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Why Do CMMS Projects Fail? And What Can You Do to Prevent It?

April 14, 2009
Optimization and upgrading Most users can do better Usability, support Vendors' role

Metalcasting maintenance departments rely increasingly on computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) to gather, sort, analyze and report on essential information regarding equipment and facilities performance. Managers use this information, among other things, to set equipment priorities and justify equipment purchases. In many cases the CMMS is not producing the desired results. Why do so many CMMS projects fail? And what can you do to prevent these failures?

Start by determining if you need to upgrade your CMMS, or if the existing system can be applied more efficiently to deliver the benefits of an upgrade with no cost for additional software.

First, let’s understand the meaning of CMMS optimization and upgrading. Optimization means determining existing useful features in your CMMS that are not being used, and starting to use them to improve productivity. Upgrading means determining what useful features are lacking in your CMMS, and then obtaining them by upgrading the current CMMS or by acquiring a new package. The most important step in the upgrade/optimize process is an audit of your CMMS. Observations based on audits reveal the basis of a CMMS upgrade or optimization.

The dynamic nature of maintenance operations and the continuous challenge to keep costs down makes periodic audits necessary if maintenance departments are to operate efficiently. Two major steps comprise the audit procedure — establishing a base line, and comparing subsequent audits to the base line to measure improvements.

Essentially the audit shows strengths and weaknesses. The strengths are continued and the weaknesses are analyzed to establish actions for improvement. For long-range improvements the audits are required at least once per year.

A recent national survey by the author indicates 94% of CMMS users are not using their system to its full capabilities. Many users can achieve better results from their existing CMMS. Although optimizing your CMMS may avoid the cost of an upgrade or a new CMMS, it does carry some costs, including auditing and training. (One of the top reasons for CMMS not being used to its fullest capability is lack of training. Training includes CMMS application training as well as in-house procedural training.)

It is important to understand why so many CMMS projects fail to reach their full potential. Some factors include: not having management support for the CMMS; improper selection of the CMMS; employee turnover; lack of adequate training during implementation; employee resistance; being locked into restrictive hardware/software; lack or absence of follow-up and monitoring; not having adequate vendor support for the CMMS; and role the CMMS users can play.

Improper selection is one of the top reasons CMMS projects fail to reach their potential. Selecting the right package is crucial to a successful implementation. Here are some guidelines to follow in selecting the right CMMS:

Guidelines for Selecting the Right CMMS

System Features — Among the numerous features that the CMMS should include is flexibility. It be flexible in terms of allowing you to enter operation-specific information, and it should accommodate both present and future needs.

Be aware of the system’s limitations. Consider the system’s interfacing capabilities, being certain it’s capable of interfacing with other information systems. Selfsufficiency is something else to consider: Programs should be capable of direct, full use without need for consulting a manual or other sources. On-screen instructions should explain what the program will do and how to use it.

Other things to consider are the system’s security, data security, user customizable screens, modifications, and user customizable reports.

User Ease — The CMMS should be easy to learn; it should come with training aids and documentation. It also should be easy to use; the package should be icon- and menu-driven, with input screens that allow data entry in an orderly manner, provide error handling, and context sensitive help.

Vendor Profile — One thing you should consider is the vendor’s qualifications. Obviously, you’ll want a vendor who is both knowledgeable and experienced with your type of operations. Another thing to think about is the vendor’s financial strength. Because a CMMS project can be an investment in time, resource, and money, the vendor should be established.

Other things to consider are references, delivery, payment options, source code, and warranty.

Vendor Support — A particularly important aspect of vendor support is training. Whether this training is done at on-site or at the vendor’s facility, this small investment can save you a great deal of money and frustration in the long run.

Other things to consider include the vendor’s system support, upgrade policy, and overall system cost. Furthermore, you should make sure there are no hidden costs. Select the vendor that provides the best combination of characteristics for your application. With the right selection, you can use your CMMS successfully for many years.

Role CMMS vendors can play — CMMS vendors can help this process by providing certain features in their software. If the software is flexible enough to adapt to various types of operations, it will last for a long time. In general, it should allow the users to perform many functions without vendor involvement and programming knowledge. Some of the features are mentioned here:
Report Generator: Report generator should be an integral part of the program. Besides, it should be very easy to use. Users should be able to generate new reports in minutes without any programming background.
Field Labels: Should allow the user to change the field label names quickly. This helps customize the software to your needs without programming changes.
Help: Should provide context sensitive help; i.e., help is provided exactly where you need it, as opposed to popping up a help manual with index on the screen. It should also allow you to customize the help to suit your application. With the help of this feature, you can make the application look like specifically designed and written for your foundry.
Interface: A CMMS should have the capability to interface with other systems, such as Accounting, HR, etc. This feature can enhance your productivity and save a significant amount of time.

Whether you’re upgrading to a new CMMS or optimizing an existing one, complete the audit of your current CMMS to determine the appropriate plan of action for your particular situation. Studying why so many CMMS installations have failed and following the proper selection process for your CMMS, will help you to acquire a CMMS that will work for your maintenance department for years. Otherwise, even the latest and greatest technology will yield results that are no better results than the old system did.

Kris Bagadia, president of PEAK Industrial Solutions, is a consultant and educator in the field of maintenance management. Contact him at [email protected], or Tel. 414-732-8645.