What is a CMMS?

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What is a CMMS?

CMMS stands for “Computerized Maintenance Management System”. A CMMS system is computer software that helps maintenance teams keep a record of all assets they are responsible for, schedule and track maintenance tasks, and keep a historical record of work they perform. We’ve outlined some of the key areas that a CMMS is used for below.

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 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 making sure that tasks do not get forgotten.

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 tenant at an apartment building who is requesting shower repairs. The CMMS is a central place for recording these requests and tracking their completion.

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.

Managing inventory

Maintenance teams have to store and manage a lot of inventory that include things like 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.

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.

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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 an on-premise CMMS. The benefit of this kind of installation is the user has full control of the network access to the CMMS server and complete privacy of the data (relevant for defence contractors for example). The drawbacks are that this is type of CMMS implementation is expensive and complex. The IT department has to be constantly looking after the server, backups must be done by the maintenance team, and the software can quickly go out of date if updates aren’t regularly installed.

SAAS ( In the cloud )

When the CMMS runs online, it is called a software-as-a-Service (SAAS) CMMS. Here, the CMMS company takes care of all the IT, hosting, security, and backups for the system. The CMMS 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 and the client is always using the latest version. Alternatively, 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. It is also worth noting that you should subscribe to 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 to realize these benefits:

  • Less work outages: It is easy to do preventive maintenance which means there are less surprise breakdowns.
  • Better accountability: Quickly 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 which means work can be distributed evenly.
  • Information capture: Technicians can record problems and solutions, so this information is recorded for others to use.
  • Savings on purchases: Inventory planning features give you the time to shop around for spare parts pricing, instead of having to buy in a hurry.
  • Certification and 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 requires maintenance and CMMS systems help record and plan that maintenance. There are 4 major types of users for these systems:

  • Production maintenance: These are companies that make tangible products. They have machines, assembly lines, forklifts, and heavy equipment that require frequent maintenance.
  • Facility maintenance: These are companies that take care of buildings. Apartment buildings, theatres, and government buildings all require maintenance. CMMS systems help them deal with structural, HVAC, and water-supply problems.
  • Fleet maintenance: These are companies that take care of vehicles and transportation. Car rental companies, pizza delivery cars, city buses, transport ships, and fleets of towing trucks all need to have repairs scheduled which can be taken care of with a CMMS system.
  • Linear asset maintenance: This is a special category of maintenance for companies that have assets that are kilometres 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 result of poor maintenance coordination is less than optimum plant performance with a growing maintenance backlog and productivity running as low as 35%.

The future of CMMS

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

Mobile CMMS applications

Maintenance workers spend most of their time outside the office fixing machines and taking care of buildings. Making the CMMS available in the field on their mobile phone is a great benefit. With a mobile interface to the CMMS, the technicians can record what they are doing as they are doing it, recording pictures of the work and requesting help onsite.

Easy-to-use CMMS software

Many established CMMS companies make products that are very difficult to use. The interface hasn’t changed since the late 1990’s and many unnecessary, complicated features have been added to the product. More innovative CMMS companies often try to simplify the maintenance process and to make the software easy to use.

Fast CMMS data entry

The majority of CMMS projects that fail, do so because it is too difficult and time consuming to enter data into the system. The next frontier in CMMS design centers around designing intuitive, efficient ways to enter data into the system.

Web-based CMMS systems

Older CMMS systems are based on a downloadable piece of software, which needs to run on a server at the customer’s company. New CMMS companies are mostly focused on providing a private CMMS system for their clients which runs online in the cloud. The fact that the CMMS provider takes care of all the IT, security, and backups appeals to many maintenance teams.

Further reading:

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

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