SPECIAL SECTION/BUSINESS GUIDE: Maintenance Management Software
December 1, 2011
In 1996, E.I. DuPont de Nemours Co. reported that “the largest, single controllable expenditure in a plant is maintenance, and in many plants the maintenance budget exceeds annual net profit.” Maintenance failures can be expensive, not only through lost production, but also due to reduced product quality and customer satisfaction. It makes sense for companies to seriously consider how to improve and manage their maintenance management systems.
Many organizations might begin a maintenance management program with paper and pencil charts; others might even use computer spreadsheets. While these methods may work with a small number of machines and few maintenance tasks to manage, it can quickly become uncontrollable. Maintenance teams must typically operate in fire-fighting mode-no time is available for preventive maintenance, and the team simply runs from one breakdown to the next.
In situations like this, manufacturers should consider using maintenance management software. Also known as computerized maintenance management software (CMMS), maintenance management software is a fairly mature software category. A good maintenance management software product helps manufacturers manage unplanned/breakdown maintenance while planning for preventive maintenance. Being able to collect data on completed maintenance and analyzing it is extremely helpful for identifying areas of improvement and reducing maintenance costs.
Selection CriteriaHundreds of different maintenance management programs are available, and the sheer variety often makes it difficult for manufacturers to identify the product that is most suitable for them. Following are a few selection criteria and useful features to look for in a good maintenance management system.
One should first consider the size of the maintenance team, the number of locations being managed and the level of integration required with other company systems. Very large maintenance teams spread across multiple locations may require an enterprise-class system in order to consolidate all maintenance data. Most enterprise resource planning (ERP) packages typically offer maintenance modules and provide integration with other systems. The downside of enterprise-class systems is they can be expensive to purchase and deploy. Substantial training, consulting services and ongoing support are often required.
For small- to mid-sized maintenance teams (under 50 people), an enterprise-class system is frequently overkill. A packaged CMMS targeted for small- to mid-sized teams is often the best choice. These systems allow manufacturers to create standard maintenance procedures for different types of equipment. For example, an HVAC system may need a monthly service to replace filters, as well as a semi-annual service to check heating/cooling systems. Once the templates are created, they can be associated with the different equipment and reused. In this case, the specified HVAC tasks can be associated with all the different HVAC equipment that may need this service.
CMMS systems also provide the ability to schedule work orders from these tasks by different criteria (e.g., day of the week or month, changes in a meter reading, alarm conditions, involvement with another work order, etc.). For example, the ability to schedule a work order based on the completion of a prior work order can be very useful when handling a complex job that may need to be done by multiple sub-contractors. Once a work order for one contractor is completed, the work order for the next contractor is scheduled, and so on.
Scheduling and managing maintenance on both equipment and locations is another benefit. While most maintenance is typically done on equipment, being able to schedule maintenance by location(s) makes it easy to support any location-related maintenance that may be needed (e.g., needs related to assembly stations, storage areas, loading docks, etc.).
Support for maintenance calendars enables users to create different work calendars for different equipment and maintenance technicians. The system can use the calendar to adjust job schedule dates or provide warnings when personnel will be unavailable to complete a job.
CMMS systems enable manufacturers to create and manage both preventive and unplanned maintenance work orders. Having a single interface to manage both types of maintenance makes it easier to keep track of what is going on in the maintenance system and to capture all relevant data. It’s also beneficial to create daily/weekly plans of maintenance due. Being able to generate all work orders due and distributing them to different maintenance personnel makes it easier to handle maintenance work. The planning function can also provide warnings if a job might clash with another task, people will be unavailable or working on a prior scheduled job, parts are running out of stock, etc.
Easy-to-see reminders/reports can let personnel know about work orders that are past due and may have been skipped. The system also offers the ability to review current and future maintenance work, and provides options to balance them out. This can help avoid having days where too much work is scheduled and other days during which very little is done.
CMMS systems can keep track of maintenance-related parts and spares, enabling manufacturers to associate parts with maintenance tasks and track their use as work orders are created. The software can help track inventory, let personnel know when to restock items, and quickly identify parts that are no longer required in situations where the equipment is retired.
In addition, being able to track the unusual use of certain parts is helpful because it can help identify potential pilferage or inefficient maintenance practices. The system can also keep track of vendors for parts and equipment, which makes it easy to reorder parts or contact vendors for any equipment-related questions. Good systems support multiple parts vendors and allow users to rate vendors so they can decide which to use the next time a part needs to be reordered.
A variety of reports is also available to analyze the system and keep track of system “health.” While many complex statistical analysis reports can be created, most are not very useful for maintenance personnel. Key basic reports include the ability to check the maintenance plan; compare unplanned vs. planned maintenance work over time; compare equipment maintenance costs/duration against similar or other equipment (see Figure 1); the use and costs of parts/spares; part reorder reports; maintenance costs; and work order duration by category, location, equipment, etc.
For example, the Work Order Analysis Report enables users to check average days to complete work orders over different time periods (see Figure 2). The average days to complete work orders represents the average of the difference between the completed date and the original planned date for different work orders. A continuous and high days to complete work orders means that the maintenance plan needs to be investigated, most probably because the tasks are taking more time to complete than estimated or there are possible scheduling issues. On the other hand, if the average days to complete work orders varies significantly, the maintenance plan may be unbalanced (i.e., too many big tasks may be scheduled together). In the case shown, the manufacturer would want to check what happened to planned work orders during the month of April.
Depending on how a manufacturer’s maintenance is organized and if a lot of non-maintenance personnel/client requests need to be processed, some companies may find work request management very useful. Email/SMS alerts when a work request is submitted/processed can also be beneficial.
CMMS BenefitsSelecting a maintenance management software product may seem like a complex and confusing task, especially considering the variety of available product choices. However, the benefits of buying and using a maintenance management product are well worth the trouble. Improving maintenance inventory management reduces the costs of holding spares/parts. In addition, access to better statistics regarding maintenance needs, as well as information on failures, can help identify areas for improvement.
A good system can help reduce the frequency of equipment downtime and maintenance personnel burnouts because of better work order tracking and helpful analysis of collected historical data. Establishing and recording best practices provides better maintenance at lower cost. Maintenance reports created by the system may also be useful to achieve certification and comply with local health and safety standards. While the costs of such a system may look high at first glance, the multiple savings opportunities and benefits can result in a payback period of six months or less.
For more information, contact SMGlobal Inc. at 5448 Apex Peakway #308, Apex, NC 27502; call (919) 647-9440; email email@example.com; or visit www.smglobal.com.