CMMS: Computerized Maintenance Management System

Ask yourself these ten questions before you select a new CMMS system

1. Are you satisfied with your existing maintenance procedures, such as fault detection, work orders, preventive maintenance, and continuous improvements? Do you want a system that are built on your established methods or will you try to use the new system to change your habits?

2. Is the management behind the project? Most CMMS projects fail as the management are not pushing it or do not give enough budget for implementation

3. What do you want to track with the system?

- Is it enough to track assets history - to identify problematic assets and protect your investment?

- Do you also want to follow maintenance costs? That is cost for parts, labor and contractors associated with scheduled maintenance and breakdowns.

-Do you want to control your spare parts inventory better, based on your assets requirements?

-Do you want to track facilities management?

-Will you use the system for documentation control, as scanned blue prints and manuals?

-What about planning and project management?

4. Who will use the system?

-Only one person, like the maintenance planner or supervisor

-All technicians

-Supervisors in production

-All operators (This is standard for a TPM –type organization)

5. What kinds of reports do expect from the system?

6. Are you looking for a scalable solution, where you start small and then let it develop?

7. Who are the people who will be doing the implementation, what is their background, have they got maintenance experience to be able to assist you in regards to Maintenance Management?

8.Do you need integration with existing business systems?

9.Do you need paperless solutions like handheld devices?

10.Do you need integration of condition-based monitoring?

In most cases it is most wise to stick to a standard system and keep customizations to a minimum. Remember that customizations on the system need to be redone after upgrade. When choosing a system package, make sure you specify what you want the package to do but not how exactly, as the latter will end up in very expensive solutions. Instead, think of some typical scenarios, and let the sales person show a group of users (operators, technicians, supervisors, and others) the system would handle these scenarios. If you don't like the usability or if customizations are needed to do the job consider another system

Do not overbuy a system that is beyond the efforts needed to operate the system or even set the system up. CMMS packages require work and it is very important to choose the proper system that will do what you need it to do.

What is the purpose?

The purpose of implementing a Computerized Maintenance Management System is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the maintenance of your company's assets.

As with any computer system, a CMMS can automate and improve processes that you already are performing in some manner. It cannot change your company's maintenance department from a state of chaos into a realm of order; at least, not without a lot of work and careful planning.

A reasonable set of functions for a CMMS includes:

  • Manage the inventory of spare and replacement parts used in maintenance
  • Track the suppliers of those spare parts
  • Track any external service providers
  • Retain the warranty
  • Retain the maintenance schedule
  • Track unexpected outages and costs by work order; by machine; by department

Planning: Current Maintenance Activities

To prepare a shopping list of the features that you need in your system, be sure that you understand what you are currently doing. You certainly maintain some inventory, but how do you control re-ordering spare parts? Do you make plans for preventative maintenance? Do you track unexpected outages by machine? Do you track repair costs against the depreciated value of each machine?

When planning for any computer system, another question is "What should we do"? In other words, what are the capabilities that your company should implement beyond what you currently do?

Planning: Typical Functions

Most CMMS systems cover the following functional areas:

  • Asset Management: From the type of machine and its serial number; through cost, depreciation and warranty; to the list of required parts with order quantities; and so on.
  • Inventory Management: Which parts are kept in which bins in which storerooms? Who are the suppliers? What are the minimum and maximum reorder points? What is the order quantity?
  • Personnel Management: Which employees are certified to perform what maintenance activities on which machines? What tasks have they been assigned, and for what dates and shifts?
  • Preventative Maintenance: What are the triggers for a machine: calendar days or hours of use? Can multiple machines be included in one maintenance order? Can multiple maintenance plans be made for one machine, depending on the type of maintenance to be performed? Can you set blackout dates so critical productivity periods are exempt from downtime for maintenance? Integrate the machine and personnel schedules, to ensure that people with the right skills are available for a particular task.
  • Procedure Management: Maintain a list of tasks for each maintenance assignment, including the skill requirements, parts list, estimated time, and both safety and other associated procedures or notes.
  • Purchasing: Generate purchase orders when stocks reach the reorder point. Consolidate requirements for one part across several storerooms, so it only appears once on one P/O.
  • Work Order Management: Provide a unique W/O number, plus description, date, reason for the maintenance, etc. Record the actual costs, such as downtime and parts used. Accept maintenance requests with different priorities, from "My drill press squeaks a bit, could someone check it in the next few days" to "Out of service".
  • Extra Features: Can this system send messages to appropriate personnel by e-mail or text messaging? Does it support bar code readers or RFID (radio frequency identification) to facilitate the recording of stock movement? Are there other systems with which it should integrate, such as the plant scheduler (MRP or ERP)?


While no software package has every desirable feature, the advantage of buying one is that it should already be in working condition. Insist on visiting one of your software vendor's customers to see the product in action. Ask them what was been challenging during the implementation process.

Generally it is best to have the vendor team configure the system and begin entering data in a "test" environment. Ask about their recommended best practices. Outline and execute a test plan to cover the functions you had specified in your requirements.

Obviously a CMMS expects to have a vast amount of data to support all the features noted above. This is not a trivial task; expect this process to take some time. Often a implementation will take between six months and a year; much of that time is spent in data entry.


Use that time to "sell" the new system to its users. Develop a training plan, or have your vendor provide training. Ensure that people are comfortable with the specific tasks they need for their roles. It is helpful if they know what happens outside of their area: why a work order needs a priority code, for example.

It is a really good idea to keep the training or practice site up and running for ongoing training or "what-if" scenarios. It is better for someone to make mistakes entering a maintenance schedule into the training system than to bring the factory to a halt because all the machines are being refitted simultaneously.

Train both the technical skills and the desire to work with the new process.  One of the most important aspects of a system is that it needs to "know" what is really happening. Each small part required for an emergency repair must be logged out of inventory! Be sure that people appreciate the need to have complete data entry…that they might be out of stock in the future.

Going Live

At best, your implementation team will be excited and distracted on the first live day. Having a solid plan for them to follow is a good way to keep everyone focused.

Another is to have clear lines of communication, so people can report problems to the implementation coordinator and be sure that the problem will be addressed.

Part of the implementation plan is to log problems and questions. Ensure that all defects and concerns are addressed promptly and well before the end of the warranty period.


Without planned maintenance, you get unplanned outages for repairs. To manage a factory-wide maintenance plan without a computer means relying on a few people to accurately handle a huge number of details. It also means that it will be difficult or impossible to track costs at a level to support decisions about the reliability of each machine.

In planning for CMMS, you might face challenges in obtaining information that you need…information that you probably already need to manage the maintenance tasks manually. Automating the maintenance with the most suitable system can make that whole process manageable.

By Oskar Olofsson

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