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What Is CMMS? editorial staff editorial staff

Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) automatically forecast, monitor, schedule, track and archive standard upkeep tasks performed at required intervals for equipment or facilities. Maintenance intervals can be based on hours in use, frequency of use, monthly periods or other manufacturer specifications.

For example, an automotive CMMS would track fleet vehicles, scheduling them for oil changes every 3,000 miles, or for a new air filter every 12 months.

The elimination of paperwork and manual recordkeeping results in these benefits from installing and using CMMS:

  • Improved resource utilization and minimized operational downtime, extending equipment lifespans at minimal expense.
  • Improved productivity by maximizing equipment uptime and maintaining peak operating conditions.
  • More effective deployment of maintenance staff.
  • Reduced insurance premiums due to fewer equipment malfunctions and a safer workplace.
  • Reduced and liability and ensuring compliance with legal obligations. Certain types of equipment (e.g., medical equipment, elevators, fire sprinklers) are required by law to be inspected and maintained at specified intervals. Ensuring work is performed as legally mandated protects against lawsuits and damages.
  • Better decision-making. Identification of underperforming equipment and procedures, labor inefficiencies or reasons for outages enables better and more accountable maintenance decision-making.

CMMS is used by maintenance departments and/or business units responsible for the certain equipment (e.g., the motor vehicle operations department that is responsible for company-owned fleet vehicles) in one or more locations and facilities. This distinguishes CMMS from Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) systems which, though similar in purpose, oversee all of a company's assets (including digital assets), not just those of a single department or facility.

In many cases, there are CMMS packages customized to the needs of a specific industry, such as airlines, rental car companies or for a specific use, such as building maintenance.

Features of CMMS Software

  • Data Collection. Allows mechanics to easily input equipment deficiencies from which the system can automatically generate PM (preventive maintenance) work orders.
  • Data Display. Shows preventive maintenance (PM) workload by week/month/year.
  • Recording Repairs. Records show repairs by mechanics, and actual time spent servicing the equipment.
  • Multitasking. Supports multiple activities on the same asset.
  • Repair or Replace? Identifies situations where repair/maintenance work is more costly than equipment replacement.
  • Data Importation. Allows data input from other systems.
  • Reporting. Generates reports that relate the cost of PM activities to the cost of corrective and emergency activities in terms of hours/materials.

Benefits of CMMS Software

The cost savings of CMMS result from:

  • Improved information about what's happening in your maintenance department
  • More accurate information about cost drivers
  • Better and more accurate tracking and scheduling of PM work
  • Fewer things you overlook, forget, or miss that require PM
  • Fewer equipment breakdowns
  • More accurate staging of both human and material resources
  • Improved auditing of routine work
  • Higher equipment uptime
  • Better identification of failure causes
  • A 10% to 20% reduction in maintenance costs

One word of caution: While a CMMS is a great aid in making maintenance decisions and controlling costs, it doesn't necessarily mean that you now have a good PM program. What it means is that you now have the tools to implement a good PM program.

If the current maintenance practices don't line up with the goals and expectations of your CMMS, some adjustments will need to be made. You may discover that the human side of this equation is more difficult to manage than the machine side.

However, the best and easiest way to address this issue is to involve your maintenance people in the development, selection, and implementation of the system right from the start. After all, they're the ones who are doing the work, and the sooner they buy into the benefits, the sooner you will all begin to enjoy them. Low rates of employee adoption are a major reason why a CMMS fails to generate potential benefits, and can lead to disappointing results overall.

Calculating Costs of CMMS Software

Of course, costs depend on the size and complexity of your business. Off-the-shelf packages can run less than a thousand dollars if you just need something basic, with no need for customization. Custom-designed, multi-site CMMS integrated into larger enterprise-wide systems range in the tens of thousands of dollars.

In between those extremes, a system for a small business can cost between $1,500 and $10,000. Mid-range systems for larger companies start at $10,000 and go upward to around $50,000. These prices are usually based on a general software license fee with additional per-user fees for each employee.

Customer support and software upgrades are an additional cost, usually an annual fee that runs about 20% of the total purchase price. Sometimes training is included; sometimes there's an additional charge.

Web-based CMMS typically charge a monthly fee based on the number of users. A company with 10 or fewer users might pay $100 or less per month while mid-sized and larger companies might pay several hundred dollars per month.

Glossary of Terms

Administrator: Person(s) responsible for managing CMMS; administrative rights and responsibilities include performing backup operations, issuing passwords, authorizing users, and ensuring security.

Asset: Equipment, software, hardware, building, tools, or another resource that has economic value.

Bill of Material: An identifying tag placed on spare parts that associate it to the appropriate equipment.

Chargeback: Allocating expenses to a third-party (e.g., charging a tenant for maintenance work on rented equipment).

Corrective Maintenance: Work that fixes an existing problem, as opposed to preventive maintenance intended to avoid future problems.

Cost Center: Organization or department that is held responsible for paying expenses incurred to perform maintenance or other work.

Demand Maintenance: Work performed in response to a specific request.

Downtime: Period when equipment is unavailable for use because it is being repaired or is broken.

MTBF: Mean Time Between Failures. The average length of time equipment remains running before something breaks.

MTBR: Mean Time Between Repairs. The average length of time before repairs are likely to occur.

Planned Downtime: Interruption of equipment service due to scheduled maintenance.

PM Task: Preventive Maintenance Task. Typically, a checklist or set of step-by-step instructions on how to perform a specific maintenance job.

Preventive Maintenance: Regular "check-up" work intended to prevent future problems, e.g., inspection, lubrication, part replacement.

Unplanned Downtime: Interruption of service resulting from equipment failure.

Work Order: Description of a maintenance job distributed to personnel who perform the maintenance. An open work order is something scheduled but not yet performed; a closed work order means work has been completed.

Work Request: Typically submitted by non-maintenance personnel to provide details about a problem in order to generate a work order.

Image Credit: NanoStockk / Getty Images editorial staff editorial staff Member
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