While visiting various sites throughout my career, I have encountered many different levels of Computerised Maintenance Management System integration.

  • Many times, the CMMS was not set-up correctly, or was in transition from one system to another.
  • A few times, a single company would use several different Computerised Maintenance Management Systems depending on the site, or a premium CMMS was in place, but was being used well below its capacity.
  • Frequently, the end users did not fully understand how to use the Computerised Maintenance Management System the company had chosen.

Which Computerised Maintenance Management System should I pick?

As discussed by my fellow consultant Hylton Robson, there are no CMMS on the market which will fulfill every requirement an organization has for a system, however, whilst the premium CMMS are very capable, there are also budget CMMS, which may lack some of the capabilities of the premium packages, but can provide an acceptable alternative to their more expensive counterparts.

Regardless of the Computerised Maintenance Management System chosen for your site, there needs to be a few rules in place, to ensure the end users have a chance to operate the CMMS properly and that the CMMS is used as close to its capability as possible.

1. Define your naming convention.

I have spent much time on numerous sites trying to find specific stock components due to a breakdown or some process improvement project I was working on.

Starting simply, how many ways can an M20 x 100 bolt be put in the system?

Due to the nature of mining, many people pass through the sites before I arrive, and likely many more after I depart. I was taught at a very early stage in my career, the “proper” naming convention is (what is it?) Bolt, (what size is it?) M20, (how long is it?) x 100mm.

This would seem (to me) an obvious way to name components, but during my travels I have seen many variations on this, such as M20 Bolt x 100, M20x100mm Bolt, 20mm x 100mm Bolt, et al.

Looking at all of these examples, it leaves some room for interpretation – does the bolt come with washers and nuts fitted or are these stocked separately?

Often, finding a bolt in a CMMS is quite a difficult task. But a bolt is a relatively simple component.

2. Make sure your descriptions are descriptive.

I have experienced a site where every impeller in stock had the description: “impeller”; right through all Warman sizes to Grundfos multistage. All were listed as an “impeller”.

The site in question was transitioning from one premium system to another. Luckily, the stock codes remained the same, so it was “simply” a case of either running to the warehouse to find the impeller in the racks and get the stock number, or look in the old system, find the equipment number, get the impeller stock code and order the item via stock code in the new system.

In this case, the impeller was an example that came to mind, but all of their stock items were similarly described.

Numerous times as a mechanical supervisor on this site, I was forced to get to the warehouse as fast as I could because of a production-stopping breakdown or an extra component required for withdrawal, due to unexpected wear.

Being unable to search for the item in the CMMS gave headaches to myself, the tradesman if I asked him to go to the warehouse for the part, the storeman who also had no chance to identify an “impeller” whilst all the time the lost production clock was running.

3. Set an equipment hierarchy.

Out of the sites I have recently visited, two of them used a Computerised Maintenance Management System where their equipment had no hierarchy.

At one site, a SAG mill was at the same level as a Bolt, M20 x 100mm. As a planner (or a supervisor) trying to withdraw a part from the warehouse, you would need to search through every piece of equipment which had been entered into the CMMS.

At the other site, due to the way the CMMS used had been set up to present its search results, the site’s CMMS listed every single item in the warehouse, with no sign of a hierarchy to drill down into.

As can be seen in this example, and the others above, naming conventions and asset hierarchy are some of the most important inputs to be entered into the CMMS, as these directly impact how easy it is to keep equipment well maintained, safe, and reliable.

Standardization of the naming convention certainly reduces the time taken searching for a component, whilst a hierarchy that makes sense is a huge help for a number of roles reliant on the CMMS for information. As we have previously discussed, a well-organized asset register reduces the time spent searching for information which is at the CMMS users’ fingertips.

4. Correctly track your stock levels.

A number of years ago, I was tasked with organizing the commissioning / maintenance spares on a newly constructed site. Initially, I was given a huge spreadsheet of warehouse stock and asked to go through it. As I worked through the spreadsheet, I discovered the stores held six oil filters of the same type.

The oil filters, despite being the same, were held on separate stock numbers. Other items were the same: held on their own individual stock numbers despite being identical. Proper cataloguing can help to address this, to avoid stockouts (or in this case, wasting resources on excessive stock).

5. Consider the language barrier.

I love the challenge of going to overseas minesites to coach and train the local staff, but often the biggest barrier to making headway is language.

On one such site in French-speaking West Africa, an English language premium CMMS was in use.

One local supervisor spoke English well enough to work the CMMS as an advanced user, whereas the rest of the local supervising team struggled. When the supervisor departed, the maintenance team was left with expatriate supervisors who could use the system and a local supervisor component who couldn’t.

I spent months coaching and training one local supervisor in particular, who (to his credit) managed to grasp the CMMS remarkably well, whilst extra training sessions had to be allocated to the other team members, aimed at raising their level of CMMS operation to the required level. Luckily, the CMMS of choice wasn’t so complex as to require advanced computer skills, as well as the language requirement.

Most countries now have a sufficiently well-educated talent pool to choose employees from, but it may well still be worth considering the complexity of the CMMS chosen for site usage.

Need help choosing or implementing a CMMS / ERP system?

Your Computerised Maintenance Management System of choice may be capable of meeting your business requirements, but let’s not forget the CMMS is only as good as the end user, and their training. We have experience in assisting businesses with their CMMS selection and implementation, and would be happy to help you to assess your requirements and train your end users to use the chosen system efficiently and effectively.

Our experience suggests that the most effective way of introducing sustainable long-term improvements in maintenance performance using a CMMS is to take a holistic approach – to consider the organisational, people, skills, cultural, and business process aspects associated with the implementation. 

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