers, outsourcing work, spare part strategies or just remembering how they fixed the machine the last time.
After 6 months, we massively reduced our maintenance overhead while dramatically improving machine output. Very quickly, the maintenance team became the top-performing asset in the organization, and it brought a lot of pride back to the team. Preventive maintenance became the norm, which dramatically increased asset availability, reduced the need for spare parts and vendor call-outs, and went a long way towards lowering costs.
An idea is born
My early experiences at the plastics factory had a major influence on the formation Maintenance Assistant CMMS Software. After I left the business I saw a huge opportunity to “pay it forward” and build a preventive maintenance solution that technicians would actually like using… and so my son and I started “Maintenance Assistant” later the next year, with the goal of building an affordable, intuitive CMMS solution using the latest software technologies – and that’s exactly what we did! Since our launch in 2006, our award winning software has had over 25,000 CMMS installations in over 150 countries. In 2012, to take the pain out of installing & configuring software, we moved our CMMS to the cloud. We also introduced embedded training videos so managers and technicians can refresh their skills at their own pace as they use the system. Together, they reduce the cost of ownership considerably. In 2013, we hope to build on our successes with exciting new innovations that will continue to change the maintenance-cost paradigm and bring the best of modern technology to an industry dear to my heart.
Empower your maintenance team
Leverage the cloud to work together, better in the new connected age of maintenance and asset management.