3 Small Business CMMS Challenges That Software Can Solve

By: on February 4, 2016

Small businesses face uphill battles every day—balancing finances, people and time to increase profits and growth. Strapped for resources, these companies have to make tough decisions on where to invest.

For a maintenance manager at a small organization, keeping equipment at peak performance with limited resources can be daunting.

But today’s computerized maintenance management systems (CMMSs) are not only affordable—they can even save money by automating daily maintenance tasks to cover common small business CMMS challenges.

In this article, we explain how.

What Do Small Businesses Need From a CMMS?

According to professional publication Small Business Trends, the top three challenges for small-business owners are money, employees and time—all of which are limited.

“Their internal struggle every day is, ‘I don’t know how to get everything done, because we don’t have the resources and manpower to do it.’”

A maintenance manager at a small business might think software is overkill, or that the cost, time and hassle of implementation wouldn’t be worth it. Decades ago, that might have been the case.

Today, however, CMMS vendors offer systems scaled to a client’s needs, and cloud-based deployment makes implementation quicker and cheaper than ever.

When looking at the pain points of buyers who contact Software Advice for recommendations, we see that 21 percent are seeking a more modern maintenance system.

These buyers mention using older software that’s no longer working well, or that’s missing features most modern systems include (e.g., mobile applications).


Top Reasons Small-Business Buyers Seek New CMMS

Brad Squires, vice president of CMMS vendor Maintenance Connection, says every maintenance department has some kind of system, however basic. Departments without software typically use paper work orders, a calendar or (at best) a spreadsheet to track work.

“Sometimes they will literally write that a machine is broken on a napkin and hand it to the technician, and that’s the work order,” he says. “Any kind of electronic system will help categorize, organize and automate their manual system.”

Indeed, 16 percent of buyers seek software specifically to automate manual methods.

With a modern CMMS that automates processes such as work order, scheduling and financial management, you can tackle the top three challenges listed by Small Business Trends: Your business can save time and money by getting more done with fewer employees.

Let’s take a closer look to see how.

Challenge #1: Time

If time is money, streamlining daily tasks for your maintenance department positively impacts the bottom line. A CMMS can boost efficiency for small companies in a couple of key ways:

Reducing data-entry time with customizable fields. Maintenance software has come a long way in terms of its user interface. Many systems now offer customizable screens and fields, which save users time and effort searching the screen or entering data manually.

For example: Since a manager needs access to much more detailed information than a field technician does, managers can customize the work-order screen by role. This way, instead of technicians wasting time hunting down particular fields, they’ll see a simplified screen with only the fields they need—and can enter data about maintenance tasks more quickly.

Assigning work more efficiently with mobile applications. Using manual methods, maintenance workers are forced to walk or drive between a particular asset and the filing cabinet or calendar to close out a job.

However, using a CMMS with mobile functionality, a technician can enter data and close out work orders quickly before moving to the next job.

Mobile view of MaintenanceEssentials Pro from Dude Solutions, showing work order fields

Sometimes, machines fail without warning. In this case, the system can generate an emergency work order. With mobile access to a CMMS, a manager can assign the work order instantly to the technician who is closest to the asset—addressing the problem quickly and reducing downtime.

This is a particularly useful option for companies with multiple worksites. And thanks to the widespread use of smartphones, mobile CMMS applications don’t typically require new hardware to be purchased, even at very small companies.

Challenge #2: Money

Budgets are tight for small businesses. CMMS vendors know this, and work to provide affordable systems that deliver value for years. Here are a couple of ways small companies can save money with a CMMS:

Choose a cloud-based system. Older maintenance software sometimes took months to implement successfully, and often included features the client never used. Businesses also needed to acquire the servers necessary to run the software, and hire IT staff to manage any technical issues.

“If [small businesses] don’t have [many] resources, I think the perception sometimes is that [a CMMS is] going to be very difficult to get up and running,” says Nick Pendergraft, Learning Experience Manager for Dude Solutions, which offers MaintenanceEssentials Pro.

An on-premise option, such as that described above, is sometimes best for large companies with sophisticated IT departments. However, cloud-based deployment is now common, and often makes more sense for small organizations.


Benefits of Cloud-Based CMMS

Since the data is stored on offsite servers, no additional hardware is required—and companies can turn to the vendor for technical help, eliminating the need for in-house IT support.

What’s more, the subscription pricing model most cloud systems offer comes with lower upfront fees than those charged for on-premise systems and manageable monthly or annual payments.

Get back to work faster with shorter implementation time. Most CMMS vendors offer assistance to make cloud implementations smoother and quicker than on-premise ones.

For example: Pendergraft says vendor-assisted data migration can make moving historical information into the new system much easier than if the company had to enter it all manually. And implementation can be as short as a few weeks, minimizing the disruption to operations, Maintenance Connection’s Squires adds.

Both Pendergraft and Squires suggest a phased approach to implementation: Small companies can get the work order system up and running quickly to keep maintenance on track before adding inventory management or mobile features later on.

Use reports to reduce labor costs and minimize downtime. Manual methods make it time-consuming and challenging to create reports of historical data. A CMMS can automate this process, making reporting quick and easy.

Historical repair information stored in the system can be easily manipulated to identify trends, which can save you money you may not even know you’re losing.

Without reporting capabilities, maintenance managers often go by the original equipment manufacturer’s recommendations and their own knowledge about the machinery to perform repairs.

This can result in dozens of hours of labor time that don’t necessarily prevent any type of asset failure. CMMS-generated reports, however, can reveal the most cost-efficient times to perform work.

A work order status report in Maintenance Connection

For example: Using a CMMS with reporting tools, a manager may notice that a specific boiler tends to fail every four months, but is checked by technicians every two months. This should prompt him to reduce maintenance jobs for that asset to three and a half months—which saves labor costs and frees workers to focus on other jobs.

A sample of reporting options offered in MaintenanceEssentials Pro

Most systems offer several pre-made report formats, such as work order completion rates or maintenance costs by department or asset. Many CMMSs, such as Maintenance Connection, let users schedule reports to be automatically generated each week, keeping managers aware of trends as they form.

Challenge #3: Employees

The third challenge for small businesses is managing employees. Small companies, in particular, need to trust their workers; at this scale, one bad apple can negatively impact the whole bunch. A CMMS can help with this challenge in the following ways:

Increasing accountability. A maintenance manager may have thoughts about how each technician performs, but without clear data, it’s difficult to know for sure. A CMMS allows users to create profiles for each technician and assign tasks to employees when creating work orders.

Work order details, including assigned employees, in Maintenance Connection

Each time a manager retrieves information about an asset, they can see who’s working on it now or has in the past. Tying this functionality with reporting, managers can generate reports showing how quickly and effectively each employee is working.

Let’s say a manager runs an employee report and finds that a specific technician is consistently slower than others to complete work orders. This data alerts the manager of a potential problem and allows him to hold the employee accountable.

Perhaps this technician is unfit for the job, or maybe he just needs more training to get up to speed.

Either way, the CMMS has given the maintenance manager a level of awareness he didn’t have before, and the ability to make decisions that impact the future of his company.


Small companies with hesitations about implementing a CMMS should remember that modern software can help them address some of their biggest challenges. Whatever system they have in place can be automated with a CMMS, saving time and money in the process.

To find the best fit for your business, look for vendors that offer cloud deployment, strong support and the ability to implement applications in phases to keep maintenance moving as more features are added.

You should also look for a system with customizable employee profiles to increase accountability.

Top CMMS providers can be found on our maintenance management page. For more help choosing the right system, small-business buyers can contact our team of Software Advisors at (855) 998-8505.

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3 Steps for a Smooth CMMS Implementation

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How CMMS Software Enables Total Productive Maintenance

Compare Computerized Maintenance Management Systems