Eat an Elephant – Implement a CMMS

Insight on why companies may not reach their goals when implementing computerized maintenance management systems.

by Ronald J. Hemming & Daniel L. Davis, Maintenance Technologies International, LLC
Posted 7/24/2003

How do you eat an elephant? “One bite at a time.”

How do you implement a maintenance management system? “One step at a time.”

An elephant is a large animal and it is doubtful anyone would want to eat one. But the old proverb, with a little twist, has a similar paradox to implementing a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). Not developing the proper steps to implementation may lead a company to failure.

The first and most important step in the implementation process is for plant management to decide how the maintenance department should function. This will depend somewhat on the size and scope of plant operations. Some key matters to be resolved are listed in the section “Questions to Ask About Maintenance Department Functions.” How the maintenance function is handled will dictate staffing and policy needs and can help in the CMMS selection process.

Plant commitment

Once it is decided how plant maintenance will function, the next step is to gain plant commitment to the process. Without this commitment, the system will never be fully functional. Lack of total plant commitment is the most common reason why companies who have purchased maintenance management systems do not reach their expectations.

After determining the maintenance function and gaining total plant commitment, a company needs to select and purchase a CMMS that meets its needs. Consideration must be given to data collection and data entry. How and by whom will the data be collected and entered? Unless the company is converting from one CMMS to another where some of the data can be electronically transferred, considerable data entry will be required.

What kinds of equipment records are available? Is preventive maintenance and spare part information available? Who will perform an equipment survey if it is necessary? This survey will require dedicated personnel and must be performed by someone who knows the plant equipment. Even if a survey is not necessary, forms may need to be developed to match the system requirements.

Manual data entry takes time and should be performed by someone trained in system requirements. Experience has shown that these duties are often assigned to personnel who are very capable in their own capacity but have little or no keyboarding or computer training.

The maintenance storeroom

Maintenance planning includes determining both the labor and materials required to perform a job. In order to calculate accurately the costs for a work order, material costs as well as labor costs need to be tracked.

Before inventory can be added to the system, the storeroom has to be organized to provide proper storage and parts location. Inventory control procedures have to be in place and a plan has to be developed for requisitioning maintenance supplies from the storeroom.

Implementation schedule

The next step should be developing an implementation schedule. This schedule will let plant management know where they are in the implementation process.

  • How long will it take to survey the equipment and enter the data?
  • When will PM requirements be entered?
  • When can work order planning and scheduling be kicked off?
  • When will the maintenance storeroom be sufficiently functional to identify spare parts for cross reference to equipment, to reserve parts against work orders, and to be used for issuing and automatic reordering of supplies?

Many CMMS contain add-ons including bar coding options, the ability to display drawing images, etc. Management will have to decide on the value of these functions to their organization, then take the necessary steps to make the system functional before adding them. In one manager’s words, “We have to crawl before we can walk.”

Taking ownership

A final step is having key personnel take ownership of the system. A CMMS vendor or a maintenance management consulting company may be requested to assist in the implementation process. Even though an outside consultant’s advice may not coincide with what company employees would like to hear, company personnel must be willing to work through the difficulties and differences in philosophy in order for the CMMS implementation to succeed.


  • Is all maintenance work to be planned and scheduled as much as possible?
  • Generally, a CMMS will track maintenance labor and material costs. Will all maintenance labor and material be logged to the system? This will require every job to have a work order for requisitioning material and entering craft hours.
  • Who is going to plan and schedule maintenance work? Does the scope of maintenance work require dedicated maintenance planners, or can maintenance supervisors plan, schedule, and supervise maintenance work?
  • Is production going to be involved in maintenance scheduling? If so, how will this be coordinated? Weekly meetings? Daily meetings? A phone call?
  • If production is not involved in maintenance scheduling, what priority will be assigned to the preventive maintenance work and how will it be scheduled?
  • What reports will be necessary to carry out the scheduling function? A simple list of unscheduled work? Backlog by production foreman?
  • Is a maintenance clerk necessary to support the maintenance group? If not, how will management reports, daily schedules, and work order entry and close out be handled?

Ronald Hemming is president and managing partner of Maintenance Technologies International, LLC, a plant maintenance management consulting and engineering firm located in Milford, CT, with affiliated offices in Niagara Falls, NY. Daniel Davis is a senior maintenance management consultant. Hemming may be contacted at (203) 877-3217; Davis may be contacted at (716) 284-4705.