Ensure Smooth Setup
Be ready to hit the ground running when the new system is installed. Start by enlisting your team in any training offered by the vendor, Lachance advises. After that, start entering data on building equipment, spare parts, and other items using any existing documentation on hand. If possible, include a photo for easier identification. There are two schools of thought on how to set up a CMMS:
1) The pilot project: Model one department, floor, or building area at a time. Enter all of the assets in this area, then start scheduling preventive maintenance. Test the system by creating a few work orders. “Feel the system out from start to finish,” Lachance explains. “That will shape how you use it as you expand beyond the one initial area.” This strategy also provides you with a mini-case study – any inefficiencies you detect and fix initially will help you justify the software purchase with real cost savings.
2) Aim high, then add as needed: Another way to approach setup is to put in as much information as you can at first, thus enabling practical CMMS use to begin, Murthi says. “If you start by putting in a few pieces of information, it’s going to take a long time to set up, and in the meantime you’ll get pushback from management because the system isn’t being used,” Murthi adds. “Start loading information and use the system as you go along.”
Setup is never really complete, however, because the system must change with the facility. If you move a printer to reflect layout changes, update the printer’s information. If a boiler reaches the end of its useful lifetime, the CMMS entry for its replacement should reflect a revised preventive maintenance schedule, as a new boiler obviously requires different maintenance practices than the old one.
Sticking to the schedule can give you some warning as to when equipment starts to fail, but at some point, you’ll likely run into an unplanned breakdown. A CMMS can minimize these incidents, but no one is completely immune. You can limit the damage and downtime, however, by planning for breakdowns from the first day you use the system.
“One way to handle this is to break out the calendar into sections. Keep a particular period of the day for emergency maintenance tasks so that when they come in, you can continue around them,” says Tim Dunn, senior vice president of consulting and software services for VFA, which provides facilities capital planning and management software, VFA.facility, that can work with a CMMS.
“The other strategy is to categorize the preventive maintenance you do day to day,” he adds. “Classify them into different types: A) maintenance that has to be done, B) maintenance that is important but can be delayed, and C) things that are nice to do, but you can delay it if it’s not that urgent. You can push the B and C tasks out of the schedule or delay them for another day.”
Go Beyond Maintenance
Don’t be tempted to take a Computerized Maintenance Management System at face value – these systems offer so much more than the maintenance functions described in the name. What initially seems like an easy way to keep track of work orders and tune-ups can add value to other facets of your department and your organization as a whole.
“When we installed our system, we were looking to improve efficiencies,” recalls Denning. “One way was to reduce trips to locations by the techs, thereby reducing our carbon footprint from vehicle use. That also gives the client more efficiency, because when they’re not paying for additional trips, they’re getting more return on investment for making us dollars.”
Repair histories also offer opportunities, Denning says. Examine the items you’re replacing to find possibilities for retrofits and replacements. “You can see if you’re sending a lot of lamps to the landfill and analyze the cost-effectiveness of converting to LED lighting,” explains Denning.
Cost: The Final Word
It can be hard to justify a capital request for such a large-scale upgrade, but paybacks of just a few years or less are possible. When requesting funding for this long-term investment, be prepared to demonstrate how quickly and easily savings are obtainable. For example, gather information on past emergency repairs to demonstrate the reduction possible with improved preventive maintenance.
“Just bringing in people in an emergency situation is very expensive,” Dunn says. “If you can look out 10 to 20 years and see preemptive repairs, that’s a lot less costly than fixing things as they break.”
Some products incorporate price forecasting linked to outside sources such as RS Means, Dunn notes. This lends extra credibility to your budgeting down the road in addition to your initial request to acquire the system. To really demonstrate day-to-day savings, however, focus hard on pre-empting disasters. If you use your CMMS correctly, you can increase equipment uptime, directly impacting the bottom line through continued productivity.
“Ben Franklin said it best: ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,’” Lachance notes. “Maintenance can contribute to profitability just as easily as the quote-unquote ‘profit centers’ of your operation by keeping things running more smoothly.”
Janelle Penny firstname.lastname@example.org is associate editor of BUILDINGS.