Plant & Works Engineering
CMMS implementation questions answered
Published:  11 December, 2015

PWE asked Ian Higham*, head of maintenance, MCP Consulting Group Ltd, 10 questions that need answering prior to considering CMMS implementation.

Q: What is the key to an effective and efficient CMMS system?

A: The system must be implemented – not 'installed'. By this I mean, it must be structured in such a way, that it is easy to use and supports all aspects of maintenance. To achieve this the maintenance processes, that support the system, must be understood in detail, and as important, the understanding of how the data within the system will be ‘related’. This influences the structure of the data and how it is collected.

Q: What should plant, works and maintenance managers specifically be looking for when selecting a CMMS tool?

A: There is no panacea when selecting a CMMS. It is vital that the correct system is selected however, each CMMS has its own particular strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, the managers must understand what processes the system will support and how the CMMS will add value to these. The CMMS is a tool within the overall maintenance system it is not the maintenance system itself.

Q: What are the challenges to implementation of a CMMS?

A: The price of a CMMS ranges from around £20k to > £250k. However the cost of implementing the system can be eight or more times this purchase. Organisations need to recognise the costs and time required to implement a system effectively and avoid taking short cuts.

Q: What size businesses would benefit from a CMMS? Can SMEs benefit?

A: The maintenance process in a small business can be controlled effectively without a CMMS – a simple T card system is very effective. The benefit of a CMMS truly lies in its ability to create an integrated process for elements as: maintenance stores control and cost management, therefore it’s the SME and larger business that receives the most benefit from CMMS.

Q: What training challenges does CMMS implementation present to businesses?

A: Varies from business to business. In some organisations the basic IT skills of a technician are poor so training may be required supported by system specific training. On the other hand when a CMMS is upgraded to an existing system, then users are already familiar with the CMMS and require system specific training only. One pitfall can be that training is often rushed and poorly timed, resulting in staff being unable to practice their new skills, as a result, much can be forgotten.

The introduction of a CMMS represents a significant change in an organisation to how maintenance will be done therefore all stages of a change management programme must be applied. Often technicians are simply told they must use a CMMS from now on – therefore is it any wonder that this change is seen as a non-value adding burden by staff.

Q: Who do you find are most averse to the idea of a CMMS and why?

A: None are averse to CMMS in principal but often underestimate the effort required to implement – most will consider the system to be for the engineer rather than an integrated element of overall business operations. FD’s will often push for systems that will provide them cost information even though these systems are not necessarily the best fit for the maintenance organisation.

Q: One challenge in many factories is that the maintenance overview is the domain of the engineer who built it or is running it; they know how it works and can get the information out when they need it. This makes information sharing difficult and coherent reports tricky to create. In addition to this, if the system owner leaves the company the value of the system often leaves with them. Would you agree?

A: The lack of support for the engineer when implementing a CMMS means engineers often become the only one who uses the system. The failing is that maintenance is often not seen as being able to add value to a business and the message is always one of controlling or optimising costs - not adding value.

Q: Can CMMS reduce the cost of maintenance by enabling engineering teams to prioritise maintenance work based on reliable data?

A: Usually it can but if badly implemented it can add to the costs. The level ROI is dependent upon maturity of maintenance within the business, business costs and which elements of the CMMS are to be implemented.

Q: ‘Integration is a key ingredient of CMMS’. Do you agree and if so what level of interaction with a company’s existing corporate systems is required?

A: Maintenance is a service provider within a business –- whether it is provided by internal teams or outsourced. Therefore, CMMS must link to other systems such as finance, time and attendance, training etc so that it can provide accurate data and information to improve decision making. The level of integration varies from business to business ranging from real time links to simple batch up dates.

Q: Do you find that it is increasingly difficult to get this message across to businesses.

A: No. More and more people have heard of CMMS and the benefits it can deliver, however usually there are many basic problems that need to addressed therefore there is a reluctance to spend prior to addressing these.

*Ian Higham is a leading expert in productivity/ performance improvement, equipment reliability and business process reengineering.

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