How a CMMS Can Increase Machine Uptime

By: on July 23, 2015

For those searching for a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), the number of options can be overwhelming. Today’s top vendors offer advanced and flexible systems that help optimize preventive maintenance schedules, enable mobility, enhance the use of data—and, ultimately, increase machine uptime.

The core applications maintenance managers need—including work order management, asset tracking and reporting—remain intact, but a modern CMMS couches them in a more flexible, cloud-based format. This allows for integration with other software and helps increase productivity; users can access the system from any Web-enabled device, reducing the time needed to perform common processes.

According to Software Advice’s 2014 CMMS BuyerView report, 19 percent of CMMS buyers have no formal system in place for managing maintenance, and a combined 48 percent use manual methods such as spreadsheets or pen and paper. Twenty-two percent use a CMMS or similar system, but claim it’s old, lacks functionality or just doesn’t work well.

In response to the needs of these buyers, we spoke with top CMMS vendors about how new software can boost the effectiveness of core maintenance applications and increase machine uptime.

In this article, we’ll outline the overall benefits of cloud-based software, and explain how specific CMMS applications are enhanced in today’s top systems.

A Simple Tool for Calculating Machine Downtime

Before we dive into how modern CMMS features help increase machine uptime, here’s a tool to help calculate the cost of downtime per hour.


This simple tool allows maintenance managers to plug in estimates about their operations and generate an average cost of machine downtime per hour.
Alternatively, manufacturing companies can enter information to find their estimated amount of revenue loss per hour of downtime.

Simply click on the zeros on the right side of the tool to enter in your company’s information. (You can also download a version by clicking the download button on the black bar below the tool.)

⇒ Employee costs per hour: The average employee salary divided by number of hours worked, multiplied by the number of employees.

⇒ Average revenue per hour: An estimate of how much revenue your company generates in a given hour.

⇒ Employees affected by downtime: An estimate of the percent of employees who would be unable to work due to shut down machinery.

⇒ Revenue affected by downtime: An estimate of the percent of revenue lost due to machine downtime.

⇒ Number of units produced per hour: An estimate of the number of units produced in one hour.

⇒ Average profit per unit: The amount of profit earned for each unit produced.

⇒ Number of hours of downtime: The number of hours of downtime expected.

Now that you know how much costly downtime can be, let’s take a look at three tools that can help you minimize it.

Cloud-Based CMMS Enables Smooth Implementation, Flexibility

According to representatives from top CMMS software vendors, today’s cloud-based systems boast a variety of benefits. These include:

Quick and affordable implementation. Since cloud-based solutions are hosted on the vendor’s servers, costly machine downtime during installation is mitigated. Additionally, software upgrades can be performed during weekends or other times the company isn’t operating. This way, maintenance managers never lose access to the system—and the company can outsource many IT costs.

“We normally do installations in about two hours online,” says Joel Tesdall, president and CEO of MAPCON. “In that sense, it’s easier and cheaper because we don’t have to send people on-site.”

Customization through an application program interface (API). An API gives users access to the software code so they can create their own applications. This way, companies can add functionality specific to their needs without requesting help from the vendor.

Implementation services and long-term support and training. According to various sources, upwards of 80 to 90 percent of CMMS implementations fail. A CMMS is an investment and requires long-term commitment to get the most return. Randy Brous, vice president of MPulse, says implementation services in all software markets have evolved over the past 10 years, now going beyond simply ensuring the system runs on the company’s machines.

“It’s helping them translate those processes and those metrics into the configuration of the software, as well as following up with them to make sure they’re successful,” he says.

Native mobile apps. Many systems simply offer on-the-go access by logging in through a mobile device’s Web browser. But some offer native mobile apps that go further, allowing access to the device’s camera, accelerometer and GPS functions.

“For example, you can take a smartphone, walk around the plant floor, take photos of equipment and directly add them to your CMMS—you can onboard an entire factory floor in the morning just with your smartphone,” says Marc Castel, CEO of Fiix.

Fiix mobile app

A view of Fiix’s native mobile app

The bells and whistles of a modern CMMS can be powerful, but vendors advise potential buyers to prioritize the applications they need most and to be realistic with how each will be used. Having a plan in place for how, for example, mobile capabilities will be used helps ensure the application is a productivity-boosting add-on.

Work Order Tracking Improves Communication

Before the advent of integrated, all-in-one CMMS software, many professionals in the industry used a stand-alone work order system to oversee repairs, or relied solely on spreadsheets or a paper-based system. In fact, many still do.

However, a lack of integration with other aspects of maintenance management increases the chances of a problem. For example, paper work orders can get lost and repairs may not be recorded. What’s more, managers lack real-time visibility on assets, which could result in unwanted downtime and subsequent loss of profits.

Modern CMMS systems can address these problems with automated work order tracking. When assets need repairs, users create work orders—either from a desktop computer or mobile device—that are instantly placed in the system. This stands in stark contrast to manual methods, which require workers to fill out paper forms and submit work orders by hand.

In the screenshot below, you can see how users view work orders in Hippo CMMS: It lists them in a calendar view, helping managers stay on top of scheduled repairs.

hippo cmms

Hippo CMMS calendar view, showing current work orders and statuses

Additionally, the requester can add priority level, type and status indicators (such as “critical,” “overdue” or “in progress”) to the work order. This information can later be used to analyze operations.

Modern work order tracking functionality helps increase machine uptime through:

⇒ Multiple levels of accountability. Managers can see what work needs to be done, when, for how long, with which asset and by which worker.

⇒ Customizable notifications. Managers can set notifications to alert them before work needs to be performed—reducing the risk of forgetting and letting equipment fail.

⇒ Automatically submitted requests. Electronic work requests, submitted to the system automatically, are impossible to lose.

Use Case: Work-order tracking functionality is especially useful for maintenance managers of hospitals and health care facilities. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), a major accreditation organization, announced new regulations for medical equipment in 2013 that require significant documentation to remain in compliance. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • An inventory of all medical equipment used in the facility
  • Proof that equipment is being maintained according to manufacturer recommendations
  • Criticality ratings for high-risk medical equipment

Hospitals aren’t required to be accredited by the Joint Commission. However, those without certification are not eligible to receive Medicare or Medicaid funding from the federal government—an increasingly important status in health care.

bigfoot cmms

Criticality ratings in Bigfoot CMMS

Paul Lachance, chief technology officer for Smartware Group (provider of Bigfoot CMMS), says criticality ratings can be assigned to any type of asset in the system. Above, you can see “essential,” “important” and “minor” tags tied to equipment in the list of work orders. For example, a neonatal ventilator is an essential component in keeping newborns healthy; assigning that asset with an “essential” criticality rating helps maintenance workers prioritize repairs and keep machines running longer.

maintenance connection

Sample audit report from Maintenance Connection

During a JCAHO visit, a CMMS gives management a simple way to prove preventive maintenance is being performed to ensure safe conditions for employees and patients. Most modern CMMSs include a report template specifically designed for these audits.

“When JCAHO shows up, we have canned reports for audits that takes literally minutes to generate,” says Scott Lasher, sales director at Maintenance Connection. “Through capturing and tracking work history, this data is compiled and reports are already built into the system.”

Condition-Based Monitoring Enables ‘Just-In-Time’ Maintenance

A 2014 study from Plant Engineering magazine shows that more than half (57 percent) of subscribers sampled still perform reactive maintenance in their company—meaning they typically perform repairs after an asset fails. Furthermore, the study shows reactive maintenance is almost 50 percent less effective at reducing machine downtime than preventive maintenance.

A preventive maintenance strategy involves creating a schedule to service assets before they fail, based on information from the asset manufacturer as well as on historical data collected over time in a CMMS. From the same Plant Engineering study, 87 percent of respondents include this method as part of their maintenance program.

As maintenance departments constantly strive to prevent downtime, another strategy is becoming more common: condition-based maintenance. This strategy is gaining traction as more software vendors offer the ability to collect data on the running condition of a machine using monitoring sensors.

Monitoring Method
Corrective None. Repairs performed after failure occurs, increasing asset downtime.
Preventive Occasional manual testing. Repairs performed according to planned schedule; assets shut down during repairs.
Predictive Periodic manual testing. Technicians needed for manual tests; repairs performed before problems occur.
Condition-Based Automatic stream of real-time data. Repairs performed before problems occur, without the need for technicians.
Type of Condition Monitoring
How Sensors Are Used
Vibration Any machinery that rotates: e.g., pumps, motors, compressors. Sensors can analyze the degree of vibration and alert maintenance when that degree changes, which could indicate a problem.
Oil analysis By checking particulates within the oil of a machine, a sensor can notice when the particles become more numerous or larger in size, indicating increased wear in the system.
Ultrasonic Detects high-frequency sounds inaudible to human ears that could indicate friction, alerting maintenance to problems earlier than other methods.
Electrical Reads electrical currents from assets to ensure proper operating conditions.
Infrared Can be used to spot electrical and mechanical issues by revealing heat signatures as the machine is operating.

Condition-based monitoring goes further than preventive maintenance. Instead of servicing an asset based on a schedule, you can monitor its operating characteristics in real time—and when readings show abnormalities, the system triggers a work request automatically. As a result, repairs are done “just in time.”

This naturally reduces the number of individual services an asset needs, because managers don’t need to create a strict schedule. Instead, work is performed only when an asset begins to show signs of a problem.

When the average maintenance technician costs somewhere between $12 and $20 per hour, using a CMMS can save tens of thousands each year on labor costs—while still ensuring the asset is serviced frequently enough to keep it running as long as possible.

Use Case: Let’s imagine you manage equipment in a facility that manufactures bicycles. You have a critical piece of machinery that is currently being serviced twice a month to prevent downtime, but you’ve recently added a PSI (pound per square inch) monitoring device to the asset, which sends real-time performance data into the CMMS.

With knowledge of the machine’s normal operating conditions, you can view trends in the data as the machine runs to detect changes. With some historical data, you notice that air pressure (in PSI) begins to drop roughly every four months.


PSI meter readings in MPulse

The above screenshot from MPulse shows a machine with consistent PSI readings across three months before it dips to 30 PSI, which likely results in a failure.

This shows you that scheduling two services for this asset each month is unnecessary. Instead, you use your CMMS to reduce planned maintenance, and schedule work orders to be triggered for that asset based on either abnormal PSI readings or every 90 days, whichever comes first.

Flexible Reporting and BI Tools Identify Problem Assets

For years, maintenance managers took the data they collected from completing work orders and fit it into canned reports that came with their CMMS. Alternatively, they might have asked the software vendor to program something different to fit their needs.

“A report is really just a static picture of today,” says Jay Ratliff, vice president of solutions management for AssetPoint, which offers TabWare, a CMMS and enterprise asset management (EAM) solution. “[Today’s solutions are] more about a user being able to analyze data and look at it from different perspectives, and asking if that can change how [they] do things.”

Maintenance workers want to spend as much time as possible on their duties, rather than on figuring out how to get a system to perform a specific task. A combination of vendor technical support and the customizable reporting offered by modern CMMSs can help deliver that.


An interactive work order backlog report in Tabware by AssetPoint

In the screenshot from TabWare above, the user generated a report showing the total number of backlogged work orders. This reveals that 21 work orders in the queue represent 70 hours of work. Without software, creating such a report would take considerably more effort. And while many legacy CMMS systems have the ability to create reports, they rarely go beyond offering a static chart.

“What we hear from people looking for new solutions is that they have to ask their old programming people or the vendor to change something or add a custom report,” says Rona Palmer, marketer with eMaint. “Older legacy systems worked, but could only be used the way they were designed.”

Today’s systems offer much more: For example, in the report pictured above, users can click on a section of the pie chart to see the individual assets in the backlog. Managers can then look at the equipment IDs and decide which work should be prioritized for repair—meaning crucial machinery gets attention first, and operations continue. Without such reporting capabilities, maintenance departments are sometimes left guessing which asset is causing the most problems.

Use Case: For companies that manufacture food products, assembly lines, large ovens and other essential equipment only make the company money when they are available and operating. And with large machinery designed to cook or heat food, employee safety must be a priority. A maintenance department can address both concerns by using a modern CMMS to analyze reports.

Here’s an example: You’re a maintenance manager in a facility that produces and bottles fruit juices. Using manual methods, you reference the original manufacturer’s suggested maintenance schedule to repair and clean a few large steam boilers. However, you want to improve maintenance efficiency, and convince your bosses to implement a new CMMS.

emaint x3

List of report types in eMaint X3

After using a CMMS for several years, you have enough information to analyze historic work order data. You begin generating customizable reports on work orders (as pictured in the screenshot above), and notice that boiler number two failed and required reactive repairs twice as often as the others last year. You therefore decide to increase scheduled preventive maintenance on that particular asset from every two months to once a month.


Changing frequency of work orders in MAPCON

The boiler in question now gets more attention and failures have been reduced—meaning costly repairs and downtime are much less frequent. While this requires more technician work hours to service the machine, the boiler is likely to last longer, helping to increase production.

In this example, the reporting data helped you extend the life span of the boiler. Analyzing historical data and more strategically scheduling service thus saved you, potentially, tens of thousands of dollars.


Implementing a modern CMMS has many advantages, including increased customization and the flexibility afforded by a cloud-based framework. And this gives maintenance managers stronger versions of the applications they’ve used for decades.

Prospective buyers should look at vendors that offer a CMMS with automated work order tracking, real-time condition monitoring and/or customizable, powerful reporting. When researching a system, you should also ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have commitment from my team and bosses to make the implementation successful in the long term?
  • Which of my current maintenance management processes are most important? Which should be automated?
  • What extra functions or modules should I evaluate? What exactly will I use them for?

With these questions answered, a maintenance manager has the information to begin searching for the CMMS that best fits their organization’s size and goals. Ultimately, a CMMS that offers maintenance professionals better visibility and flexibility leads to increase machine uptime.

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