CMMS implementation can be a scary subject for some. After all, no one wants to consider that CMMS adoption could fail at their organization. Jeff O’Brien has been helping maintenance teams successfully roll out Fiix at their facilities for almost 10 years, and he recently stopped by the Rooted in Reliability podcast to talk to host James Kovacevic about all things implementation-related.
In the episode, they define what exactly implementation success looks like, the five steps to ensuring a smooth implementation, why good-quality data is one of the most important aspects of setting up a CMMS solution, who in an organization should be involved in the implementation process, and which milestones you should be hitting in your implementation journey.
Listen to the podcast episode here (also available on Accendio Reliability’s website) or read the transcript below. Be sure to stay tuned for more appearances from Fiix experts in the future.
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James Kovacevic: It is my pleasure to welcome Jeff O’Brien to the podcast. Welcome Jeff.
Jeff O’Brien: Hey James. Thanks for having me.
JK: Well, Jeff, you’re a new guest to the podcast. So to introduce you, you are a Senior Director of Professional Services at Fiix Software.
JK: You manage a team of CMMS implementation consultants that help customers successfully implement and launch Fiix at their locations. You’ve also penned over a hundred different industry articles and e-books, many of which are available at Fiix. Prior to joining Fiix, you were an equipment engineer at ASML. What did I miss in your brief introduction that you would like to fill in or top up?
JO: I think that’s it. That’s a very good introduction. As you say, I manage the team of implementation consultants, and also the tech support team as well. So I see a lot of tech support issues after people go live.
JK: Yeah. So managing a tech support team really gives you a good opportunity to also identify maybe what could have been done better in the implementation or revise your implementation strategy, I would guess.
JK: Excellent. Now how long have you been in been involved in implementing the CMMSs?
JO: So I’ve only been involved in implementing CMMS applications since I joined Fiix in 2010, but I did have a lot of exposure to CMMS applications before I joined Fiix as an equipment engineer at ASML. I’ve worked all over the world in different facilities like AMD in Germany, I worked at Infineon in Germany as well, actually—a whole bunch of different facilities: SD, micro, etc. and I got to use a lot of a lot of different versions of all the different CMMS applications, so lots of exposure to them over the years.
JK: Excellent. And who better to help implement them than one who’s probably had to deal with not the best implementations in the past. Right?
JO: Exactly. Yeah, each one of those applications, you know, it’s all the same sort of concepts, but the way they deliver that and the ease of use is always going to be different. I’ve worked with some very challenging applications over the years, that’s for sure.
JK: Yes, we will leave the names of those out of the podcast for the time being because there are more than a few.
JO: No problem.
JK: Now, what is a CMMS implementation? Don’t we just buy the software and it turns on and works for us?
JO: Not exactly. So, a CMMS implementation—it’s the integration of the CMMS software into the workflow of an organizational structure, or the workflow of an individual end user. So it’s basically getting the CMMS fully configured and operational for the organization with all the key users properly trained. It’s definitely not a simple plug-and-play enforcement.
JK: And I think that’s critical to touch on. You mentioned integrating within the workflows and all those key things. I think maybe not to maintenance professionals, maybe not to reliability professionals, but certainly some individuals view CMMS as a software that we can just download, install, and it’s good to go. And it’s definitely not the case.
JO: No, definitely not the case, and what happens over time is that it becomes more of a burden and the organization of people stop using it. They don’t benefit from the system. You know, it doesn’t matter if you’re a technician or manager, planner, supervisor, parts person. You’re always thinking, “What’s in it for me?” So you always want to make sure that the application is making your life easier on a day-to-day basis, and if it’s not configured and implemented correctly, you’re just going to stop using it and it’s, you know, it’s not going to be successful at the organization.
JK: No, it’s definitely not. If we don’t have the right data going in we can’t get the right reports and start driving the correct changes for that organization.
JK: So Jeff, how do you define a successful CMMS implementation? Is it just having all the master data in correctly? What really is success?
JO: So for me, there’s different levels of success. But really, the ultimate successful implementation is when the organization is maximizing the value of the new system. That means the system is correctly configured for the organization’s use case. That means the PMs are triggering when due, costs are rolling up to the correct parent assets, folks have visibility on the inventory in the storeroom, etc. The second is, everybody that should be using the CMMS is using the CMMS on a day-to-day basis. That could be the technician logging the repairs, the planner getting the schedule ready for the week, or the line manager just logging the work request. And finally, real, accurate data can be pulled from the CMMS and form KPIs and reports, and that data can be used to identify trends, can be used to make those decisions like repair versus replace. So that for me is a truly successful implementation.
JK: Perfect. So we’re using the system, we’re collecting data, and we’re using that data to drive decision making within your organization. So that is true success.
JK: Have you seen other versions of success within organizations?
JO: Yeah, there could be, as I said, there’s different levels of success and that, for me, is the ultimate. But there are organizations coming from nowhere, coming from pen and paper and they don’t have a system in place. So even getting the system in place just to manage your work orders and work requests, I mean, that is somewhat successful. Obviously, there’s a lot more opportunities to grow from there, but it is, I suppose, some success in the application. I did see an organization a couple years back where the poor maintenance manager was tormented with requests coming in from all different angles, you know, Post-It notes, text messages, paper left on his desk, reminders on whiteboard beside his desk, but a lot of things just fell through the cracks, so with a CMMS in place, you’re basically automating that process. Requests all go through the same channel and then you can just prioritize them as needed and nothing falls through the cracks. So even that very simple usage of the system still for me leads to a somewhat successful implementation.
JK: Excellent. So depending on your organization, that level of success may change. But what we’re doing is we’re driving improvements in the business processes, efficiencies in the business process, and in the end using that data to drive decisions. Now, what are the steps you have seen that allow organizations to achieve that successful implementation?
JO: Okay. So after recognizing the need for a CMMS, we have identified five steps in making the CMMS implementation successful. So the first step is, you want to get support from management. Getting a CMMS stood up requires time and resources. I’ve witnessed numerous CMMS implementation projects where management weren’t fully onboard. They were reluctant to give resources, and as a result, the CMMS implementation didn’t go as smoothly as planned. So you need to get support from management because that will basically lead to the budget and the resources to get that CMMS successfully implemented.
The second step is: Assign a dedicated resource or resources to this project. So as you mentioned earlier on, do we simply turn it on and we’re good to go? It’s not the case. You need to have somebody on the organization side to assist with that implementation project. A CMMS project is more likely to be successful if the resources from both sides, the vendor and the client, are involved in the project. We always say to our clients, “We know CMMS. We don’t know your equipment.” I did a remote implementation last year and the client had just numerous other responsibilities. They couldn’t dedicate the time to the project and every session we scheduled felt like a refresher session. We were constantly going over the same things over and over again, and after about nine months we eventually agreed that they needed to go with a dedicated resource or they needed to assign somebody to the project to get it stood up and get the project closed out and we actually got it done in less than a week when we got the dedicated resource.
The third step in a successful CMMS implementation is effective project planning. Just remember the old saying: “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” Your organization needs to build out a detailed project plan so nothing gets missed. That means, you know, perform the needs analysis, identify what the pain points are right now and what the new software is going to address, identify who will use the system, define and control the scope, build out the schedule from initial data gathering all the way through to the post go-live, you know, six months or one year down the line: What does that review look like? Our most detailed implementation plan is about 96 line items.
The fourth step is the effective execution of that project plan. So you’ve gone through all the planning, now you simply have to execute on that plan systematically and methodically. Prepare the team for change, gather your data, clean your data, configure the system, tie in the end users, go live with the system. Go-live support is key. Then you have your implementation review at the end of the project.
And finally, the fifth step is ongoing refinement. So for me, a CMMS is always evolving, and you know, there’s no point in putting a CMMS in place and sitting still. You may be able to incorporate more features into the way you work in the future. As I mentioned earlier on, you can start with just a work order system and then you could look at adding inventory and PMs at a later date. You could get more users into the system. For example, add the machine operators so they can track their daily inspections when the vendor launches new features. How do you incorporate those new features into the way of working?
And then, finally, the CMMS itself is a database of information about your assets. So how do you use that information to change the way of working, and how do you modify or refine your PMs? For example in my previous career, we actually looked at the reliability and availability data, and We decided to move the PM cycle from every seven days to eight days. There was no impact on availability and it saved millions of dollars across the facility. So looking for opportunities like that to refine the system and get more from the system.
JK: Excellent. So five steps to implementing the CMMS. You know, getting management support, building the right project plan, understanding those returns, understanding how you’re going to support during the go-live and post go-live. All those are vital things that, you know, usually organizations miss one or two of those. I’ve often seen where organizations during the go-live, they’ll do one set of training a month or two before it goes live with no follow-up or coaching after that as a result. Nobody knows how to do things properly and so on and so forth. So I like those five simple steps to implementing that CMMS.
Now, how important is it for users to understand the business processes prior to implementing the CMMS?
JO: It’s absolutely important. It’s very important to have those processes documented so it ensures nothing gets missed. However, the maintenance processes tend to be very similar no matter where you are.
It’s all the same sort of stuff. Operators report the machine issue, planners or supervisors review or sign the work to under their technicians,, technicians complete the work, inventory folks make sure there’s parts on the shelf. It’s all very kind of similar processes. Many off-the-shelf CMMS applications are designed around best practices, so adopting a system could actually help the way you work and improve your processes.
I have an example for you, actually. I was working with an implementation there a couple of months back and the guys on the floor, if they if they needed a part, what they would do is they would fill out a form in Microsoft Word. They would then PDF that form and then they would email it to the storeroom 45 minutes later. They’d then walk over to the storeroom to see if the part was there and see if it was ready now. Of course, if the part wasn’t ready, they would have to go order it and they would not be able to complete the work. So by implementing the CMMS now they can check the part availability as they’re completing the work order.
They can also add it as a planned part to the work order and then stores get emailed automatically that a part is needed. So they know that it’s in stores and they then put in the order automatically to the storeroom. so when they go and get it, it’s going to be there waiting for them.
JK: Excellent. So that reduces a lot of non-value-added time for the technicians, you know, typing out in word, PDF-ing, emailing walking over there, only to find out it’s not actually there.
JK: So by adopting some of the standard workflow in the CMMS, they were able to reduce a lot of that.
JK: Excellent. Now, what configuration is important to understand, to think about, prior to implementation?
JO: Well, this all depends on whether the CMMS is on-prem or it’s cloud-based. So if your organization is opting for an on-prem, then there could be a whole load of hardware configuration, installation, opening ports, opening firewalls, and this is all stuff I know nothing about. You need IT expertise for that. So with cloud-based CMMS, there’s no hardware configuration needed. You simply sign up on the internet and it’s ready to go within 60 seconds. Now cloud-based CMMS tends to be more data-configurable than system-configurable. So there’s very little pre-configuration work needed. For example, at the start of any of our implementation projects, our consultants will usually spend a few days understanding the processes, the standardization of data, asset naming, the meter types, custom workflows, etc. and they will configure the CMMS accordingly. This usually only takes about one to two days.
JK: Excellent. Now, you touched on a couple great points there: How they name the assets, how they number the assets, how they name spare parts. Same thing with numbering there. What type of meters are used? How are they read? All those things are vital to configuring the CMMS. We also, I believe, need to consider users and permission levels and well, user groups if you will, so planners have access to these portions but not this portion and so on so forth, or maybe they only have a “view” instead of “edit” access, if you will. All those are very important up front when designing and configuring your CMMS.
JO: Exactly. Many of the cloud-based CMMS applications have those settings pre-configured or they have a good go with them. You’re probably going to get 95% of what you need already pre-configured in the system. There’s only a little bit of tweaking here and there to get exactly what you need.
JK: Excellent. Now, when we were talking about the configuration piece, you mentioned how the assets are named, how they’re numbered, that sort of thing. How important is data quality and setting up the assets, the materials, the asset hierarchy, PMs, and so on so forth within the CMMS?
JO: Well, data quality’s very very important. You know, poor quality data just causes problems in the long run. So if you’ve got poor asset labeling or badly configured hierarchy, it’s just going to make it harder to find those assets in the CMMS. If your inventory data is off, folks on the floor will be ordering parts from vendors when those parts are sitting there on the shelf. You’ll also experience more stockouts, and when it comes to PMs, the wrong task groups and the wrong PMs could lead to folks performing the wrong work on the wrong equipment. And to give you an example, two years ago I worked with a client that moved their 12 sites into Fiix they had the same equipment at each site. When we migrated the data over, it turned out one of the sites had been doing a completely different set of PMs and tasks under like-for-like assets, and as a result these machines at that site were in a very poor state. So if you get the data right first time, you only have to do it once.
JK: Yeah, absolutely. You’re not investing the time and resources to go walk down the assets again a third or fourth time. You’re not de-duplicating the material master data, so many organizations I work with, you walk into the storeroom and they have the same bearing in three different bins in three different locations. Just because someone named it different or put a hyphen in the part number or didn’t, and so on and so forth. So if you set it up, right you can save yourself a ton of work and effort long-term.
JK: Now, understanding what we need to do to implement the CMMS, who should we have on the implementation team? Is this a maintenance planner in their spare time, or is this a full cross-functional team?
JO: Implementation is a shared process between IT leaders, implementation teams, vendors, and system champions. It’s definitely a cross-functional team. It’s going to impact numerous individuals in the long-run across your organization. That’s going to be maintenance. It’s going to be reliability, safety, parts and inventory purchasing, IT, and operations. So there needs to be some involvement from all those teams for a small to medium-sized business. It doesn’t make sense to include a representative from each of those teams in the implementation project.
So what we recommend is, you identify a system champion, and that is an employee who’s going to own the project. And these champions are familiar with the way that the different teams work. They understand their processes, their workloads, etc., and that could be a planner or a supervisor or just one of the very good technicians on the team, and they can pull in the different representatives from the groups as needed. So if they need help from parts and inventory, they need something clarified, they’ll go to those folks get those answers. But for larger organizations, they’re big enough to have a cross-functional team and include everybody in the process, they tend to have more complex systems and processes.
So getting representatives from all the teams involved ensures nothing gets missed, and it also helps get the organization up to speed quicker on the application. So once you go live, you know, they have that expertise and they can go to their groups and assist as needed.
JK: That cross-functional team will really vary on the size of the site or organization implementing the CMMS. It may also vary depending upon what features or functionalities you want to include. Are we going to include failure coding or fault coding. If so, how is that going to be built? Who owns those lists, and so on and so forth?
JK: Perfect. Now one other thing with the cross functional team that they may be looking at is defining reports and getting those built during the implementation. How important is it to define the output of the CMMS ahead of time?
JO: So James, I just want to point out one important thing. Okay. So back in the 80s, the 90s, the naughties, the only way to get information from a CMMS was a report. A report was kind of the way that you got the data. You built a query, you organized the data on a sheet, and then you printed out that report for view. But in 2018 there are lots of other ways to get data from the systems. Today’s CMMS software allows you to pull information from your system in a variety of ways, including reports. It could be list views, it could be dynamic filtering, it could be customizable dashboards. So you may get the data you need live in the system without having to run any reports. So saying that, the answer is yes. It’s definitely important to understand what reports, what lists, what KPIs or metrics you need earlier on in the implementation process. The reason is because you need to make sure you select a CMMS application that can give you that data. They can give you those reports, can give you those lists. So organizations coming from an existing CMMS will have a suite of reports that they want to replicate in the new CMMS. But any organizations brand new to CMMS may not know exactly what they need out of the gate. So they’ll have to figure out the reporting over time. But many of today’s applications come with canned reports.
These are basically reports ready to go into the box and they’ll probably give you about 90% of what you need. The applications also come with report builders or possibly integration to a third-party report builder. So you’ll probably get what you need, but you only need a handful of useful reports. We usually recommend planned maintenance percentage, mean time between failure, mean time to repair, and schedule compliance.
JK: Excellent. So many of the new CMMSs, they have that report engine built in, they have dashboards that stream with real-time data. So while we do want to understand what data we need, or information we need out of the system, what we’re going to do with it, there’s less of a focus now of having to have those reports built during implementation and so on so forth.
So what are the key milestones needed for a new CMMS implementation?
JO: Okay, so we have identified five key milestones. So the first one is planning a discovery, and this is all about understanding the CMMS goals and basically getting to your project plan. So we want to understand our business processes. We want to define those data standards, We want to plan for consistent data. We want to have our training plan, etc. The second milestone is configuration and setup. This is all about getting your CMMS stood up, get the CMMS technically operational and customized for your use case and your business requirements. Milestone three is training, and training is the key to making sure that employees have the right skills and knowledge to make most of the software. It increases user adoption and ensures folks are using the software in the right way it increases commitment in the long term. My advice would be do not skimp on training and do it right the first time. Otherwise the team is going to waste valuable trial and error trying to learn the system, and that’s on company time.
Milestone four is go-live. So once the system is configured, your training is complete, you can go live with the new system. So organizations using an existing system may have to have a blackout period where both systems are unavailable while the data is being transferred over, but anybody new to the system can simply just go live with the the CMMS.
And finally, milestone five is review and close out, and in this step, you want to ensure that all the original requirements have been met, implement any minor corrections if needed. So this could be a slight tweak on a PM, or modification of KPIs, reports, things like that, but usually very minor.
JK: Excellent. So five simple steps. I really like the training piece, the emphasizing of that, because it really drives home the importance of using the system properly, you know, really making sure everyone understands how easy it is to use so we don’t face a lot of resistance and we don’t get it used. So very very good.
Now with all the things we discussed, what is the one thing you think makes the biggest difference in being successful with a new CMMS implementation?
JO: Implementing any software application is a daunting task for any organization, and implementing a CMMS is no different. And many organizations fail to properly plan their CMMS implementation projects. So I believe that the biggest difference between being successful and not being successful is having that plan, you know fail to plan and then plan to fail.
JK: Excellent. Make sure we have a full plan identifying resources timelines, you know for everything the data collection data review setting up the system the training all those various things. That’s the biggest thing that makes the difference.
JO: Exactly. You got to get it all down on paper, right the way through from initial data gathering all the way through to go-live support. Proper project planning will eliminate rework and confusion later down the line.
JK: Excellent. So if you had a magic wand, the one thing you would change is everyone having a plan or would you change something different?
JO: Okay. So the one thing I would love to change would be employee perception about CMMS applications. So they’ve been around for quite a while since 1965. So they don’t have the best in terms of reputation. I would love if that was a little bit more positive because implementing a CMMS should be seen as a very positive change for the organization. It can help automate a lot of tasks like the work request process. It can eliminate all those disparate systems like calling and texting and Post-It notes. It’s going to automatically trigger PMs for you, so you don’t have to check your calendars. It’s going to let you update your work orders in real time in the field or on the floor as you do the work, so you don’t have to head back to the desk at the end of the day or hit the books at the end of the day and log everything in you can log in real time.
It allows for real-time part search so you can check stores without having to walk across to the parts room. The list of benefits is endless. I think most users eventually understand that you know, when the CMMS is properly stood up and they can see the value it brings. Eliminating redundant and low-value activities helps technicians focus on high-value activities. It also helps helps their careers in the long-term.
JK: Yeah, the benefits that come with CMMSs are immense granted some are a little more time consuming to use, a little more cumbersome to use, but generally, CMMS is huge huge time savers. They really drive efficiency of you know, the maintenance management processes, the technicians, wrench time, all those various things.
JK: Well Jeff, I want to thank you for taking the time today to talk about CMMS implementation. But before we go, where can people find out more about you Fiix, all those great things and resources that you guys have?
JO: Well the best place to find out more about me is my LinkedIn profile. So if you want to make that available, please feel free to do so. The Fiix website is a great resource. We have lots and lots of blogs and articles. As I mentioned, I’ve got over a hundred articles I’ve written. I’ve got e-books and best practices guides available there on fiixsoftware.com, and lots and lots of information.
JK: Excellent. So we’ll make sure to put links to your LinkedIn profile, Fiix’s website, and maybe one or two of those best practice guides or e-books as well. So people can quickly click on those and link directly to them.
JO: So Jeff, do you have any other additional resources you want to share before we go? Sure, no problem, in terms of you know, in maintenance and maintenance best practices. I like to read Reliability Web, UpTime Magazine, Reliable Plant is another good resource, but you know, we’ve been talking about CMMS implementation today and that’s really project management. You can find lots of good project management resources online like PMI.org or projectmanagement.com. So I definitely recommend having a look there.
JK: Yeah, PMI and projectmanagement.com are very very good resources. I am a member of PMI as well. Just because of everything it plays into: CMMS implementations, data projects, reliability projects and so on so forth. So some great resources. Well Jeff. I want to thank you again for taking the time out of your busy day to talk to us today about implementing a CMMS. You know, I’ve learned some new things as I always do from my great guests, so I’m going to guess our listeners did as well. So thank you once again.
JO: Thanks for having me, James.
JK: I would like to thank you for listening and remind you that you can always find out more on maintenance reliability and asset management at www.eruditio.com and by following our blog.