A Computerized Maintenance Management System has become a necessity for businesses that take maintenance seriously and want to streamline their maintenance processes. Managing maintenance is not easy, especially when hundreds of thousands of parts and multiple locations are involved. Being a centralized platform, a SaaS CMMS enables companies to organize their maintenance operations, eliminate paperwork, streamline processes and ensure effective communication. This post includes a brief introduction to CMMS, its advantages and important things to consider when buying a CMMS.
What is CMMS?
Timely and efficient maintenance management plays a pivotal role in ensuring smooth functioning of assets and equipment, cost optimization, reliable operations, employee safety and data-driven decision making. Maintenance management encompasses a variety of activities ranging from preventive measures to inspections, repairs and replacements. Depending on the industry, a CMMS includes different key components including:
- Preventive and predictive maintenance
- Asset and equipment management
- Work order management
- Facilities management
- Inventory management
- Document management
- Reporting and analytics
SaaS CMMS solutions provide a centralized platform to manage maintenance tasks and offer many benefits. They help the management make data-driven business decisions, manage inventory effectively and improve the safety and health of employees. Efficient and effective maintenance management not only increases asset lifespan, but also helps conserve energy, minimizes maintenance backlog and downtime. We have already covered the advantages of using a SaaS CMMS in detail in a dedicated post linked here.
Things to Consider When Buying a CMMS
Buying a CMMS solution can be a costly endeavor and a long-term investment. In the SaaS world, it’s very rare to see a one-size-fits-all kind of product, which is why businesses have to be careful when choosing between different solutions. A solution that has worked wonders for one business might not work for others. Choosing a CMMS can be overwhelming, especially for those who are starting from scratch. However, there are a few basic things that can help you make a more informed decision including the following:
Understand Needs, Clearly Define Goals
Implementing a CMMS solution can affect multiple departments, so businesses need all stakeholders onboard during the selection process. Businesses invest in a CMMS to address certain pain points or solve certain problems, which can vary from one business to another. Are you already using a CMMS that does not offer the features you need or the existing system is unable to match the way you manage maintenance or cannot scale with business growth?
Clearly defining business goals and requirements helps businesses stay focused during the selection process and saves them from buying a solution that only looks great on paper. Identify specific pain points as well as long-term business goals. Document the maintenance issues currently being faced and anticipate future business needs. This helps shortlist different solutions based on specific features such as predictive maintenance, spare parts inventory management and work order management.
Start by mapping out maintenance workflows and processes and create a comprehensive list of maintenance activities and dependencies. Analyze current challenges and pain points by engaging with all the stakeholders involved. Clearly define goals e.g. improving data analytics, improving response times, reducing downtime and/or optimizing inventory. Define the scale and scope of CMMS deployment, which can vary based on the number of assets, the size of an organization (single vs multiple locations), the number of users involved and so on. Other important aspects to consider include:
- Budget and cost considerations
- Regulatory and compliance requirements
- Asset management needs
- Reporting and analytics requirements
- Remote access and mobile needs
- Integration requirements with existing systems e.g. ERP, CRM and accounting
TCO and Pricing
Evaluate the total cost of ownership to get a better idea of the true cost of implementing and using a CMMS over its expected lifespan. TCO includes all costs associated with acquiring, implementing and maintaining a solution. It includes recurring subscription fees as well as initial setup costs, training fees, support fees and fees for upgrades and feature enhancement. Choose the pricing model carefully and review the terms and conditions to find potential hidden costs.
Usability and User Interface
An easy-to-use and intuitive user interface enables users to easily get around a CMMS and find their way without too much training. A poorly designed user interface can put a dent on the efficiency of maintenance operations and increase training costs. Administrators and technicians are more likely to make mistakes if they are not able to navigate the system with ease, potentially causing unnecessary complexities and delays. Intuitive navigation, a user friendly-design that provides consistency and ensures readability and accessibility makes life easier for both experienced and new users.
Mobile accessibility has become almost a necessity for today’s mobile workforce, especially on-field technicians. A responsive design and support for mobile devices allows them to access asset information, update work orders, submit reports and complete a variety of other tasks using their mobile devices.
Visualization elements including interactive dashboards, graphs, and charts facilitate decision making and enhance data comprehension. Customization options allow users to customize the interface according to their own requirements, while customizable forms, fields, views and more aligns the CMMS with organizational workflows. Evaluate the learning curve and look for vendors that offer comprehensive training materials and customer support to help users get started and learn to use the system. Other usability features to look into include feedback mechanisms, alerts and error handling, updates and feature enhancements.
Take All Stakeholders Onboard
Chances are good that multiple departments will be affected by implementing a CMMS. Consider how each of these will be affected and how they will manage changes to processes and systems. These departments may include procurement, finance, legal and compliance, and success (or failure) of the CMMS depends on them. Evaluate how the system will benefit them using demos and free trials and gauge its effectiveness across different departments. Include people from different departments in demos, so they can share their opinions and valuable feedback.
Cloud-based vs On-premises CMMS
The SaaS vs on-premises is an important decision to make and can have a huge impact on costs and other resources. Cloud-based CMMS solutions are accessible through the internet using almost any device, including mobile devices. Low initial costs, easier implementation, automatic updates and scalability are some of the main benefits of a SaaS CMMS. The vendor is responsible for most of the technical stuff including backup, security and maintenance.
On-premises solutions on the other hand usually involve high software, infrastructure, implementation and maintenance costs, and dedicated IT staff to manage the system. Key benefits of on-premises CMMS solutions include complete control over data and security, internal storage and handling of data.
Although cloud-based SaaS CMMS solutions have become very popular, they might not be the best option for all businesses. It’s important to choose the right solution by evaluating all the pros and cons of SaaS vs on-premises solutions. SaaS solutions can be implemented in very little time and do not require heavy investments, making them a good fit for SMBs. On-premises solutions are costly in terms of initial costs and maintenance, but provide more control and allow deeper customizations, which is why they are mostly used by large enterprises.
A SaaS CMMS is hosted on a provider’s servers, making security one of the most important things to consider when choosing a solution. Strict measures should be in place to ensure data is protected from data breaches, unauthorized access and other cyber threats. Some important aspects to consider in this regard include:
- Data storage and encryption during rest
- Encryption during transmission
- Access control mechanisms
- User permissions and roles
- Disaster recovery mechanisms
- Data backup
- Security certifications and compliance
- Security audits and penetration testing
- Privacy policies
- Data ownership and vendor lock-in
- Incident response and reporting
A CMMS should be able to scale as a business grows and adapt to increase in volume of users, data and assets without compromising on performance. Scalability should be cost-effective and businesses need to evaluate cost implications of scaling up. Different aspects of scalability include:
- User growth
- Expansion of asset management (number of assets, infrastructure, equipment, buildings, vehicles etc.)
- Multi-location/multi-site support
- Efficient workload distribution
- Customization options and module integration
- Ability to handle large/growing data volumes
- Support and reliability
- Flexibility in deployment models
Uptime and Performance Guarantees
The SLA (Service Level Agreement) defines the performance expectations and is an important element of SaaS contracts. The uptime and other key performance indicators should be clearly defined in the SLA. A CMMS should be able to quickly react to user actions without any noticeable lag or delays. Fast load times and server performance increase productivity and makes loading work orders, reports and asset information a breeze. Understand the network connectivity requirements to ensure that a CMMS will run smoothly with the existing internet infrastructure.
A reliable and available customer support system ensures that employees get timely assistance when needed. Evaluate what support channels the vendor is providing and the average response time and escalation paths. Customer testimonials and reviews are a good starting point to gauge the satisfaction level of existing customers.
Businesses have to meet certain standards and regulations that govern data management and maintenance operations (depending on where they operate). The CMMS should be compliant to those regulations, which can be industry-specific regulations, regulations related to data protection and privacy and audit trail and documentation/reporting regulations.
Businesses that use calibrated equipment should also look into calibration management features that comply with industry regulations. Other important compliance considerations include compliance with emission and environmental standards, and international compliance certifications.
Case Studies and References
Reading case studies and asking the vendor for references or finding some on your own can help provide direct insights into the experience of existing customers. It helps businesses gauge how CMMS is implemented and performs in the real world and how it will solve their issues. Getting in touch with references can help in verifying the claims made by the vendor and how happy its existing customers are with the services.
Being proactive can be a competitive advantage in today’s ultra-competitive market and implementing proactive technology management tools such as a CMMS can help businesses stay ahead of the curve. Modern SaaS CMMS solutions enable businesses to create both preventive and reactive maintenance tasks and make it a lot easier to assign work orders.
Monitoring and optimized spending are important aspects of effective maintenance management in all industries. The growing popularity of CMMS solutions has revolutionized maintenance management and businesses are gradually moving away from reactive maintenance, resulting in increased asset reliability, minimized downtime, optimal spending and greater operational efficiency.