What Is A CMMS System And How Does It Work

what is a cmms system

The only way to decide if a CMMS can benefit your business is by understanding what it can do.

If you’re interested in learning…

  • what is a CMMS system 
  • how it works
  • what are its major features
  • which industries use it the most
  • and how to get started with a CMMS
…you’ve come to the right place.

What is a CMMS system?

A CMMS system is a software solution that helps businesses manage, automate, and streamline all of their maintenance operations. It is a centralized digital platform that holds all of your maintenance information (schedule, assets, logs, inventory, team, tasks…). CMMS is used by maintenance and facility managers to plan and schedule maintenance work and it helps maintenance technicians execute that work faster, safer, and easier.  

The CMMS acronym stands for Computerized Maintenance Management System. You will often hear people using different variations of the acronym like CMMS software, CMMS system, and CMMS solution. They all refer to the same thing.

what is a CMMS

How does CMMS work?

Modern CMMS systems are cloud-based solutions. In translation, it means that all of your maintenance data is saved in a centralized database and can be accessed on any device with access to the internet and the right login information.

At its core, CMMS works like any other app. You have a robust interface with a lot of data when logged in on your PC, and a stripped-down version of that interface adjusted for mobile devices when logged in on your smartphone. This is done to remove clutter and improve the user experience for mobile users, giving them quick access to features that are used the most.

There are two different ways to implement a CMMS: 

  1. web-based implementation (standard approach; you get the log-in info, install iOS/Android app if you want, and you’re good to go)
  2. on-premise approach (you install the CMMS on your internal company servers; used by enterprises that have regulatory requirements that force data to be kept internal
Regardless of the implementation approach, the way CMMS solutions work stays the same. The only difference is where your maintenance data is stored. In a web-based approach, the data is hosted on a server used by your CMMS provider, while in an on-premise approach, the data is stored on your internal company servers. 

An overwhelming majority of businesses go with a web-based approach. If you’re an enterprise looking into on-premise solutions, you can find more details in this CMMS deployment comparison.

List of main CMMS features 

Computerized maintenance management systems all come with a very similar set of features. The real difference is, therefore, in ways those features are implemented – in other words, how easy are they to use.

Let’s briefly overview the core set of features you should be able to find in every modern CMMS (we will include some screenshots from Limble CMMS so you can get a better picture of how some of these features look like in practice).

1) Work order management

Work order management is at the core of every CMMS. Its purpose is to streamline everything from how people submit work requests to how you track work orders and how technicians are carrying out actual maintenance work.

A strong work order management system should offer:

  • dashboard with a clear overview of scheduled, in-progress, and finished maintenance tasks (as seen on the picture below)
  • easy to use work request portal
  • easy to use maintenance calendar
  • ability to add and change work priority of any active maintenance task
  • ability to attach pictures, checklists, documents, and other information when scheduling maintenance tasks
  • automatic work logging (when the task is completed, information like used spare parts, time to complete work, technician’s comments, who completed the work and when, etc. are automatically saved)
Work order management dashboard

2) Enterprise asset management (EAM)

The more assets you have, the harder it is to save, organize, and use important asset information. Filing cabinets and paper records are grossly inefficient (and often inaccurate too).

User-friendly CMMS solutions should be set up in a way so that everyone can get the CMMS data they need in just a few clicks. Limble CMMS solves all of those issues by letting you:

  • create unlimited custom fields you can use to track only the information you need
  • view real-time, granular reporting with KPIs such as MTTR, MTBF, and other asset performance metrics
  • use barcodes to quickly identify assets 
  • organize your assets in clear parent-to-child hierarchy

3) Spare parts inventory management

It is hard to do proper maintenance work if you do not have the right spare parts available when you need them. This is why CMMS should offer an inventory management module that:

  • automatically tracks parts usage and helps you make accurate inventory forecasts
  • can be set up to remind you when stock levels are low
  • offers detailed reports that help you control your inventory costs
Spare parts inventory management

4) Vendor management

Every organization has some specialized maintenance work that has to be carried out by third-party contractors. If you do not have an option to track and manage their work, then your maintenance records are incomplete. 

A great vendor management module should be able to:

  • store important vendor information 
  • associate vendors to assets they maintain or parts they supply
  • separately track vendor’s time, parts used, invoices, etc.
  • let you communicate important work-related info and track their work (usually done by giving them limited access to your CMMS software)
Vendor management

5) Sensor integration

As Industry 4.0 and IoT continue to grow, it is only natural that advanced maintenance strategies like CBM and predictive maintenance will become cheaper to implement, making them accessible to more businesses.

This is why a modern CMMS should offer integration with condition-monitoring sensors that are at the core of those strategies. What it means in practice is that your CMMS should be able to talk to those sensors and automatically start work orders depending on the information it receives.

You can learn more about this process here.

6) Maintenance reports

Last but not least, are maintenance reports. You would think that every CMMS offers deep and customizable reports that take advantage of the fact that CMMS can save so much information, but that is not always the case.

Here are the characteristics of a strong dashboard and reporting system:

  • customizable dashboard and reports that lets you choose which maintenance KPIs and metrics you want to track and compare 
  • automatically generated reports 
  • reports that can be shared in different formats like Excel and PDF
  • deep drill-down capabilities
  • the ability to easily compare costs and KPIs between different locations and teams 
Maintenance reports
This list is only the tip of the iceberg. If you’re interested in a more detailed breakdown of CMMS features and how businesses use them on average, you can find more information here.

The benefits of a CMMS

There are numerous benefits of having a computerized maintenance management software. So many, in fact, that a couple of years back we made an extensive list of 31 reasons to use a CMMS.

Here are those benefits summarized.

1) Overall maintenance cost reductions

Many organizations decide to implement CMMS in an effort to reduce their maintenance costs. CMMS helps improve their bottom line in major ways:

  • improving maintenance productivity (technicians performing more work in less time)
  • reducing the number of unplanned breakdowns
  • shortening the lengths of both unplanned and scheduled downtime
  • lowering labor costs (by reducing overtime work and increasing productivity)
  • lowering parts inventory costs
  • improving asset lifespan
Maintenance activities are very interconnected. Inefficiency at any point in the maintenance process will echo across all other maintenance activities. That is why CMMS aims to support every aspect of maintenance work. 

2) Decreased downtime occurrence and length

The unexpected failure of a critical machine is the worst nightmare of every maintenance manager. The only way to combat this is with a proactive equipment maintenance strategy.

How CMMS fits into this story? By giving you all of the features you need to set up a proactive maintenance plan – and execute it day after day.

Since equipment downtimes can cost upwards of $100k/per hour, this alone is an incentive enough to invest in modern CMMS software. 

3) Big productivity gains

As mentioned earlier, with a CMMS, technicians can do more in less time. This especially holds true for CMMS solutions that offer a mobile app. 

With access to mobile maintenance software and sound maintenance calendar, maintenance teams become more coordinated and take less time to diagnose a problem, perform the repair, and log their work. 

4) Better inventory control

The control of spare parts inventory doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. What is the point of running preventive maintenance if the technicians are missing tools or spare parts they need to execute the maintenance work that has been assigned to them?

We can agree that doesn’t make sense. What also isn’t realistic is to expect to have a whole warehouse stacked with spare parts and replacement tools. That is just too expensive.

The solution is in the middle. It means using your CMMS software to track spare parts usage and use that data to make accurate inventory forecasts for the following month or next quarter. This is at the core of best practices for spare parts inventory management.

5) Deep insight into all aspects of maintenance work 

Arguably the biggest benefit of using CMMS is having in-depth, structured access to your maintenance data. 

Whenever we describe how to optimize a certain maintenance process or how to implement a specific maintenance program, the list of presented steps ends with a section like “track and improve”. The only way to optimize anything is to make informed decisions based on the right data.

In this regard, pen and paper can never compete with a CMMS. CMMS does not only automatically log data such as parts used, maintenance history, time to complete work, etc., it also structures that data in easily accessible reports that can be used to make the best decisions. And the best part is that the CMMS database isn’t plagued with human errors and misplaced documents.

With Limble CMMS, we took things a step further. To maximize user access to available data, we designed Limble with advanced drill-down capabilities. In practice, this gives you the ability to break down the reports in many different ways and find out the root cause of most problems. For example, instead of just seeing that the cost of your spare parts increased, you can see where they were used, by whom, and why. 

Keep in mind that not all of these benefits realize themselves by simply implementing maintenance software. You have to properly use your CMMS system and learn its full capabilities to squeeze maximum value out of it. This is how you get maximum ROI on your CMMS.  

List of industries that use CMMS software 

Every business that has equipment to maintain can benefit from using a CMMS software. As you can imagine, some organizations depend much more on the functionality of their assets (and the environment they work in) than others.

We can roughly split the most common CMMS users into 4 groups:

CMMS users
  1. Heavy industries. These industries spend a lot on maintenance management because if the equipment is broken, no work is being done that day – which is devastating to their bottom line. They feature large and expensive assets, battle with very high downtime costs, and have to satisfy strict safety regulations. When we talk about heavy industries, we talk about mining, construction, manufacturing, energy, aircraft industry, and similar.  
  2. Facilities management. Facility management focuses on building maintenance. Its goal is to make sure that all building systems work properly to ensure the comfort of all building occupants. Facility management is used by a wide variety of different businesses like hotels, casinos, churches, fitness facilities, commercial buildings, museums, aqua parks, and so on.
  3. Fleet management. As its name suggests, fleet maintenance is here to make sure that the vehicles your organization relies on are in top condition. It is used by trucking companies, businesses offering car rental services, certain government organizations, farming businesses, businesses that offer delivery services, and more.
  4. Field maintenance. Field maintenance is a specific field of maintenance (pun intended) that aims to take care of widespread assets that function independently of each other. It can be used in most of the industries mentioned above to carry out a specific maintenance task in the field. Some common examples are managing telecommunication infrastructure like cellphone towers, maintaining different parts of an electrical grid, going out to fix HVACs in residential and commercial properties, performing landscaping as a part of property maintenance, going to people’s homes to maintain and repair medical equipment, etc.   
The equation is simple: CMMS supports your maintenance team – your maintenance team supports your assets – your assets support your bottom line. 

How to get started with a CMMS?

Finding the best CMMS solution for your business will take some research and testing. The best approach is to make a list of features you need, shortlist 5+ solutions, and test them out.

You won’t be able to do a lot of testing without starting a trial, but those are free. If you are interested in testing Limble CMMS, you have two options:

  1. start a trial
  2. go to our homepage and click on the “TRY SELF DEMO” button  
Lastly, it is a good idea to involve supervisors and technicians in the testing process as they are the ones that will use it the most.

If you’re interested in how Limble can answer your maintenance needs, write a comment below the article or reach out to us via email.

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