The Battle for Efficiency: Paper vs CMMS

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The Battle for Efficiency: Paper vs CMMS

Working with a diverse group of industries means that every now and again we get to do a site visit, and see exactly how a customer is using their computerized maintenance management system. Organizations that have moved to a CMMS realize its potential and are generally seeking to increase output while maintaining or reducing current inputs. They’ve had the age old paper vs CMMS debate and have decided to modernize. This is one of those cases.

Visiting a client is always a unique experience. Preventative maintenance software is popular across a massive variety of industries for a reason, it just makes things easier.  An assembly company and a mining company, one with a fully automated system and the other with low cost labour, will have similar expectations from the maintenance software they choose: a product that records and schedules events affecting assets while maintaining a high utilization rate. Visiting a company in the food processing and textiles industry demonstrated great potential for streamlining maintenance operations through simple implementation of preventive maintenance software.

We began with a tour of the facility and machinery critical to operations and an introduction to a burly man that looked like he could lift a Mack Truck with one hand while drinking a beer with the other. He explained problems with his current operation and what his expectations would be for software.  Like many large operations, systems of scheduling, recording, or assigning preventative (and reactive) maintenance tend to get lost in the grind of everyday activity and fast paced growth. Equipment assets are run into the ground while most of the maintenance staff is off ‘fighting fires’, and generally saving the day from catastrophe.  Although pen and paper maybe an antiquated way of running a maintenance operation, it seems to have stuck. Maybe because grease and touch-screens don’t mix well, or perhaps a little hard-headedness. At the end of the day, however, information generally ends up under the yellow safety helmet of one man where it will stay until someone else asks him for it.

Seeing how operations were run helped us demonstrate how a CMMS  decreases breakdowns and extends the life of organizational assets.  In addition, maintenance activities can be better coordinated with production schedules, making everyones job easier.

After going over his CMMS database, we barely had to encourage our burly friend to continue entering assets, users, and task lists.  As his confidence grew, he began musing out loud, “Finally I’ll be able  to establish a preventive #$%!*ing maintenance schedule!”.

Using a centralized CMMS or performing work completely from memory? Paper vs CMMS? It always seems to be one or the other.  The choice seems obvious, but it’s only when maintenance expenses drop that it becomes a no brainer.  With any new technology there is a learning curve, it is the price to pay for furthering skills and abilities.  The  task of choosing the right technology and implementing it correctly is daunting, but  waiting doesn’t make it any easier. But if you want to stay ahead of the curve, perhaps it’s time to take a look at your first ‘computerized maintenance system’.

Getting different groups of employees involved in site visits provides the team with a broad perspective.  Members of the development team can understand what the end user is looking for.  They use this knowledge to provide a rich and user friendly experience.   Concise but flexible structure is ideal (and pretty much required) considering the exhaustive list of industries with room for improvement.

A good CMMS facilitates communication between stakeholders. Technicians understand exactly what needs to be done and why. Operations staff can add notes, indicate problems or concerns, and get an idea of how long a maintenance activity will take. Logistics can plan for what parts or machinery to have on hand to maintain production schedules while assets are taken offline for repair. Finally the maintenance manager can see the performance, graphically or numerically, of the maintenance department in terms of uptime, resource allocation, and quality.

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