The Ultimate CMMS Software Guide: Everything You Need to Know

September 8, 2020 in Maintenance Blog Posts



The Ultimate CMMS Software Guide: Everything You Need to Know
Table of Contents

What is Computerized Maintenance Management Software (CMMS)?

CMMS stands for Computerized Maintenance Management Software. It’s a centralized digital platform that organizes a company’s maintenance operations, streamlines procedures, eliminates paper stacks, enhances team communication, and supports cost-effective managerial decision-making.

Often referred to as Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) software, modern CMMS platforms are available for desktop, tablet, and smartphone usage. The following industries utilize CMMS: 

Manufacturing Fleet Management  Facilities Management Hospitality 
Healthcare Food Service Property Management Municipalities
Oil & Gas Utility Companies National & State Parks Warehouses

How do CMMS systems work?

Most CMMS platforms include four primary elements:

  • Operator Interfaces are the core of the CMMS experience. Essentially, they are the smartphone and desktop screens that allow you to navigate features for recording equipment information; creating, assigning, and tracking maintenance tasks; monitoring inventory; messaging maintenance technicians, and tracking asset history. 
  • Reporting Dashboards synthesize your collected information into KPI-driven reports that can provide insight into process inefficiencies. For example, you might generate a report comparing the time and cost spent repairing an asset in 2019 versus 2020 before making a capital purchase decision. 
  • Administrative Settings allow CMMS administrators to customize user-based permissions for various team members. Users have the option to limit user rights, create work order templates, and search filter specifications. 
  • Databases for modern online maintenance systems are typically “in the cloud.” However, some older systems are still configured for in-house servers.  The advantage of cloud storage is unlimited scalability. 

Why use CMMS with your organization

There are many reasons to adopt computerized maintenance management programs. However, the primary motivating factor—for most companies—is to save money. CMMS platforms allow operational managers to track maintenance activities, implement advanced maintenance processes, and make cost-effective decisions in a manner that is nearly impossible without digital organization. 

Monitor Downtime

Due to extraordinary global economic growth, many operational managers are now under pressure to maintain intense production schedules and reduce asset downtime, with proactive maintenance strategies. Factor in the responsibility of managing hundreds of assets, and is it any wonder companies are increasingly looking toward CMMS digital management solutions? 

While it’s possible to run a successful maintenance program with clipboards and Excel spreadsheets, it isn’t easy. Oftentimes, without a proper asset management solution, maintenance teams find themselves in “reactive mode,” rather than a proactive mode. 

Identify Indirect Costs

Indirect maintenance costs lurk underneath the surface in the form of reduced asset lifespans, high energy costs, lost production, late deliveries, inefficient equipment scheduling, and various wasted resources. And direct maintenance costs appear in the form of labor, materials, contracts, and overhead expenses. These are the problems CMMS services seek to solve by making proactive maintenance a realistic, achievable, and stress-free goal. 

CMMS

Increased Transparency and Accountability

Another benefit for many organizational leaders using CMMS is increased transparency. For better or worse, maintenance management software emphasizes the areas where departments are already excelling and the areas that need improvement. 

With robust CMMS reporting features, leaders can quickly determine, for example, which policies are weak, which machines cause the most problems, and where there is overspending. Tracking asset health in an organized manner allows management to fine-tune their strategies toward reducing downtime, cutting costs, and increasing asset longevity. 

Unfortunately, CMMS software providers don’t always deliver these hyped-up results, and companies don’t always meet their goals. In section five, we’ll look at the most common reasons electronic maintenance management system launches fail. But, first, here’s what happens when CMMS goes right: 

Features and Benefits of CMMS software

CMMS is designed to be a central component of your maintenance department that provides operational support in several ways. With CMMS, you can: 

  • Streamline Preventive Maintenance: Operational managers can create, assign, and monitor work orders in one place. 
  • Organize Inventory Management: Maintenance teams can track the movement of spare parts and reorder replacements, as needed. 
  • Reduce Downtime: Technicians can report asset failures on-site from the convenience of their smartphones, reducing the length of downtime. 
  • Improve Cost-Effectiveness: CMMS analytics provide management with insightful information that allows for better decision-making. 
  • Enhance Communication: MaintainX is the only provider that offers CMMS instant messaging within individual, group, and work-order chat threads. Translation: Important information arrives in real-time and never falls through the cracks. 
  • Increase Compliance: Digital audit trails allow managers to determine who completed what task and when. Workers can digitally designate work orders as open, in progress, or closed, so managers always know what’s up. 
  • Simplify Bookkeeping: Accountants have easy access to asset information that informs capital expenditure decisions and tax reporting. 
  • Improve Asset Management: CMMS allows managers to catalog and track assets by location, category, serial number, date, and more. 
  • Support Condition-Based Monitoring: Advanced CMMS platforms sync with sensor-technology to provide real-time insights into equipment wear, tear, and potential failures. 

The 4 reasons why CMMS implementations fail

Many executives are hesitant to invest in CMMS programs and for good reason. Some experts estimate 80 percent of plant maintenance management system implementations fail (more on that in a moment). While the statistic isn’t nearly as high for other industries, operational managers should understand these common reasons for failure before investing: 

1. The CMMS system is too complicated. 

We can’t emphasize this enough—don’t invest in software that requires a MENSA membership for mastery. Most CMMS systems are too complicated to use effectively. Approximately 90 percent of plant maintenance managers say they are not using their CMMS at its maximum capability, according to a Reliable Plant survey conducted by educator Kris Bagadia. 

“I knew that it was going to be a high percentage, but I didn’t know it was going to be that high,” he says. Bagadia surveyed 299 industrial maintenance professionals who oversaw 938 plant assets on average, to learn more about the obstacles large-scale plant managers face when implementing CMMS programs. 

“More often than not, they will find that the CMMS has the capability to do what they need it to do; it’s just not being used in that manner,” he says. “They don’t have to make another investment. What they need is the time, training, and resources to do more with what they have. In some cases, though, they will find that they made a wrong selection, and it’s time to admit it and fix it.”

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for organizations to underestimate the hours of training required to implement plant maintenance management systems. Bagadia also found that nearly three out of 10 respondents took between one and three years to implement their CMMS systems! 

Additionally, more than one in four respondents said their employees spent between 100 and 200 hours collecting asset data for implementation. This is unacceptable from our standpoint—CMMS should be intuitive. 

2. Management views the software as a “strategy”

CMMS isn’t a maintenance strategy—it’s a tool that makes it easier to practice preventive maintenance, predictive maintenance, reliability-centered maintenance, and other standard operational methodologies. 

Unfortunately, some executives mistakenly purchase automated-maintenance management platforms under the false assumption the software will fix their upkeep woes. While we all love tales of magic beans, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Operational managers must still take the time to conduct asset audits, identify appropriate maintenance strategies, and learn to use the software. 

3. Executive leadership doesn’t support it

One of the most crucial components of a successful software launch is setting realistic expectations. Projects with unrealistically short milestones inevitably lead to timeline extensions, which yields the unfair impression of failure. 

Understandably, executives sometimes become suspicious of projects that take longer than expected. For this reason, CMMS advocates must ensure organizational leadership fully understands the realistic requirements, and time involved, to set up new maintenance programs for success. Those who fully sell leadership on the features, benefits, and projected ROI of implementation will garner sustained support for implementation. 

4. The organization isn’t ready

Sometimes CMMS launches fail because the maintenance team isn’t organized enough to take advantage of the software. You can avoid this dilemma by asking yourself: Which stage of maintenance evolution is our team in right now?

CMMS system

As you can see from the above diagram, organizations exclusively practicing run-to-failure maintenance aren’t the best candidates for legacy CMMS systems. Ideally, an organized preventive maintenance strategy should be in place before integrating work order software. This is because it takes time to track down manufacturers’ recommendations, evaluate past asset history, create proper workflows for large numbers of assets, and train team members. 

However, organizations of any size and stage can take advantage of intuitive, freemium CMMS smartphone apps like MaintainX. The platform can be mastered in a fraction of the time of other CMMS programs for free. 

How to evaluate CMMS system solutions 

Conducting due diligence when reviewing computerized maintenance management systems is time well spent. The right platform can help reduce costs, increase productivity, enhance compliance, and make daily tasks easier for everyone within a department.  

Here are our best tips for assessing software options: 

1. Know what you need (and what you don’t)

What works for one company may not work for another. Before shopping, write down all of your maintenance, compliance, and asset management challenges. You can then compare your requirement list against the features listed on CMMS provider websites without being swayed by unnecessary capabilities. 

Effective work order management is the starting point for making informed decisions about your assets and equipment. Management features that empower asset tracking and reporting are fundamental.

As previously mentioned, CMMS systems are used by several industries with various needs. While an industry-specific solution may sometimes be the obvious best choice, don’t overlook versatile applications. For example, cloud-based software programs often come with API integrations that allow users to share data with other management systems. These CMMS solutions can be tailored to meet your needs. 

2. Prioritize programs with high user-adoption and usage rates

User Adoption is the measurement of how frequently, quickly, and efficiently technicians use new software. User Adoption is also a component of Time to Value, which addresses how fast an organization realizes the value gained. 

Unfortunately, you won’t typically find this information on CMMS provider websites. But you can request these statistics from sales reps during the evaluation process. Here are some questions worth asking: 

  • What percentage of users within my industry stick with your app?
  • How often do technicians complete work orders using the app? 
  • Do technicians and supervisors experience greater autonomy?
  • How have MTTR and MTBR improved for your clients? 

Don’t be afraid to ask for industry-specific case studies or client contact information to obtain the information you need. Furthermore, if possible, try the software for free before making a purchase decision. 

3. Consider mobile-first apps with chat functionality 

Does your team work in a large-square-footage facility? Do your technicians regularly leave headquarters for offsite work? Do they communicate with you through walkie-talkies, text messages, and emails simultaneously? 

Consider prioritizing a CMMS platform designed for smartphone usage. Exchanging information via multiple devices works until essential pieces of information fall through the cracks, and everyone is pointing fingers at one another when the proverbial sh%t hits the fan. 

Put simply, scatter-shot communication systems aren’t conducive to organizing complicated instructions for individual work orders. MaintainX is the only maintenance work order software platform that includes chat functionality. As reported in our 2019 Year-in-Review survey, “work order commenting” was voted the app’s most popular feature. Additionally, MaintainX is one of the few providers in the marketplace specifically designed for mobile usage.

4. Choose meaningful data reporting (avoid black holes)

Choose a CMMS that not only compiles equipment data but translates it into useful and familiar industry metrics. Ashraf W. Labib, research scientist at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, describes most off-the-shelf software—especially computer-aided maintenance management solutions and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems— as “black holes greedy for data input that seldom provide any output in terms of decision support.” 

“This lack of decision support is a definite problem because the key to systematic and effective maintenance is managerial decision-taking that is appropriate to the particular circumstance of the machine, plant, or organization,” Labib says. “This decision-making process is all the more difficult if a CMMS can only offer an analysis of recorded data.” 

For example, say you create a monthly recurring work order to change an oil filter. This scheduled reminder is a good starting point if you’re an SMB transitioning away from reactive maintenance. 

CMMS platform

However, a more advanced maintenance department may need value data metrics that illustrate how to fine-tune scheduled maintenance beyond a manufacturer’s recommendations. Organizations in this category should prioritize CMMS data collection software that simplifies complex metrics into user-friendly charts, graphs, and KPIs (e.g., MTBF, MTTR, and MTTF). Your reports should illustrate answers to questions like: 

  • How much time did Carl spend on safety audits last month? 
  • Should we continue maintaining our HVAC or purchase a new one? 
  • Are we understaffed or overstaffed (and inefficient)?

Ideally, CMMS should cross-reference work order data by assigned technician, asset type, priority status, time to complete, and more to integrate into meaningful reports that support sound decision-making. 

5. Know your projected ROI and key metrics

Before handing over your company credit card information, it’s essential to calculate the expected ROI of your CMMS work order system. Of course, your boss will want to know: How long will it take to get our money back? 

While it’s impossible to have absolute certainty—with many unknown variables in the mix— you can make an educated guess using an ROI model. In the next section, we’ll walk you through the process step by step: 

How to calculate CMMS Return on Investment (ROI) 

The projected value of your CMMS investment is the total expected reduction in maintenance costs due to program implementation. You can calculate your ROI based on a one-year, three-year, or five-year interval. 

Here’s the formula:  

CMMS ROI = (CMMS Value – CMMS Cost)

CMMS Value is based on the following five categories of unnecessary costs: 

1. Asset Life

  • Estimate the number of years the manufacturer expects asset life extension by executing preventive maintenance. 
  • Translate the longevity improvement into a dollar amount by comparing it against a brand new asset’s purchase prices. 
  • Repeat the process for every organizational asset. 
  • Add your assets’ potential savings for a longevity grand total. 

2. Downtime

  • Determine how often unscheduled downtime occurs per year. 
  • Compare daily, weekly, and monthly revenue reports to determine how asset downtime impacted revenue loss. 
  • Calculate a total downtime loss for your chosen ROI parameter (e.g., one-year, three-years, or five-years. 

3. Parts / Inventory

  • Estimate how much time your organization has lost responding to emergency purchase orders. 
  • Estimate how much overstock inventory has cost your organization in terms of carrying costs and obsolete parts. 
  • Add the numbers for a total parts/inventory value. 

4. Labor Costs

  • Determine an average hourly labor amount wasted.
  • Estimate how much your organization spends on overtime hours and contract labor on average that can be avoided. 

5. Utilities

  • Acquire your annual utility costs. 
  • Compare the amount with the expected yearly costs, assuming your assets are operating at peak efficiency levels.

Once you’ve finished calculating your estimated value totals, it’s time to evaluate your projected platform costs. CMMS Costs vary by user number total, feature package, and vendor. Modern platforms like MaintainX require zero to little training for mastery, while most legacy programs necessitate paid training modules. Evaluate all potential CMMS fees before plugging your total CMMS Cost into our formula: 

CMMS ROI = (CMMS Value – CMMS Cost)

Most MaintainX clients experience a first-year ROI ranging from 25 to 300 percent. Your results will vary depending on your organization’s starting point, maintenance strategy, and consistent use of the CMMS. 

The Best CMMS Software of 2020

What is the best CMMS software available? Obviously, we’re biased when we name MaintainX as the top CMMS platform. However, we would be remiss to say other vendors aren’t worth exploring.

Below is a quick CMMS comparison review of the top three options. Why not summarize the top 10 CMMS software options or even the top five work order software programs?  

Put simply, most CMMS options are antiquated. The following options are your best bet in terms of usability, modernity, and depth of features. Each platform includes everything you need to create, assign, and track work orders and maintenance; execute preventive maintenance programs; document Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs); manage inventory; maintain asset logs; track work requests and maintenance requests; create invoices; configure API integrations, and report KPIs.

1. MaintainX

MaintainX is the world’s first CMMS platform designed with real-time chat. Operational managers, maintenance technicians, and key stakeholders can instant message one another directly within the app’s work orders.

MaintainX is also one of the first programs designed specifically for smartphone usage from day one. Comparatively, the majority of CMMS providers adapted their software for mobile devices from complex desktop-based legacy systems. Translation: These adapted CMMS programs aren’t always user friendly. 

However, the most compelling draw for MaintainX is the abundance of features included within the app’s freemium plan, making the software accessible for SMBs and large corporations alike. Despite being a relatively new player in the work order software space—founded in 2018—we’ve proudly garnered hundreds of positive reviews from customers in both the Apple App and Google Play stores.   

Noteworthy Features: 

  • Generous Free Plan: Includes unlimited work orders, team messages, assets/locations, and Web/mobile access; five work orders with photos per month; two work orders with forms per month; and one month’s worth of reporting analytics (decide if it’s useful enough to upgrade). 
  • Instant Messaging: Segment chat conversations by individuals, groups, departments, topics, and more. 
  • Work Order Commenting: Chat with technicians directly within individual work orders to troubleshoot in real-time. 
  • Photo Uploading: Upload (and mark-up) photos of equipment failures, parts issues, or maintenance quandaries to better illustrate what’s happening. 
  • User-Friendly Interface: The interface is sleek, quick, and easy to navigate (designed specifically for smartphones, tablets, and desktops).  
  • PDF Uploading: Upload important PDFs, manufacturer’s guidelines, training manuals, and company policies directly within individual work procedures. 
  • E-Signatures: Technicians can sign-off on completed jobs for additional accountability and the app’s time stamp feature.

Potential Drawbacks:

  • No purchase order system
  • Lacks an invoicing system for commercial service teams
  • API access only available on paid plans

Pricing:

  • Basic: Free to use
  • Essential: 10 per user monthly
  • Premium: $39 per user monthly
  • Enterprise: $115 per user monthly

**Save 17 percent on any package by choosing the annual option.

2. UpKeep

UpKeep is another maintenance software mobile app that receives high rankings for usability, features, and customer support. Founded in 2014, and developed specifically for mobile usage, the app allows maintenance teams to create and manage recurring work orders, track inventory, run billing/invoicing, manage calibrations, control keys/locks, and more. 

Additionally, we’ve heard tons of positive feedback from property managers regarding UpKeep’s requester portal! It’s worth mentioning that UpKeep’s freemium version was created with the goal of allowing users to “try before they buy,” and isn’t meant to be a complete CMMS solution.

Noteworthy Features: 

  • Trilingual: Available in English, French, German, and Spanish.
  • Photo Uploading: Upload (and mark-up) photos of equipment failures, parts issues, or maintenance quandaries to better illustrate what’s happening.
  • PDF Uploading: Upload important PDFs, manufacturer’s guidelines, training manuals, and company policies directly within individual work procedures. 
  • E-Signatures: Technicians can sign-off on completed jobs for additional accountability and the app’s time stamp feature.

Potential Drawbacks: 

  • No work order chat feature
  • Free plan doesn’t provide a complete CMMS management system

Pricing:

  • Starter: $40 per user monthly or $35 per user monthly, billed yearly
  • Professional: $75 per user monthly or $60 per user monthly, paid annually
  • Business Plus: $100 per user monthly, billed annually, for minimum 5 users

3. Limble

Limble CMMS was founded in 2015 with a simple goal: Become a “truly easy-to-use, modern, and mobile CMMS that can be started in minutes with a return on investment within a matter of weeks.” Since then, the organization has raked in exemplary ratings from many satisfied customers.

One of the reasons we appreciate Limble is because they share our belief that CMMS usage should simplify the lives of maintenance workers—not add unnecessary burdens. The platform provides a complete system for assigning work orders, tracking assets, and analyzing KPIs that can be used to enhance facility decision-making. Limble offers prospective customers a free 30-day trial, no credit card information required. 

Noteworthy Features: 

  • Robust Reporting: Users can view the status of and extract insight about ongoing maintenance operations with KPIs based on work order completion, asset costs, average time to repair, time between failures, parts used for a repair and their costs, and more.
  • User-Friendly Interface: The mobile app is attractive, intuitive, and requires little training to use effectively. 
  • Multilingual: CMMS settings accommodate several common languages.
  • Parts/Inventory Management: Software provides a full overview of parts, automating parts tracking, rendering parts log views, notifying team members when parts are out of stock, and generating notifications when part quantities dip below set thresholds. 

Potential Drawbacks: 

  • No work order chat feature.
  • Users report occasional, infrequent glitches. 
  • Limited integration capabilities with third-party software. 

Pricing

  • Starter: $50 per user monthly or $40 per user monthly, billed annually
  • Professional: $80 per user monthly or $70 per user monthly, billed annually
  • Business Plus: $120 per user monthly or $105 per user monthly, billed annually
  • Enterprise: $205 per user monthly or $185 per user monthly, billed annually

Note: Each of the aforementioned CMMS solutions are scalable, cloud-based, and priced per user/per month. However, MaintainX is the only provider offering a complete CMMS solution at the freemium level. The three platforms are also Windows, Mac, Tablet, iOS, and Android compatible

Frequently asked questions about CMMS

Who uses CMMS?

CMMS users include business owners, facility and maintenance management, asset planners, and maintenance personnel. Modern CMMS software is also useful for Safety Managers, Quality Control Managers, Directors of Operations, Logistics Coordinators, and more. 

Is a CMMS system necessary for Small Businesses (SMBs)? 

For SMBs to stay competitive in the global, and even local, market, businesses must adopt technology that brings immediate efficiencies and impact. Being a small business used to mean that powerful software solutions were too expensive or complicated. Now, solutions like CMMS software empower teams with revolutionary tools that can grow with your business.

How does CMMS support preventive maintenance? 

MaintainX CMMS maintenance software lets you build, for each asset,  an infinite number of calendar and/or meter-based preventive maintenance (PM) tasks. You can provide a clear description of task procedures, instructions, and other essential details within the PM task record.

Within the CMMS, each PM is recorded and accessible in the future via Asset History. Maintenance scheduled in advance helps from things falling behind. This data supports your reporting insights about where operations need to improve.

How does CMMS track asset history? 

Every time a technician completes a work order on an asset, the work order is linked to the asset’s history for reference. These completed work orders also help drive reporting insights via the MaintainX dashboard to detail asset maintenance and cost history. 

How much do CMMS platforms cost? 

CMMS platforms range widely in cost across the market. MaintainX offers a 100 percent free CMMS solution while also offering solutions with additional functionality through our paid plans. MaintainX’s paid plans charge per user, with our Essential plan set at $8 per user per month on our annual plan. New users start with a free trial of our Premium plan.

Other CMMS solutions, like Hippo CMMS, can cost hundreds of dollars per user per month. 

Do all CMMS solutions include chat functionality? 

No. Most CMMS solutions do not offer chat or communication of any kind within the product. Some CMMS solutions allow for comments or notes on a work order, but MaintainX is one of the only solutions that provides direct chat throughout the app. 

Where is CMMS data stored? 

Cloud-based CMMS systems utilize sophisticated data encryption protocols along with routine updates and maintenance. In addition, MaintainX performs frequent security and penetration checks to ensure that client data is not compromised or otherwise unavailable. MaintainX data is stored on encrypted Amazon Web servers because we prioritize data security across the entire system. 

How does CMMS help manage spare parts? 

Modern CMMS solutions like MaintainX offer parts inventory modules to track parts usage across work orders. When a maintenance team is disorganized, it can be difficult to find parts needed or even know if they are available on site. Our CMMS tracks parts usage and restock histories and even sends alerts to re-order when parts quantities are running low.

What are the advantages of CMMS reporting? 

Well-implemented CMMS enhances your understanding of assets and organization by using the Reporting Dashboard feature to track key performance indicators ( KPIs), analyze trends, and generate reports for decision-makers. Maintenance managers can identify concerns such as increasing costs, low efficiency, or frequent maintenance by using a CMMS to evaluate historical data and patterns.

MaintainX makes it easy to identify outliers in your organization. For example, through reporting, you can quickly identify a forklift that requires 10x more maintenance than any other in your fleet and adjust capital expenditures accordingly.

What is the difference between facility management software and CMMS? 

Computer-aided facility management (CAFM) and computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) are primarily differentiated by core functionality and unique user needs. CAFM software helps facilities managers simplify different areas of facilities management, particularly in managing real estate.

On the other hand, some variation of a CMMS is typically part of a CAFM. Many organizations use a CAFM to manage real estate operations and integrate a native CMMS like MaintainX to assist with maintenance and operational tasks.

Conclusion

Modern computer-based management systems are sleek, intuitive, and affordable. With MaintainX, you don’t have to sacrifice features for simplicity—you can:

  • Create reactive and preventive maintenance work orders.
  • Assign recurring work orders to both teams and individuals. 
  • Monitor progress by maintenance category, priority level, downtime, etc.
  • Analyze maintenance costs for greater efficiency and savings. 
  • Hold text conversations with team members in real-time. 

Anyone with a smartphone can download the app and get started with our basic plan, which includes unlimited work orders, right away. 

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