3 Steps for a Smooth CMMS Implementation

By: on September 21, 2015

When a company decides to implement new software, there are a bevy of aspects to consider, even before choosing a system—and rushing the process can lead to bad results and a wasted investment.

Typically, maintenance managers must first prove the value of a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) to executives and get the greenlight to purchase one. Then the company decides what assets to enter, which employees to assign as users, how to migrate maintenance data from previous storage methods and how to train users on the software.

If this sounds daunting, then you likely share concerns with the hundreds of CMMS buyers who contact Software Advice each year looking to automate their maintenance management practices or switch from an older system.

This report will address those concerns, outlining three steps you can take to ensure your CMMS implementation is a smooth process that results in streamlined operations and cost savings.

Step 1: Justify CMMS Value and Select Assets

As with any major company investment, a business case must typically be made to show the value of purchasing and implementing a CMMS: a responsibility that typically falls to maintenance managers.

“There are a lot of points of justification, and I think it becomes a no-brainer,” says Joel Tesdall, president and CEO of CMMS provider MAPCON. “About 75 percent of our prospects are … changing from a different [CMMS] system, though there are, amazingly, still a lot of them using paper or Excel.”

Depending on your business model and maintenance costs, demonstrating return on investment—that is, comparing the total expected financial benefits of a CMMS over the costs—is a good place to start. The total cost of ownership for software can also vary, depending on whether an on-premise or cloud-based deployment model is chosen. In fact, we have a tool to help you calculate just that.

Since a CMMS helps keep machinery and other assets running longer, it can also be powerful to show upper management how much money the company stands to lose when assets are not running properly. Our recent report on the value of a modern CMMS includes a tool for calculating the hourly cost of machine downtime.

Aside from financial cost-benefit analyses, says Tesdall, the most significant justification for investment in a maintenance system is the ability to use the software’s historical data to make more informed business decisions. This allows managers to:

⇒ Identify trends in operations. When a piece of equipment is being worked on, you can view data from past work performed on the same asset within the CMMS—including how long the work took and what tools and parts were needed. For example, you may notice that the same job takes twice as long to fix this year as it did last year. Looking at historical data could reveal that the machine has a more severe problem this time, or that the new technician requires more training.

⇒ Gain better awareness of maintenance costs. Having historical data allows managers to generate long-term reports. Maybe you notice that maintenance costs rose by 3 percent over last year: A financial report could show you that the cost of an often-used spare part has risen, leading you to seek alternatives to save money.

“All you can do, without that [historical information,] is make subjective calls without data behind [them],” Tesdall says.

⇒ Improve inventory control. Inventory management functionality, included in most CMMSs, helps users optimize spare-part ratios and track tools and other parts. Each type of spare part can be linked to a profile that displays vendor information—and users can set minimum and maximum spare-part numbers so that notification messages are sent when more materials need to be purchased.

mapcon inventory screen

MAPCON inventory screen, in which the keyword “belt” is used to retrieve spare parts data,
such as unit cost and quantity on hand

After getting buy-in and commitment from executives, asset selection—choosing the assets and machines that will be entered into the CMMS—is another important area managers can tackle to make implementation go quicker and smoother. A few tips for asset selection include:

  • Begin with the most critical assets—those that could negatively impact operations if they were to fail—to reduce costly downtime.
  • Next, include the most common assets to ensure the majority of machines are running as long as possible.
  • When selecting assets, note the various components that make up the machine and how they can fail. This component-based approach gives maintenance teams a plan for how to handle each type of failure mode.

Another one of our recent reports covers asset selection in greater depth, offering detailed recommendations and a tool to help prioritize assets.

Step 2: Scrub Data & Use Asset Naming Conventions to Ease Migration

Another common request from CMMS buyers: the ability to either transfer data from an old system, or migrate data from spreadsheets into the new maintenance software. Simply put, this type of data migration saves time and effort and helps shorten the implementation process.

Many vendors, such as Maintenance Connection, offer services to help “scrub,” or clean, data so that it can be easily imported into the new system. The phrase “garbage in, garbage out” is particularly appropriate here: Entering inaccurate or unorganized data into a CMMS will only produce inaccurate results.

Scott Lasher, sales account manager at Maintenance Connection, explains that although this part of the process can take a few weeks to a month to perform, it sets up a solid foundation for the rest of the implementation.

“This is perhaps one of the most time-consuming steps in the implementation, but entering clean data will go far in providing value down the road,” Lasher says.

While vendors can offer expert assistance in the form of implementation consultants, Lasher recommends companies take a few actions on their own before implementation begins:

⇒ Devote significant resources of time and personnel toward the implementation process. Designate a person or small team who can learn the system inside and out to lead the implementation process. Having a team devoted to learning the system can help others in the company get up to speed.

⇒ Verify the quality of data and remove duplicates. Even though vendors can offer help to clean data, your implementation team can lend unique insight and get the work started. It’s helpful to perform some initial scrubbing to remove duplicate information.

⇒ Modify data using a uniform naming convention. When entering assets into a CMMS, they must be labeled and named so that users can search for a particular machine or part. If possible, it’s helpful to begin naming assets in the system a logical manner, Lasher says. For example, if you’re naming a boiler, use a code that would make it intuitive for other users to find it through keywords—something simple, such as “Boil-1.”

Many CMMS solutions offer pre-made naming conventions, which often use simple, numerical codes, but users can also create their own. Once you decide on a naming convention, you can start entering named assets into the CMMS. Maintenance Connection’s users, for example, enter them into the system’s ID builder tool.

maintenance connection

Maintenance Connection includes both a manual ID builder (left) and auto ID builder (right)

“This creates a scenario where once we get that initial batch of data in the system, the next asset they add can have an automatically generated ID that follows their naming convention to ensure data integrity moving forward,” Lasher says.

Not only does this make implementation smoother and quicker, but years into the future, a uniform naming convention keeps everything in the CMMS organized and easily searchable.

Step 3: Take Advantage of Vendor Training and Support

CMMS vendors can help set up software, but the client relationship continues far beyond implementation. A system is only useful if employees are properly trained to use it. However, companies often forego formal training, and as a result, fail to realize the software’s full value.

Modern CMMS providers offer training opportunities to help maintenance teams get up to speed. Fiix, for example, offers tiered training packages designed to ease companies into the basic functionality of the software—as well as, if they choose, more advanced capabilities later on.

Fiix’s Customer Support Director, Jeff O’Brien, says the company offers options for new users to learn how to use its features: They can teach themselves using the extensive Help Center and on-demand webinars available on the website, or through an on-site program with an implementation consultant who can perform in-person training sessions.

O’Brien says both are viable options, but notes that 97 percent of those who opt for the training packages continue to use the software because they have a greater understanding of its capabilities and value.

“It’s perfectly fine doing it yourself, but [for] customers that do, even a small amount of training … accelerates success considerably,” he says.

Fiix’s in-person starter training package lasts two hours and is designed to cover the core usage of the system. Topics include:

  • Assets. First, the training focuses on how to enter assets into the system.
  • Users. Next, you learn how to create user profiles: “You can just start with a handful of users,” O’Brien says. “We have clients many times starting with a small number and incrementally growing their users throughout the year.”
  • Scheduled maintenance. This will show users how to enter preventive maintenance tasks into the system, which will track recurring weekly, monthly and annual work.
  • Work orders. This topic explains how to set up work orders for daily tasks and unplanned reactive maintenance, when necessary.
  • Parts (inventory). Because each maintenance task will consume spare parts, users must set up the inventory system to track quantities, maximums and minimums to trigger alerts when additional parts need to be purchased.

Once the team is trained on the system, vendor support is there to provide a lifeline moving forward. This support is typically offered through either live agents or self-help options: the preferred method of many CMMS users.

“We get a really good response in our service-to-ticket ratio,” O’Brien says. “Ninety-six percent of our customers serve themselves through the help center, and they’re quite happy to do so.”

That’s why many vendors offer various avenues for technical support, including knowledge bases and support videos that cover topics such as submitting work order requests, adding and managing users, running reports, purchasing and ways to customize the system.

Fiix help center screenshot

Fiix’s training and support page

For example, within Fiix, users can navigate to a page with videos and telephone support. These support options also give customers the information they need to learn the system on their own time, O’Brien says. In turn, these employees can use the information they learn to train others on how to use the software—increasing the speed at which new users can start working.

O’Brien recommends evaluating vendors by looking at what kind of support they offer at different levels, since some offer unlimited support at no extra cost. Buyers can also call potential vendors’ support lines to see whether they get an automated line or are connected with a live person quickly.

Finally, prospective CMMS buyers can visit Software Advice’s CMMS page to read reviews for dozens of systems, categorized by ease of use, functionality, overall quality and customer support. This will help you find the system that offers the best combination of features and support to meet your needs.

You may also like:

3 Small Business CMMS Challenges That Software Can Solve

What’s the Difference Between Predictive Maintenance and Preventive Maintenance?

How a CMMS Can Increase Machine Uptime

Download Maintenance Management Software Pricing Guide