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Earn a Preventive Maintenance Black Belt by Optimizing Your CMMS

Posted by Matt Munter on 9/16/19 8:49 AM

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Only a short decade ago, facility managers were just starting to think about computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS). Today, just about everyone is using some type of CMMS to improve efficiency. While these systems can always be relied on to churn out and track work orders, they are capable of so much more. With a little extra attention, you can transform your CMMS into one that helps you cut costs, streamline your operation, and stay consistently ahead of the preventive maintenance curve. Even better, investment value can be reached sooner than you might think!

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Preventive Maintenance Yellow Belts: CMMS = Work Order System

If we think about preventive maintenance along a karate belt spectrum (and why wouldn’t we?), far too many facility managers are stuck with yellow belts. They may have moved beyond the CMMS-less white belt stage that had them logging calls onto 3x5 index cards, but their systems are being used solely as reactive work order clearinghouses to deal with what’s broken. At this stage, preventive maintenance is a bit of a misnomer because very little in the way of prevention is being done. Room 107 is too cold? A call is made, and the work order entered. The CMMS can’t really tell a facility manager anything about what’s in Room 107, and maintenance is dispatched to sort things out. Since information is limited, it may take multiple visits to determine what equipment is in the room, diagnose the problem, find or order the right parts, and address the issue. After that, Room 107 won’t be considered again until a new problem arises.

Preventive Maintenance Green Belts: Decent Data, Adequate Responses

While still reactive in nature, green belt preventive maintenance has moved into intermediate levels of CMMS utilization. Successful resolution of Room 107’s problem will be quicker here because CMMS data is more complete. Basic response rules have been established. The facility manager knows what equipment is in the room, saving at least one step, and it’s possible that the problem can be addressed in one visit if parts happen to be in stock. The system may even be set up to track how fast work orders are being retired. Still, Room 107 will become a distant memory after maintenance moves on.

Preventive Maintenance Black Belts: Full CMMS Utilization and Proactive Responses

This time, if Room 107 gets too cold, the facility manager can access full and up-to-date equipment data. Replacement parts have been kept in stock as directed by a preventive maintenance plan, meaning no expensive rush orders will be needed. The CMMS has also captured care and life safety standards and warranty requirements, and it provides an inspection timeline. It may even be set up to alert the manufacturer directly.

Maintenance can also use the Room 107 visit to address any needs that the CMMS flags, perhaps taking the opportunity to change a filter or add lubricant while on the call. Efficiency has dramatically improved, and three visits could easily have become one. The properly maintained equipment in Room 107 will also have longer life, generating even more savings. Repair time can be tracked both for the room and across the building, and staffing levels can be calibrated according to current and anticipated needs. Is another maintenance person required to get the job done right? CMMS data can provide evidence to convince management that now is the time to hire.

Preventive Maintenance Improvements Don’t Have to Be All or Nothing

If you’re into karate, you may have noticed that we skipped a few belts in our summary. In reality, preventive maintenance improvements don’t have to happen in leaps and bounds to show results. Change can be introduced incrementally, making it more manageable for busy facility managers who are already being pulled in dozens of directions every day. Yellow belts will move to orange at their own pace, greens will progress to blues, blues will advance to purples, and so on. Huge amounts of system change introduced at once can be difficult to absorb, and we’ve seen facility managers throw up their arms in frustration when inundated with work orders generated by a jolting CMMS move from 0 to 60. Incremental change makes for a much more seamless transition toward black belt status, one that better takes into account a manager’s limited time.

At the Heart of CMMS Optimization: A Comprehensive Equipment Inventory

A CMMS is only as good as the data in it, so the first step toward a preventive maintenance black belt is a comprehensive equipment inventory. An expertly done inventory will include:

Establishment of a Company-Wide Naming Convention

Is it an AHU (air handling unit) on the ground floor in fair condition or one on the first floor in good condition? The bigger the site or the more sites across geographic locations, the easier it is for naming confusion to stymie preventive maintenance efforts. A “naming dictionary” in line with industry standards should be established and tied to a directory that outlines preventive maintenance steps and requirements for any given asset. Names should consistently reflect type of equipment, location (room number, floor number, and building number), capacity, condition, UniFormat code, and other unique identifiers.

Field Data Collection

It’s time for boots on the ground. All relevant equipment data will be entered into the CMMS. Existing data will be verified, and new data added as warranted.

Barcoding and Tagging

Beyond consistency in naming and data updates, the inventory process can move facility managers into preventive maintenance black belts by utilizing QR barcodes that can be read by mobile devices. Tagging is an additional service whereby each asset is physically labeled to facilitate quick, easy, and accurate identification.

Add a Customized Preventive Maintenance Plan to Set a Cost-Efficient Course

A fully optimized CMMS doesn’t just run on good data. A preventive maintenance plan that identifies and flags required procedures and inspections should also be uploaded into your CMMS. Next immediate steps will be clearly charted as well as what needs to be done in the weeks, months, quarters, and years ahead. The preventive maintenance plan will generally be based on original equipment manufacturer (OEM) maintenance recommendations, applicable national standards, industry best practices, and RSMeans maintenance routines. It should include a labor estimate that incorporates recommended routines as well as their frequencies and time requirements.

Can We Handle CMMS Optimization Ourselves?

You could, but it’s probably not the most efficient use of time and resources or the best way to reduce CMMS time to value. If you’ve got a preventive maintenance black belt in mind (and a boss looking for measurable results), it may be time to call in a Mr. Miyagi to get things set up right!

What might take well over a year if done in-house could take as little as 90 days if outsourced to an expert who can hit the ground running. Outsourcing will also leave staff members free to focus on their regular jobs without disruption and frustration. In addition, experienced professionals will know what needs to be inventoried and what can be skipped within a given industry, a challenge that can easily trip up in-house inventory efforts. Experts will also draw on experience to give the most accurate appraisal of an asset’s remaining useful life and to develop consistent standards across sales groups.

You’ll Only Wish You’d Done It Sooner

CMMS optimization is easy to put on the back burner when your phone is ringing non-stop with requests for help. But, in the long run, getting your CMMS in black belt shape will help you manage (and lessen) those calls and realize investment value in months rather than years. Let us know if we can help!


If your CMMS isn’t supporting optimal preventive maintenance performance, give the EMG experts a call! We’d be happy to answer any questions.

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Topics: preventive maintenance, Building Management Systems

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