The CMMS: Where Data Goes to Die – Unleashing the Potential of Your Maintenance Digital Backbone

Dr Anthony Kenneson-Adams. DBA. MA. BSc(Hons). FIoL, Head of Learning and Knowledge Transfer, Project7 Consultancy

Posted 11/16/23

In the bustling realm of modern manufacturing, where precision and efficiency reign supreme, the digital technology of Industry 4.0 plays a pivotal role. Among the myriad of tools and systems at a maintenance managers disposal is the Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS).  The CMMS can be the digital backbone for maintenance, providing streamlined planning and execution, parts management, and data-driven decisions that importantly drive reduced downtime. Yet, for many manufacturing enterprises, the CMMS has earned a dubious reputation – as the place where data goes to die.

use a computerized maintenance management system

The Power of Data

We have learnt the lesson that as engineering and maintenance managers we need data.  We have spent thousands of Dollars/Euros/Pounds implementing great data gathering Computerized Maintenance Management System.  We have upgraded, added functionality, attached BOMs and listened to the evangelists for critical asset care, management of storeroom parts and data driven iterative maintenance management.

However, maintenance defects can still account for more than 30% of all machine lost time, and machine availability in the OEE equation can frequently be less than 60%.  Maintenance departments are still too busy to fix a problem correctly the first time but invariably find time to shut down a machine for a second or third time until they eventually ‘find’ the fix.  Lastly reacting to breakdowns in some businesses can expend more than 40% of maintenance person hours and cost the maintenance budget 4 to 15 times more than if data driven PMs or fault finding were used in the first place.

So what is going wrong?  What I often see is that data is put into the CMMS almost as a comfortable place to rest and ‘die’, and all too often this data which is costly to collect has little or no effect on building reliability, driving OEE or building business profitability.   The purpose of a CMMS is not as a repository but as a fuel tank to drive the engine of reliability.  

Intelligent use of CMMS data is key to:

  • PM design and ongoing optimization.
  • Intelligent FRACAS.
  • Business altering FME(C)A.
  • Problem solving that is done once and once only.
  • Building a data set as evidence for a business case for adding people or skills to the maintenance team.
  • Driving machine availability e.g through Autonomous Maintenance.
  • Improving business impacting OEE.
  • Saving time across all the 8 wastes.
  • Intelligent structuring of the maintenance team.
  • Location of the Maintenance team and tool kits be that central and satellite locations and impact on MTTR.
  • Future layout changes to optimise flow.
  • Future equipment design.
  • Purchase of additional maintenance equipment to reduce MTTR. 
  • Further technician training to reduce MTBF
  • Optimisation of assets in the storeroom min/max levels, inventory value etc.

CMMS software is designed to capture and manage data to drive equipment reliability and impact business. If your CMMS is not being used to drive the list above you are not maximising the CMMS potential of exploiting its value to you as the Maintenance or Engineering Manager.  When I take a look at how CMMS data is used by my clients that I see far too often that data underutilization is rife, and that data is metaphorically buried never to be seen again.  So the simple message to my fellow maintenance professionals is that when it comes to the CMMS don’t bury data, be a data miner! 

Reviving Computerized Maintenance Management System Best Practices

It’s time for maintainers to rethink their CMMS strategy and unlock its full potential. Here are three best practices to ensure that your CMMS becomes a data mine, rather than a data graveyard:

machine reliability with a computerized maintenance management system

Budget and Time

A major change that is needed in implementing CMMS optimisation is provision of an ongoing budget to manage and train our people to interrogate and manipulate CMMS data. If our employees do not know how to add intelligence to the data to solve problems, then we can’t expect them to use that data to improve machine reliability.  Plan time into the budget to train staff on FRACAS, 6 Sigma DMAIC, trend analysis, FMECA, and other established statistical and Lean tools that will exploit your collected data.  A well-informed team is more likely to use the system effectively and consistently.

Set Clear Expectations

There should be a business expectation that data is a source to drive business.  When leaders set the expectation, lead by example, and remove the barriers, then data driven business becomes a source for driving revenue and increasing margin.

Regularly Review and Refine Computerized Maintenance Management System Processes

Continuously evaluate your CMMS data interrogation and mining processes and adapt them as needed, such as to drive ongoing PM Optimisation. Solicit feedback from your team as to which area or equipment data should be analysed to identify areas for improvement.  Use data to find and improve your top 10 unreliable pieces of equipment. CMMS data interrogation should be your first point of contact for improving machine reliability and continuous improvement.

Conclusion – Computerized Maintenance Management System Potential

The CMMS, once relegated to the shadows as the place where data goes to die, can become a beacon of efficiency and intelligence in building your machine reliability.  To achieve this transformation, we as maintenance professionals must recognize that the CMMS is not just a data repository but a powerful tool for optimizing machine reliability.

By investing in training, integrating with cutting-edge tools and technologies, setting data entry standards, prioritizing data use and fostering a culture of data interrogation and continuous improvement, maintenance leadership can breathe life into their CMMS. 

Only with use will your Computerized Maintenance Management System evolve from a stagnant data graveyard to a fuel tank to drive machine availability and operational excellence in the Industry 4.0 digital age.

Book Review – A Practical Guide to Creating Operational Excellence and High-Performance Teams

In this latest book from ‘The Project7 Consultancy,’ Dr Kenneson-Adams provides the simplified OpEx tools and practical experience to give the reader all they need to begin to implement a robust lean manufacturing stratergy with high-performance teams and authentic transformational leadership.    

Kenneson-Adams uses his 40 years’ experience in implementing high-performance teams to provide a well sign-posted journey to Operational Excellence, whilst making sure the reader knows how to sustain the changes as part of an integrated ‘People + Process = Performance’ continuous-improvement journey.  

Its balanced analysis, practical insights and accessible writing style make this an invaluable addition to the library of any professional engaged in the field of operational excellence and continuous improvement.  

If you are not sure how to begin your journey to operational excellence or need a mentor through design and implementation?  This no-nonsense volume will be the teacher and coach that you need.

 Get your free copy here


Dr Anthony Kenneson-Adams

Dr. Anthony Kenneson-Adams had a 30-year career in the Royal Air Force, becoming a Senior Engineering Officer, Project Manager and Engineering Authority responsible for multiple fast jets and large-body aircraft in peace and war operations. On retiring from the Royal Air Force, he became a Corporate Operational Excellence Consultant in the Paper Manufacturing and Packaging Industries and is now the Head of Learning and Knowledge Transfer for the international Project 7 Consultancy.  You can contact Anthony at or [email protected]

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