What is (a) CMMS?


I was reading a discussion group dialog from an EAM/CMMS sub-group on LinkedIn today. The question of the day was, “What is your definition of a CMMS?” There were many responses and the question seemed to be drawing quite a few diverse comments. I thought I’d weigh in on the topic in my blog.

Many of the respondents defined the acronym CMMS to represent “Computerized Maintenance Management System.” Others claimed the acronym represents “Computerized Maintenance Management Software.” As you can see, in either case, the acronym is still CMMS.

I cannot argue as to which definition is correct. The acronym has been around for many years. Marketing slants, usage, and other claims tend to change the meaning and origin of acronyms over time. It is really not important which is correct. Some even imply these definitions mean one in the same. I disagree.

These two definitions are not synonymous. Break it down. Use a simple if/then statement to show the folly in assuming that the two definitions are the same. “If Computerized Maintenance Management System = Computerized Maintenance Management Software then System = Software.” Most would agree this is definitely NOT a true statement. (And you thought you’d never use algebra!) Systems define process. Software supports process. Systems are dynamic, and software is static. Bad things happen when software is confused with system. Worse things happen when software defines process.

I have seen too many organizations purchase a CMMS software package thinking it will fix, or define, their broken or non-existent maintenance management system. A company wouldn’t think of buying a set of tools to fix a broken compressor if they didn’t have a mechanic on staff with the knowledge and skills to use them. You don’t need the tools if you don’t have the knowledge and skills. In fact, purchasing tools and giving them to someone without the knowledge and skills to use them could cause someone to get hurt!

CMMS software packages schedule, track, and report on how well a maintenance management system is performing. It is amazing how many companies buy software without defining what they want the software to schedule, track, and report on. A maintenance management system defines the goals and the processes used to attain those goals. A CMMS software package reports on the progress towards the goals, helps administer the process, and validates the attainment of the goals. Be sure you have the correct expectation for a CMMS software system.