12 tips for a successful CMMS implementation: Make fewer mistakes, cut costs, and achieve your goals quicker

12 best practices for a successful CMMS implementation

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CMMS implementation takes a lot of planning, time, and people management skills. It’s crucial to get it right so your organization can begin its journey better maintenance management on the right foot.

You might be thinking, “Is implementing a CMMS that big of a deal?” Yes, it is. Your organization is not only making a huge financial and time investment, but it’s also undergoing a big cultural shift as it moves from an older system to a new way of doing things.

Now you’re probably wondering, “What did I get myself into?” Don’t worry, we have your back. We’ll take you through the process of implementing a CMMS and how to maximize your chance of success, make fewer mistakes, avoid unnecessary costs, and achieve your goals quicker.

What makes a good CMMS implementation?

A CMMS implementation can only be successful if you understand your ultimate goal. This helps you know how to aim for it and why it’s even necessary in the first place. Although each organization has its own, unique goals when implementing a CMMS, there are some common objectives that all maintenance teams should be reaching for.

Goal attainment: You’re hitting, and surpassing, your targets

Every maintenance department has goals, whether that’s reducing downtime, cutting costs, or improving safety. A successful CMMS implementation will help you achieve these goals, regardless of what they are. Progress won’t happen all at once, and work needs to happen before you reach this point, such as defining objectives and understanding if a CMMS can help you reach them. But with proper planning and time, a well-implemented CMMS will bare the results you’re looking for.

Standardization: The whole company is on the same page

Having multiple different systems or processes is confusing and almost always causes chaos. A successful CMMS implementation puts all maintenance processes and information in one place to avoid this nightmare scenario. It’s important to develop a set of standards, both for using the system and for maintenance practices. Another part of standardization includes integrating your CMMS with other operational systems and applying the system, and its processes, across all sites.

User adoption: Everyone is using the system

CMMS software only works if the right people use it consistently and properly. That’s why user adoption is crucial. The user adoption rate measures the percentage of people who actually use the system the way they’re supposed to. For example. if two out of 10 technicians only use the systems for some tasks, or not at all, it means your user adoption is eight out of ten, or 80%. User adoption should be 100% so work is efficient, tasks aren’t missed, and accurate data is collected.

You might be thinking, “Is implementing a CMMS that big of a deal?” Yes, it is. Your organization is not only making a huge financial and time investment, but it’s also undergoing a big cultural shift as it moves from an older system to a new way of doing things.

Continuous improvement: It pushes the organization forward

Implementing a CMMS should only be the start of your maintenance team’s journey to digital transformation. A poor CMMS implementation makes only surface-level changes to the status quo, but keeps your operation in business-as-usual mode. A successful implementation propels a business forward and gives it the tools, resources, and motivation to build on that positive momentum. A well-done implementation can create an atmosphere of innovative problem solving and growth in the maintenance department and beyond.

Why do CMMS implementations fail?

Here’s the ugly truth: An average of 60% to 80% of CMMS implementations fail. A few fatal flaws are responsible for the majority of these failures.

The top reasons CMMS implementation fail

Lack of support from management

Businesses often run out of time or money when trying to implement a, which ultimately dooms the project. But there’s an underlying reason for this type of failure—a lack of support from upper management. Executives are often the ones providing a budget and a motivation for the project. If decision-makers are not fully invested in the implementation, it increases the chances of running out of money or for the project to be constantly bumped down the to-do list.

Unclear goals, roles, and responsibilities

It’s impossible to know if a CMMS implementation is successful if a goal isn’t determined ahead of time. Without a clear goal, companies will fail to reach targets and motivation to use the system will be low, leading to poor user adoption. Unclear roles and responsibilities also lead to incomplete, inaccurate, or neglected tasks, which cause a massive ripple effect across the business. This can happen for tasks during set-up (like ensuring PM triggers are created) and afterwards (such as tracking inventory).

Poor user engagement and training

Failed implementations are often the result of users not wanting or not knowing how to use the CMMS. That’s why every person impacted by the new software needs to be engaged in the process. Users should be consulted during this when assessing vendors and purchasing software. Skipping this step often leads to choosing a solution that is unnecessary, hard to use, and/or unwanted. Once the software is chosen, a lack of training will make it impossible for the CMMS to be used as it should be and performance will suffer as a result.

12 best practices for a successful CMMS implementation

The road to a successful CMMS implementation can be long, arduous, and lead to failure most of the time. But it doesn’t have to. Applying a few, simple strategies and processes can go a long way to reducing risk and tearing down obstacles on your journey to setting up a CMMS.

1. Getting buy-in from management

Leadership often doesn’t want to invest in maintenance because they see it as a cost centre. That’s why it’s important to show them that a CMMS can help create value in all sorts of tangible ways, like saving money and boosting production. Build a solid business case outlining the benefits and potential ROI of a CMMS and present it to management. Show them how your business can grow and how a CMMS can help take the organization to new heights.

2. Preparing for change

Implementing a CMMS is a big change and change can be hard. Staff may have had a bad experience with a CMMS in the past or be worried that new technology means layoffs. Deal with these fears by involving the entire team in the implementation process. Coaching, project updates, and brainstorming sessions will keep everyone informed, engaged, and contributing to the success of the organization. Identify any objections early and help users understand how they can benefit from a CMMS.

If decision-makers are not fully invested in the implementation, it increases the chances of running out of money or for the project to be constantly bumped down the to-do list.

3. Defining your requirements, goals, and measurements

Define your business and maintenance goals, along with any key requirements for reaching those goals, such as budget, tools, metrics, features, people, and timelines. These goals and requirements will determine how to complete a CMMS implementation on time, on budget, and on target. A big part of determining goals is using maintenance metrics to their full potential. It’s important to know your capabilities and limitations at this step so you can make your goals realistic, measurable, and attainable.

4. Partnering with the right CMMS provider

It’s tempting to choose a CMMS based solely its features. But while this is an important factor are important, it’s only a small part of finding the right CMMS provider. A successful CMMS implementation means you’ll be working with a vendor for a long time. You need to be confident that your CMMS provider can support your organization as it experiences growing pains and through every part of the process, from building a project plan to training and post-implementation support.

short guide to cmms implementation

5. Creating your project schedule

Every facility’s timeline for implementing a CMMS will depend on several factors, including size, priority level, user capabilities, type of assets, and more. Some implementations take a month, others take a year. Work with internal stakeholders, like technicians and facility managers, as well as your CMMS provider to determine a realistic schedule for implementation. Define key milestones along the way so you can track and quantify progress. Don’t forget to allot time for user consultations, data configuration, testing, and training.

6. Picking a leadership team for the implementation

Having someone take charge, keep track of tasks, and be the point-person for any issues helps your implementation from falling to disorganization, competing priorities, and apathy. This someone is your CMMS champion. The CMMS champion will steer your organization through implementation and will build a team to help them. The size of the team will vary depending on the scope of the project, but can include a project manager, data specialist, training director, and more. Each role should have specific responsibilities and goals, as well as matching authority.

7. Gathering, cleaning, and entering your data

CMMS implementations often fail due to missing, inaccurate, and unclear data. Be diligent when gathering data to put into your system, including equipment types, workflows, PM trigger frequencies, SOPs, spare parts information, and supplier details. Remove the messy, unreliable, and inaccurate information. The next step is to upload your data into the CMMS. Consult your CMMS provider when transferring data from older systems, like Excel, to the CMMS to ensure the process is quick and accurate. Finally, configure your data in the system. Set up PMs, create triggers, build workflows, attach digital documents to assets, set minimum quantities on parts, and more.

You need to be confident that your CMMS provider can support your organization as it experiences growing pains and through every part of the process, from building a project plan to training and post-implementation support.

8. Training end-users

Training helps CMMS users and administrators understand the features and capabilities of the software so they can use the system effectively and efficiently. Training speeds up onboarding, outlines best practices, and increases user adoption. An exceptional training program includes content is thorough and relevant. It allows for hands-on learning, moves slowly, and ensures all questions are answered. Look for opportunities to partner with your vendor to optimize training. Most importantly, never stop providing chances for staff to learn and develop.

9. Outlining user responsibilities

You probably have a good idea of how each CMMS user should interact with the system, but people aren’t mind-readers. That’s why you need to outline user roles and responsibilities in an official, written document. This document will make duties and permissions clear so users know exactly how to complete tasks. It also increases accountability, boosts efficiency, and ensures problems are addressed quickly and properly. The CMMS champion should outline how to manage the CMMS on a daily basis and add users and user groups to the CMMS, including their qualifications, certifications, and contact info.

10. Conducting user testing

Now that you’re getting close to launching your CMMS, it’s time to test the software and make sure it works properly. This will help you identify problems before the official implementation so they can be dealt with before turning into larger issues. Gather a small group of key users and review both the data and the capabilities of the system to make sure they’re operational. Check security, permissions for user groups, PM triggers, notifications, dashboards, reports, work order creation, and inventory details.

11. Launching the CMMS

This phase of a CMMS implementation is commonly referred to as the go-live date. This is the point when all users are expected to stop using older systems and work in the CMMS. Make all users aware of this date well ahead of time so they can prepare. Your CMMS vendor should also know about this date and plan to be on-call. They can help you handle any questions and complications so they don’t fall through the cracks or turn into bad habits.

12. Monitoring the system and on-the-job training

Congratulations, your CMMS is operational! But your implementation is not done yet. The CMMS champion should monitor the use of the system to verify all elements are performing as expected, including notifications and scheduled maintenance triggers. This also gives the CMMS champion time to spend with each user and provide any additional training. Keep an eye on key performance indicators (KPIs) during this time, such as user adoption and maintenance metrics. If these numbers are flagging, make sure to correct your course quickly to avoid prolonged difficulties.

You probably have a good idea of how each CMMS user should interact with the system, but people aren’t mind-readers. That’s why you need to outline user roles and responsibilities in an official, written document.

Now what?: How to keep the positive momentum rolling

You’ve successfully implemented a CMMS, but now what? First, give yourself a pat on the back—that was no small feat. And then keep pushing forward. The work to improve maintenance with a CMMS is never over. The maintenance team will always be called on to solve some tough problems. It’s important to find ways to optimize your CMMS and create a strategy to tackle these obstacles while leveraging your gains to create even more success.

Handling growing pains

Your CMMS will evolve over time as updates become available and users become more comfortable with the software. While this change is largely beneficial, it can lead to growing pains. One way to reduce the negative impact of these changes is to schedule regular check-in calls with your CMMS provider. Frequent communication ensures feedback and further questions can be addressed quickly and allows you to connect with a CMMS expert to guide you through any bumps in the road.

Completing a project assessment

Conducting a review of your CMMS implementation will help you as you begin the next phase of your journey to digital transformation. It gives you the opportunity to look back and see what went right, what went wrong, what you learned, and how to apply those learnings. Create a formal report measuring project targets, identifying major achievements, and highlighting opportunities for improvement. The report should also share best practices for similar projects planned for the future and advise on potential risks going forward.

Reviewing, improving, and refining

A CMMS implementation isn’t the end goal, it’s just the first step. A CMMS is just another tool, and its success depends on how it’s used. To get the full benefits of the software, you have to monitor how users are interacting with the CMMS and find ways to improve how processes and people work with the software. Get feedback from users, run performance reports, monitor KPIs, and implement improvements where possible.

How to take a CMMS implementation from good to great

CMMS implementation: The start of something beautiful

CMMS software isn’t a silver bullet solution for better maintenance, but it can be an integral part of achieving better results. A CMMS should be considered a tool in the tool belt of the maintenance team. Just as proper use of a hammer makes jobs easier, the same can be true with a CMMS. If implemented properly, a CMMS will become a database of maintenance-related information that can be used to execute best practices and identify opportunities for increased efficiency. It’s not a quick fix, but good software can be a critical cog in your maintenance and reliability strategy that can seriously improve organizational performance now and long into the future.

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