How do I choose the best CMMS software fit?
One particularly important process among many that Asset Management entails is maintenance, which is vital for ensuring that facilities are in top shape. They are also crucial for guaranteeing that facilities remain in top shape. The challenge lies in supporting maintenance in all its forms with a good system.
Selecting a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) or an Enterprise Asset Management (EAM)-supporting system is one of the most challenging projects for a maintenance or operational organization. In our Asset Management model (figure 1), such a system would be part of the “AM Infrastructure”, but in its role as a support system, it would interface with the entire Asset Management process.
Figure 1 - Stork Asset Management model
The large number of software providers and the massive amounts of information out there about their products makes it difficult to find accurate and objective information. In order to make the right choice, a complete picture of the own processes and needs is also important, as is an understanding of what those processes are. Whether you are looking for a system for the first time or want to find a replacement for your current program, making a good, well-informed and acceptable choice is very important. It is crucial not to overlook the financial investment that your choice will require. Preliminary research is vital: choosing a system is a decision that will impact your organization for years to come. If you have made the right choice in the selection process, implementation should go quite easily and it should yield benefits and necessary support for the organization in short order.
Maintenance engineers and work planners make sure that maintenance activities are conducted at the right time with the right tools. Technicians carry out work activities and repairs, and give feedback about the tasks they have completed and the status of the facilities. Operators provide support for activities that they can do themselves, such as performing checks, small repairs and daily maintenance. Asset owners get up-to-date insights into how their assets are performing. Maintenance in the classical sense has evolved into asset management, which is effectively the management of the entire life cycle of a facility (or asset). From having an idea in the first place, to developing its construction and operation, to shutdown and decommissioning: EAM support systems, including CMMS, contribute to this process.
Which CMMS system is best?
So how do you go about determining which solution will be the best fit for all your needs? Which system is right for you?
The most important initial step is seeing if the Asset Management processes are up to par. As a CMMS system only supports existing processes, you should not expect that the mere act of implementing such a system will improve those processes.
If these processes are not up to par, it will be necessary to make sure that they have been brought up to speed during the first phase of implementation. Only then can a system that suits the organization and processes have a significant added value to executing and managing those defined processes.
Needs and Requirements
Beyond the existing known points of concern, the needs and actual requirements of such a program should be articulated:
- In addition to maintenance, are there other processes that need to be identified and supported, such as purchasing or logistics?
- What kinds of assets do we want to manage? Facilities, buildings, rolling stock, etc.
- What information or reports that are pending or are expected in the future will be needed in order to drive this process? All necessary data and information must be present within the system.
The size of the organization and the number of tasks to be carried out, as well as the nature of those tasks, can also influence your ultimate decision. And then there are the users: maintenance, production, engineering, external personnel,...
IT and other potential organizational requirements are also influential factors in making your choice, so make sure they are not overlooked. One example is choosing an ERP system (Enterprise Resource Planning) to support financial, production and sales activities which can include CMMS functionality, or should at least be able to “talk” to it. This also goes for other strategic developments within a business.
Once all of these aspects have been carefully considered, then the selection process can begin. This is a complicated component of the greater process, and feelings and emotions can play a big part. There are so many providers and there is so much complexity among the various systems on the market that it can be tough to find informed and objective reviews. In order to make a good short list of options, you need to have an objective overview of your needs in relation to what the different systems are capable of.
This is the stage where things can easily go wrong. There is the risk of making the wrong choice due to a lack of familiarity with the system or neglecting to collectively define what your organization really needs out of such a system. Choosing a system that is not a good match can also mean an uphill battle in implementation and use. A well-thought-out choice, on the other hand, can simplify system roll out. Once it is accepted and adopted, it can greatly strengthen the support system.
After making a selection, the next step is implementation. But making a selection must be taken very seriously. It will be a long-term commitment to a system that will ultimately be supporting your asset management process. It is important to choose a structured approach and to seek out unbiased advice, for example from organizations that have experience using the program that you are considering. They can give a good indication of the strengths and weaknesses of the system they chose, and perhaps help you to figure out if it will suit your needs.
Co-authors John Marinus and Patrick Martens are Asset Management Consultants at Stork. They have assisted a variety of organizations to optimize their Asset Management processes and to select CMMS packages. They have developed Best Practices based on their experiences. They share those experiences in the field in their articles.