Few Make the Most of Their CMMS

Few Make the Most of their CMMS


A whopping 94.7 percent of plant maintenance managers feel they are not using their computerized maintenance management software system to its maximum capability, according to the results of a national CMMS survey conducted for Reliable Plant magazine by educator, consultant and author Kris Bagadia.

“I knew that it was going to be a high percentage. I didn’t know it was going to be that high,” says Bagadia, whose extensive survey was completed this past winter by 299 industrial maintenance professionals. “I have estimated for years that 80 percent of installations fail. The data in this survey works to confirm that high failure rate.”

Besides providing the results to Reliable Plant, Bagadia is using the new data as the focus of his book “CMMS Made Simple”, which will be published this summer by McGraw-Hill.

“Through this project, I wanted maintenance leaders to take a look in the mirror – look at their system, what they are doing and what they want it to do,” he says. “More often than not, they will find that the CMMS has the capability to do what they need it to do; it’s just not being used in that manner. They don’t have to make another investment. What they need is the time, training and resources to do more with what they have. In some cases, though, they will find that they made a wrong selection, and it’s time to admit it and fix it.”

The survey respondents, on average:

  • work at a facility with 350 employees
  • manage a maintenance staff of 15 employees
  • oversee the maintenance of 938 plant assets
  • employ CMMS systems that track 2,500 spare parts, and issue 100 work orders and 25 purchase orders per week

Obstacles to Hurdle

The fact that maintenance departments struggle to get the most out of their CMMS systems shouldn’t be a surprise. A host of studies on this subject have been conducted over the past decade. But, 94.7 percent? That’s a figure that displays the full extent of the problem. It also shows that little progress has been made over the past decade to solve maintenance’s challenges, confusion and frustration in this area.

Comments on the survey forms frankly list a myriad of factors that explain CMMS suboptimization:

“The program being used is way too complicated.” (That’s not surprising since nearly three out of 10 survey respondents said it took between one year and three years to implement their CMMS system.)

“We aren’t using the data to make decisions. The CMMS is more of an automated record keeper than an analysis tool.”

“There are more modules than we have the capacity to use.” (CMMS modules used by respondents are: preventive maintenance, 86.4 percent; work order, 83.5 percent; equipment, 78 percent; inventory, 43.2 percent; and purchase order, 29.7 percent).

“It’s an old system that needs an upgrade.”

“The software has limitations.”

“It would take precious hours. It’s not just hours sitting at a machine, but training time to learn about the program so that new information can be used effectively.”

“It has modules – parts inventory, POs, etc. – that aren’t currently being used. The reason is the time and data collection needed to load the module.” (More than one in four respondents said it took between 100 and 200 hours of maintenance employees’ time to collect data for CMMS implementation; nearly one in four said it took more than 500 hours).

“Our maintenance technicians are not computer literate.”

“It poorly interfaces with the accounting and SAP software. That leads to double entry of all POs.”

“There’s a lack of expertise to learn and maintain the system, and a lack of clerical help for inputting the data. The data has more capabilities, but we don’t have enough resources to utilize them.” (Three out of five respondents use clerical support to enter data; on average, this support enters data 20 hours per week.)

“The products we have used are far too cumbersome and complex for our needs.”

“We must apply our limited resources to putting out fires.”

“We receive little support from our information technology group.” (A total of 32.9 percent of respondents said MIS/IT doesn’t give the system a high priority.)

The Bottom Line?

With feedback such as this, is it any wonder that the survey respondents point to less-than-stellar returns from their CMMS investment?

When asked what percent of their total maintenance budget has been saved as a result of better scheduling through their CMMS, nearly three out of 10 respondents said “5 or less percent.” Savings as a result of increased spare parts availability? Four out or 10 said “5 or less percent.” Savings as a result of increased machine availability? One in three said “5 or less percent.” Savings as a result of better inventory control? Again, one in three said “5 or less percent.” These return-on-investment results just might explain why only 77.5 percent of respondents said that their upper management is committed to the maintenance department’s CMMS program.

“A CMMS, used properly, can help you do more, do it more efficiently, and do it with less,” says Bagadia. “Most maintenance departments, though, aren’t realizing all of the gains. To turn the tide, it’s going to take some serious commitment on somebody’s part. Maintenance has to be committed to this as an improvement tool. MIS’s lack of involvement and support? That has to change. Part of it also lies with upper management. Unless they are committed to this and unless they take maintenance seriously, it will not change. They give maintenance the software, but they won’t provide the $5,000 or $10,000 for training. All those factors added together could well explain why maintenance only uses the system to submit work orders.”

Bagadia believes a system audit is a necessary first step to improvement.

“Either by yourself or through an outside firm, you need do an annual audit,” he says. “You need to see what the system is doing. Is it doing what’s expected, or can it do more?”

The Future

The survey showed that only around one in four respondents currently use imaging options in the CMMS to attach CAD drawings, digital photos or scanned images to records. Just one in four use handheld devices (PDAs, bar code scanners, etc.) in conjunction with the system. Bagadia sees great potential in such applications.

“I think these are areas of huge, huge opportunity for improvement,” he says. “That is where everybody has to go. This is relatively untapped. We should be talking more about these types of applications. These can really increase your efficiency and productivity.”


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