Mastering CMMS Implementation: Best Practices for Success

Maintenance managers know it’s critical to have the right tools—and the right skills—for the job. The same is true for implementing your CMMS software.

These tips and strategies can help you plan for a successful CMMS implementation, including how to choose the right solution, plan and execute the implementation, and measure the results.

How to Choose the Right Solution

With many capable software vendors in the CMMS market, finding the right solution can seem overwhelming. Your search doesn’t have to be complicated, though. Start by understanding why you’re looking for CMMS software in the first place.

Step 1: Identify Your Pain Points

Identify why your original system (whether computer- or paper-based) is failing to meet your needs. Typically, the limiting factor is a key function where the old system isn’t performing well. We call this a primary pain point.

Of course, you may have more than one pain point—especially with older systems—but determining your top one, two, or three will help focus your selection process, and ensure you communicate your needs to potential vendors. Ultimately, it’ll get you the software that best heals your pain.

Pain points tend to fall into four categories: functional, technological, organizational, and scalability.

Functional: A functional pain point occurs when an existing system isn’t delivering on a core maintenance-related function. Common functional issues relate to work order management, preventive maintenance (PM) scheduling, or service request management and tracking. Other functional pain points include vendor management, detailed reporting, or inventory control. Whatever it is, your existing system isn’t doing it well.

Technological: A technological pain point occurs when the system you’re currently using is no longer a match for the way you need to conduct the management, execution, and tracking of maintenance. The shoe no longer fits, as it were. The pace of business often seems to be forging ahead without consideration for the time it takes us to maintain the critical infrastructure that drives it.

Organizational: Sometimes a pain point originates elsewhere in the organization, but the fulfillment of that need falls to the maintenance manager. Organizational pain points roll downhill to you from elsewhere in the company. Sometimes these pain points arise from a corporate merger or acquisition, new regulations or compliance requirements, or a new senior manager. Regardless of where they come from, you likely learned about them from your boss.

Scalability: Scalability is the capacity to grow as an organization grows. It’s typically tied to organizational and technological changes. Maybe changes in an organization are driving growth in business and employee headcount. Maybe better network connections are increasing the ability of a company to work across multiple geographies. Maybe an expanded facilities footprint is drastically increasing the number of service requests.

Before you begin talking to maintenance software vendors, capture your pain on paper. Brainstorm a list of your top three pain points in clear and concise bullets. You might start by writing down as many as you can think of. Then do your best to whittle the longer list down to no more than three.

Once you’ve bulleted out your top three pain points, you’ll be able to articulate clearly to vendors the functions and features important to you.

Step 2: Decide Which Features You Need

There’s a short list of features no CMMS should be without. It’s likely any competitive solution you’re considering will have these features. It’s not uncommon, though, to find non-CMMS vendors trying to compete in the space. They don’t always have all the features you’ll need for successful maintenance management, so be sure the solution you’re considering has these basics:

  • Asset Records are the heart of any maintenance or asset management solution. This is where you’ll store the details about the equipment, buildings, vehicles, or other assets you’ll be maintaining. Typically, these include asset name, purchase date, purchase price, serial number, location, and other important descriptive details.
  • Employee Records store information about your employees who will do the work: names, contact information, certifications, and anything else you want to track about your organization’s people.
  • Inventory Records hold the details about spare parts and consumables you have on hand: type, model, serial number, manufacturer, supplier name, location name, item number, item state, unit of measure, and other critical information your department needs to have about its parts and consumables.
  • Work Orders are the “digital documents” that track management of repairs and PMs. They are the forms inside the software that link all the elements of repair and maintenance work in one place. They answer these questions:
    • What was repaired?
    • Who did the work?
    • What parts were used?
    • When was the work assigned, initiated, and completed?
    • What was the outcome?
    • Where was the work done?
    • What was the problem or preventive activity?
  • Inventory Management helps you keep up with spares and consumables you have on hand. It provides you with immediate visibility into item quantities to help you prevent outages of critical parts and materials.
  • Reporting tools help you create meaningful information from the data recorded for assets, employees, inventory, schedules, and work orders. Most vendors’ basic editions provide list-view reports, but not all basic packages include charts or graphical reporting. Be sure to ask.
  • Preventive Maintenance Scheduling enables you to establish, monitor, and execute preventive maintenance schedules. Be sure to ask vendors if they include both time- and meter-based scheduling.

Step 3: Decide If You Need Service Requesting Tools

If you have people or departments that submit repair requests, make sure the CMMS product you’re evaluating supports service requests. This capability allows users to enter and initiate service requests and lets them monitor the progress of the requests as your team completes repairs.

Service requesting is often the first function beyond the basics that maintenance organizations need, particularly for maintenance teams who have internal customers. Many times, teams in factory settings can get by without service requesting. Facility managers almost never can.

Step 4: Determine What Advanced Features You Need

Software that only provides the basics won’t be enough for many maintenance organizations. A comprehensive CMMS solution will offer advanced features to meet your organization’s unique requirements. From a budgeting perspective, it’s a good idea to prioritize what advanced features you need. Cover your essentials first, and if you’ve got budget left over, you can consider some of these features.

Many vendors offer editions or bundles that include advanced features. You’ll often save money by purchasing a premium edition that includes many advanced features instead of adding them to your software one at a time.

  • Advanced Reporting supports customizable list view and graphical reporting. Many basic CMMS packages only offer “canned” reports in tabular format. If you need to customize your reports or prefer graphical views, be sure the solutions you’re considering offer them.
  • Cost Center Tracking allows you to group assets and their associated maintenance costs into the cost center groupings you define. You can then create budgets for those cost centers to see how you’re performing against them for specific business or operational units.
  • Lifecycle Cost Tracking captures acquisition costs, as well as maintenance and repair costs over the life of an asset. Over time, this reflects the true cost of owning and operating an asset.
  • Application Interface Customization allows you to tailor the navigation or layout of the software to meet your special needs. One of the most effective means of implementing this is through the ability to add custom tabs and fields to capture data that’s unique to your operation.
  • Data Integration Tools make it possible for a CMMS to share and receive data with other applications. Leading software vendors will offer a data integration toolkit that allows you to map and schedule data transfers and from numerous data sources outside the application. Typically, these include spreadsheets, other databases, ERP systems, accounting systems, PLCs, electronic meters, and more.
  • Purchasing monitors work orders, reorder lists, and requisition records to automatically create new requisitions as needed. It also allows you to easily track orders and requisitions all the way through receiving and restocking.
  • Key and Lock Management tracks when someone has accessed an asset or location. Use it to manage who is in possession of keys, smartcards, and electronic access badges.
  • Mobile Applications use wireless technology, smartphones, tablets, and/or laptops to help you and your technicians manage, initiate, and complete work orders while you’re away from your desks or in the field.
  • Labor Resource Management can track all facets of your employee records: status, skill level, billing rate, contact information, and more. You can easily match employees or vendors to the assets they maintain, and assign tasks accordingly. In addition to basic information, you can track employee attendance, illness records, work productivity, and overtime hours.
  • Vendor Management provides one place to manage all your vendors and track their important information. It should provide a direct link between vendors and work orders.
  • Advanced Inventory provides inventory management features beyond just tracking stocking levels. Typical features include min/max monitoring, reorder points, and advanced inventory reporting.
  • Condition-Based Maintenance (CBM) keeps tabs on the actual state of your critical assets by recording the output of any meters and gauges on that asset. When an asset’s condition changes outside of specified ranges, your software lets you know immediately, so you can react to prevent breakdowns before they happen.
  • Media Integration allows you to link documents, videos, photos, supplier websites, intranets, and more. 
  • Dashboards are command center consoles. Dashboards provide a view that you configure to put your most important CMMS data front and center, where you don’t have to dig for it. Often this includes key reports and metrics.

Step 5: Work with Your Stakeholders

Work closely with key departments as you decide the CMMS solution that works best for your team. Include members of the production, planning, purchasing, operations, and IT departments in your CMMS planning, because these departments are most affected by a new solution. Let them tell you which business processes need improvement. Then hammer out agreeable objectives mapped to new business processes. It’s often a good strategy to place some easy ones on top of the list, so you can celebrate some victories early on.

Step 6: Identify Potential Vendors

Find a reliable vendor and select functionality conservatively. Shop for a financially secure vendor with proven ability to expand the solution as your company grows. Beware of providers that rely heavily on partners for key functionality. 

When considering the software, make sure to find out if it really delivers on its promise. Talk to other corporate users in your field. Try out the software. Choose enough functionality to meet your business needs without sending your IT department on endless quests for the Holy Grail. Know what to look for and land on the product that’s right for you. 

Step 7: Budget Realistically 

Be a bit pessimistic when it comes to the budget, to avoid the painful process of increasing cost estimates. CMMS customization, and integration with existing software, present two big expenses. Implementation and ongoing maintenance have real costs as well. Make sure you factor in all of these expenses during the early stages of your CMMS deployment. 

Be sure you understand what your key requirements are and cover those first when evaluating features. If you need service requesting or more advanced features, prioritize these and align them with your pocketbook. Always keep in mind that the number of features, locations, and user licenses you need will impact what you pay.

Next, you’re ready for CMMS deployment.

Deploy & Implement Your CMMS

You need well-trained people who know how to use your new CMMS software, and you also need a solution set up right to work with your company’s assets and business processes. 

Following our CMMS implementation process helps you to set up your software to capture key data and turn it into reliable information. That makes it easier to make cost-effective choices about asset management.

Step 1: Planning

Planning is the backbone of your implementation success too. Lead the deployment project from the top down. Experts agree that the number one reason CMMS implementations don’t work is that senior executives fail to lead. After all, if managers don’t work hard to ensure CMMS success, why should employees? It’s not just about signing paperwork and attending meetings. Executives must adopt the CMMS as a corporate-level initiative, dedicate significant time and energy, motivate stakeholders, and keep everyone on track.

Actively manage the implementation. Technical difficulties, management turnover, employee resistance, and adjustments in company direction are predictable. Managers need to stay on their toes and quickly address changes to maintain momentum.

Step 2: Data Migration

The underlying maintenance data is the backbone of a computerized maintenance management system. Most companies store duplicate and outdated data in multiple locations. Putting this data in a unified database, scrubbing it, and making it available to the entire organization before implementation will make for a smooth rollout. If necessary, get help from vendors who offer data-cleansing services.

Step 3: Installation

Executing the implementation will probably be done by your vendor. Implement gradually. Change is never easy. In the case of a computerized maintenance management system, employees especially may fear the accountability involved in posting data that exposes true performance. 

Start your CMMS initiative in a single department that stands to benefit the most in the short term; then follow with a zealous, company-wide CMMS proponent. When others witness the initial success of the first department, bringing everyone on board will be much easier.

Step 4: Training

Market CMMS to employees and deliver ongoing training. It may sound obvious, but it’s important to remember that employees have to use the solution in order for it to work. Clearly communicate how it will help them succeed, and start CMMS training early on. This way, you’ll chip away faster at the 18 to 24 months it typically takes employees to adopt new business processes.

Step 5: “Go-live”

Congratulations! Your CMMS software is up and running. But it’s not over yet. It’s important to keep going to make the most of your CMMS investment. 

Develop a culture of continuous improvement. CMMS solutions should be adjusted to deliver a sharper competitive edge as a company and its business evolve. Be sure to keep employees in the communication loop, so they can help supply the information needed to continuously improve how the system leverages asset and maintenance history data. 

Not all companies will achieve CMMS success because many fail to take into account the items listed above. For the ones who do succeed, however, the rewards are great. Stick to these steps, and you will rig the game in your favor.

Measure the Results

When you invest in CMMS software, your benefits compound over time. As your data becomes more comprehensive, your organization becomes more efficient and the return on investment climbs.

Step 1: Set Up CMMS Reports

A CMMS report gives you the ability to accurately assess how your department is functioning and where you might make changes to improve. CMMS software can help reduce operational costs by using detailed tracking tools for financial and business metrics. Having hard numbers not only helps you run your business, it allows you to measure and use a whole host of key performance indicators. 

CMMS reports give you easy access to the numbers you need to make important decisions. You can quickly produce status reports and documents giving details or summaries of your team’s maintenance work. With solid data and easy-to-read reports, your organization can make good decisions based on hard evidence, which will improve its ability to compete effectively and efficiently. With solid metrics, you can accurately assess the cost-effectiveness of any new equipment installations or facilities improvements. 

Even simple measures from work order records can provide powerful data. At a glance, you’ll know exactly how much money each work order type is costing your business in maintenance for a specified timeframe. Certain questions can be quickly answered.

  • What type of maintenance do I spend the most on?
  • How does the cost of preventive maintenance compare to repair costs?
  • If I run this report for a different time period, like last year, are there significant changes by category?

Beyond general questions, you can ask precise questions that’ll lead to a more informed decision-making process.

  • Why are my machining maintenance costs so high?
  • What new equipment needs to be purchased, if any?
  • How much will the new equipment cost compared to the current maintenance expense?
  • Will I save money over time by purchasing new equipment? How much?

Step 2: Set Maintenance Benchmarks

Maintenance benchmarks help you evaluate your team’s performance. They can help you answer the big questions, like “How effective is my organization’s maintenance strategy?”

Using benchmarks, you can identify best practices that drive the metrics.

Start by measuring your team’s metrics. Use your CMMS data to measure your team’s current key performance indicators (KPIs) and create a baseline. KPIs evaluate your success in the areas you care about, giving you a new level of insight on what’s going on in your department.

If you’re not sure where to start, six maintenance KPIs that most MPulse customers find handy include…

  1. Planned Maintenance Percentage: The percentage of the total hours spent on PM maintenance activities over a specific period
  2. Preventative Maintenance Compliance (PMC): The percentage of scheduled PM tasks that get done in a specific time interval
  3. Mean Time to Repair (MTTR): The average time to evaluate and repair failed equipment
  4. Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF): The predicted time between failures of an asset during normal operation
  5. Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE): The percentage of manufacturing time that is truly productive
  6. Maintenance Backlog: The percentage of uncompleted tasks

Make sure you dig deeper than the numbers—because processes, workflows, and other factors can affect these KPIs. As a result, you should understand how those numbers are calculated to make sure you’re making a fair comparison.

Next, evaluate your company’s performance by comparing your metrics and processes with those of other organizations. Start by researching your industry’s benchmarks to see how you’re performing and where you should look for improvements. You can find benchmarks from industry associations, maintenance journals, benchmark databases, and other sources. Additionally, use your professional network to find common benchmarks that your industry uses.

Then, based on your team’s performance and the industry standards, use your benchmarks to determine realistic KPI goals for your organization. Also, create a reasonable timeline with goal-based milestones and efficiency goals.

Over time, CMMS helps you pinpoint trends and determine what areas need more attention. You also can create benchmarks to measure current performance against historic performance or goals. 

Whatever you decide to measure, CMMS software gives you the tools you need to determine if your maintenance team is doing the right things to support or improve productivity—and if they’re doing those things correctly. This way you will be able to measure maintenance effectiveness.

Final Thoughts

CMMS implementation may feel overwhelming. However, following these steps will get you where you want to go. 

Also, while you can develop your own CMMS implementation plan, sometimes it’s more cost-effective to hire the experts. After all, you don’t send your plumbing expert to fix an electrical issue. So, let the experts do what they do best—set up your CMMS software exactly the way your team needs it. So, they can do what they do best—maintenance.

MPulse has different levels of CMMS software implementation, and each customer’s needs are unique. Expert advice can give your organization the best chance to make the most from maintenance software. 

Successful implementation of new CMMS software helps to reduce maintenance expenses, minimize downtime, extend equipment life and boost productivity throughout their organizations. Have questions about CMMS implementation best practices? MPulse has answers. Contact us.