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Ten Pitfalls to Avoid When Selecting a CMMS/EAM
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As companies search for ways to get the
most out of their existing operating assets,
Enterprise Asset Management (CMMS/
EAM) software packages are key. However,
when it comes to researching, selecting and
implementing the right CMMS/EAM, some
of the same mistakes have been made for
decades and some new ones have emerged.
This white paper, written by expert David
Berger, explores 10 of the more common
mistakes you should avoid if you are
looking for a new or replacement CMMS/
EAM system. The mistakes are listed in no
particular order. Conclusions are supported
by a recent survey conducted by Plant
Mistake #1 – You are far too focused on the software’s “look and feel.”
Ever since software was invented, there has been considerable effort expended by users to find
a CMMS/EAM package with the perfect user interface. This obsession is evidenced by the Plant
Services Reader Survey results, which ranked “Intuitive User Interface” as the most important
criterion of 21 (see Exhibit 1). Many people would explain that any software application that forces
the user to move through numerous fields, screen after screen, one tab after another, to access the
information needed is just not worth using at all.
Although there is no question that the user interface is extremely important, there has been
significant progress in this area over the years. Most of the major CMMS/EAM software vendors
have engaged human factors expertise, either internally or externally, to improve their usercentered
design. The most modern software packages have incredible tools to help users
tailor the look and feel of screens, and focus workers on actionable tasks that create value and
improve productivity. A few packages allow a given company to quickly and easily configure
menus, screens, tabs, data entry forms, reports and so on to meet the needs of a given division,
department, job function or individual.
Although there is always room to improve, users should not fixate on the user interface as the
most significant differentiator among the better CMMS/EAM software packages. Other key factors
that do a better job of differentiating modern CMMS/EAM packages are discussed elsewhere in this
Mistake #2 – You are purchasing software based on functional fit only.
As CMMS/EAM software increases in scope and complexity, selection is becoming increasingly
based on the relationship with the vendor rather than simply the software tool it sells. This
is because partnering with the right vendor can facilitate the implementation of more longlasting
improvements. As can be seen from Exhibit 1, the user community ranks “Ease of
Implementation” as a close second in terms of importance. Ease of implementation can be defined
as not only how quickly the software can be installed, but more importantly, the length of time and
degree of difficulty in achieving your goals and performance targets.
Perhaps users are finally recognizing after decades of CMMS/EAM implementation that the
probability of success goes up dramatically when the vendor provides both proper support as well
as good software. Try to find a vendor that is in it for the long haul, and for the right reasons – not
because their software is so difficult to implement, use, reconfigure and, ultimately, meet business
Today, many CMMS/EAM vendors have incredible resources that can be brought to bear. Look for
a vendor partner whose resources best fit your specific needs, now and over the long run. Some of
the supporting services that vendors offer are as follows:
- assessment of organizational readiness and gap analysis to understand what changes will be
necessary for a successful implementation,
- process design expertise to map your software configuration to optimized business processes,
- guidance about industry best practices,
- assistance in setting up key performance indicators (KPIs) to ensure users are focused on the right
- facilitation of data analysis and decision-making to ensure expected savings and benefits are
Your relationship with the CMMS/EAM vendor should not end once the system has been
implemented. This is why it is so important to partner with a vendor that is strong financially,
especially in the face of tough economic times. The vendor can be extremely helpful in
establishing a framework for continuous improvement by assisting with performance assessment
and benchmarking, as well as fine-tuning asset management processes and the underlying CMMS/
EAM system. Furthermore, as software upgrades are released on a regular basis, typically every
12-18 months, there is ample opportunity to partner with the vendor over the long term.
There also are benefits in partnering with a vendor that has enough depth to provide a suite of
business solutions, especially for a large organization. However, be cautious about the tradeoffs
between a best-of-breed solution and single-vendor suite, as described below under “Mistake #8.”
Mistake #3 – You think your CMMS/EAM is just
a static data and reporting system.
When CMMS/EAM systems were first implemented many decades ago, they were viewed as an
effective means of computerizing existing manual processes. The CMMS/EAM tool amounted to
not much more than an electronic data depository. Many companies today make the mistake
that nothing much has changed from those early days, i.e., the CMMS/EAM is primarily used for
entering and storing data for producing reports on a regular or ad hoc basis. However, modern
systems offer so much more functionality on a real-time basis. With features such as notification,
alarming or alert management, as well as the even more sophisticated workflow engine, your
CMMS/EAM system is transformed into a real-time monitoring and control system.
For example, assets can be monitored 24 hours/day, 7 days/week, in terms of any measure, from
asset reliability and performance, to compliance, energy consumption and safety. When a key
measure for a critical asset equals, rises above or drops below a certain trigger point, then a
workflow can be initiated such as automatically issuing a work order, and/or notifying a supervisor
via e-mail or cell phone. This functionality forms the basis for predictive maintenance, which can
not only help transform day-to-day maintenance fire-fighting into a more planned environment,
but can significantly reduce operating costs and risks.
According to Exhibit 2, those surveyed ranked “notification and workflow” as second-worst in terms of
how well their current CMMS/EAM package performs. Unfortunately, in my experience, this more likely
reflects the users’ lack of knowledge about how to properly utilize this functionality, rather than any
major shortcomings in software performance. Notification, alert management, alarming and workflow
are powerful and advanced software features that can transform your CMMS/EAM into a real-time and
dynamic knowledge-management system that drives simplicity and more value-added action.
The good news is that the criteria labeled “planning and scheduling” ranked #3 overall (see
Exhibit 1). This means users generally recognize the importance of a planned environment.
Proper planning is a necessary condition for achieving maximum benefit from the notification and
workflow functionality. Advanced planning features include the ability to:
- create multiple job plans for each asset/component
- implement multiple triggers for preventive and condition-based maintenance,
- establish indicators for real-time monitoring of energy consumption and emission levels,
- calculate and record asset criticality, and
- conduct real-time trend analysis for conditions, energy consumption, emission levels, regulatory
compliance and so on.
Mistake #4 – You are hung up on the slicing and dicing of CMMS/EAM data.
There is an infinite number of ways to filter, sort and manipulate the reams of data entered into
today’s CMMS/EAM software. The better CMMS/EAM packages provide easy-to-use analysis and
maintenance optimization tools that support decision-making at all levels, from maintainer to senior
management. Users seem to recognize the importance of this functionality, as seen in Exhibit 1
wherein “maintenance optimization” and “analysis tools” are ranked #4 and #5 respectively.
Sophisticated analysis tools geared to each job position provide visibility into your operations for
better control of your business. Imagine arriving each day at work and checking your computer
screen for a real-time dashboard display of the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) most relevant to
your job (see Exhibit 3).
Exhibit 3 – Sample Real-time
For example, suppose as a maintenance planner, your schedule
compliance KPI is “in the red” for a given asset group when you
turn on your computer one Monday morning. By drilling down
on this measure, you have instant access to the asset history
showing a backlog of work orders that were generated over the
weekend. In a further drill-down to analyze condition trends,
you discover that the condition of the asset group seems to be
deteriorating prematurely for a given manufacturer, and is thus
triggering PM job tasks earlier than expected. By checking your
notifications and alerts on your dashboard, you notice that these
work orders were flagged as eligible for warranty coverage, and
as regulatory compliance-related.
Thus, one of the most powerful differentiating features to look
for in a CMMS/EAM system, especially when coupled with the
notification and workflow functionality described above, is the
ability to quickly and easily analyze data, including:
- configurable KPIs
- dashboards and business intelligence,
- advanced analytics and maintenance optimization tools,
- comprehensive risk-management and compliance tools, and
- advanced warranty-management functionality.
Mistake #5 – You believe “green” functionality
is today’s “flavor of the month.”
According to a Plant Services survey (see Exhibit 4), U.S. companies invest more than $100 billion
annually in capital equipment and services, including new plant construction and retrofits, as well as
maintenance, repair and replacement. But those same companies spend more than $400 billion each
year on energy (see Exhibit 5). Given that energy prices are expected to rise over the long term, it is
fairly safe to assume that the tracking of energy consumption is more than just a passing fad and flavor
of the month. In a study conducted by Plant Services magazine, manufacturers felt strongly that energy
prices will have the most significant impact on operations in manufacturing plants throughout the
United States (see Exhibit 6).
With the recent explosion in energy prices, price volatility and the impending financial
consequences of carbon equivalents, it is no surprise manufacturers feel this way.
Manufacturers that can manage and control their use of energy will create a competitive edge. A
CMMS/EAM should allow companies to implement sustainability best practices such as:
- measuring energy use at the asset level,
- understanding the carbon footprint of assets, products, product lines, etc., and the ability to compare
or benchmark performance across like assets, and
- incorporating energy efficiency into asset life-cycle practices, i.e., applying maintenance practices
to specific underperforming assets that restore energy efficiency to its designed performance
Exhibit 4 – U.S. Industr ial Annua l Capita l Expenditures Exceed $100 Billion
Exhibit 5 – Industr ial Annua l Energy Expenditures Are $400 Billion
Exhibit 6 – Impact of Current Trends
What current trends do you think will have the most impact on
operations in U.S. manufacturing plants? (check all that apply)
Source: Plant Services
For this reason, it is critical for you to select a CMMS/EAM system that has comprehensive functionality
to track energy consumption, emissions and other green measures to gain insight into the real costs
of operating your assets. Perhaps users have not yet realized that this functionality exists on some
CMMS/EAM packages, as evidenced by the relatively low importance ranking of #17 out of 21 for the
criterion “comprehensive energy tracking” in the survey shown in Exhibit 1. Moreover, according to
Exhibit 2, those surveyed ranked “comprehensive energy tracking” as the worst in terms of how well
their current CMMS/EAM package performs.
In contrast, there is the relatively high importance ranking of #6 out of 21 for the criteria “health, safety
and the environment.” This might be explained by the recognition of users that the CMMS/EAM is
important for ensuring regulatory compliance and safety protection of personnel and equipment.
Mistake #6 – You are focused solely on how
the CMMS/EAM will satisfy your current
Many companies make the mistake of selecting a CMMS/EAM that addresses the short-term
needs of primarily the maintenance department. This is not the best approach given the number
and degree of changes that most companies go through over a relatively short period of time.
CMMS/EAM requirements should cover a minimum of three years out, and span requirements
of departments other than maintenance, including operations, engineering, purchasing, finance,
IT and other stakeholder groups. There should be specifications that ensure flexibility to make
changes to the software as needs of each stakeholder group changes.
One of the key criteria to look for in a CMMS/EAM that ensures flexibility is configurability, which is
ranked #7 out of 21 on the Plant Services survey (see Exhibit 1). The CMMS/EAM should allow quick
and easy configuration at any point in time, to meet the specific needs of any given user among a
diverse and ever-changing pool of stakeholders over the longer term. Other features discussed above
that support flexibility include a workflow engine for quickly redefining key maintenance processes,
and configurable KPIs for easily changing priority measures for analysis and reporting.
Mistake #7 – You tend to focus on how the
CMMS/EAM benefits your location, instead of
what benefits the organization overall.
One common mistake that occurs when large, multi-site companies select a CMMS/EAM system(s)
is that either corporate resources do not adequately consider the needs of individual sites, or
individual sites select software without regard for the needs of the total enterprise. The key is
to select a CMMS/EAM package that can accommodate the needs of each plant, as well as the
For example, if multiple sites have common suppliers of spare parts, the corporate purchasing
department might be able to obtain national accounts and significant discounts for all sites.
However, some parts may be cheaper and more accessible to procure locally. In other cases, plants
within close proximity of each other may be willing to reduce their inventory on hand if they were
given read-only visibility into the inventory levels of the other sites, and a means of tracking parts
transferred between them. The CMMS/EAM system should accommodate all combinations that
might encourage enterprise-wide thinking.
It is interesting to note that although Exhibit 1 shows “multi-site” was ranked #20 out of 21 criteria in
terms of relative importance, Exhibit 2 shows “multi-site” was ranked 4th in terms of how well their
current CMMS/EAM package performs. As most survey respondents were from individual sites, it
comes as no surprise that they ranked “multi-site” so low in importance. However, this speaks to the
critical need to involve stakeholders from both individual sites and corporate, to select software that
best accommodates enterprise thinking. In turn, this will maximize benefits for the company overall.
Similarly, Exhibit 1 shows “strategic asset management” was ranked #16 out of 21 criteria. This
low importance ranking is perhaps explained in the same way as above, i.e., individual plant
personnel attach less importance to enterprise thinking. However, it is extremely limiting for a
multi-site organization to ignore the huge benefits associated with enterprise thinking, both to the
individual sites and the company overall. Strategic asset-management functionality implies the
CMMS/EAM can handle the diverse needs of all levels in your company, from corporate to the
shop-floor, along the entire asset life cycle (i.e., design, procurement, installation, maintenance,
disposal), and for any asset class (i.e., plant equipment, facilities, fleet, infrastructure or linear
assets, and IT). This can translate into millions of dollars in savings for a large, multinational
Mistake #8 – You think implementing a singlevendor
ERP/EAM solution translates into the
most “fully integrated” solution.
There is a common misconception that a single ERP software solution that has a CMMS/EAM
module is superior to best-of-breed CMMS/EAM software that is integrated to the corporate ERP
package. This may be the case if there are many best-of-breed CMMS/EAM software packages that
must be integrated and supported, however, if the corporation selects a single, best-fit, enterprisewide,
best-of-breed CMMS/EAM system that integrates well with the corporate ERP suite, you are likely to enjoy the best of both worlds.
The key is to select a best-of-breed CMMS/EAM software package that has strong “open systems”
functionality. Exhibit 1 shows “open systems” was ranked #9 of 21 criteria in terms of importance.
However, Exhibit 2 shows “open systems” was ranked third worst in terms of how well their
current CMMS/EAM package performs. This shows the importance of finding a CMMS/EAM
vendor that can demonstrate open systems capability – the ability to integrate seamlessly with
many other vendors’ software applications and add-ons – to provide greater value and flexibility
when configuring your CMMS/EAM to fit your needs.
Effective decision-making may require access to information and processes outside of the core
CMMS/EAM functionality, such as
- aligning maintenance and production schedules,
- integrating labor data entry for both asset history and payroll purposes,
- integrating with applications specific to mobile devices,
- handling chargebacks for third-party billing and
- accounting properly for large capital projects involving maintenance.
Some companies have discovered that certain best-of-breed CMMS/EAM software packages are easier
to integrate than the suite solutions because they are more open and flexible. After all, by definition,
best-of-breed CMMS/EAM vendors have always had to integrate with corporate and other systems.
Mistake #9 – You think it is always better to
own and control your hardware, software
and support services.
When purchasing a CMMS/EAM system, do not make the mistake of assuming the most
economical approach is to buy the software outright and run it on your own premises. One of the
latest alternatives that might be more cost-effective and/or preferable from a cash-flow perspective
is called “SaaS” or “Software as a Service.” Although there are many variations on the theme,
SaaS provides you with the flexibility to pay a monthly subscription rate, per named user, that
covers hosting, training, consulting and other start-up costs.
One caveat if you’re thinking about SaaS: Make sure you know who is providing the service. Some
CMMS/EAM vendors offer this only through third-party relationships that might not be viable in
the long term. This is a risk, especially with mission-critical data.
Although Exhibit 1 shows “payment cash flow flexibility” ranked least important out of 21 criteria,
this is probably because survey respondents were from technical areas such as maintenance,
engineering, and operations, as opposed to finance. Regardless, a typical mistake in selecting a
CMMS/EAM system is ignoring other payment and deployment options that might lower the total
cost of ownership (TCO).
Another factor affecting TCO that is equally misunderstood by most technical users is the importance of
a web-architected solution. As seen in Exhibit 1, “web-architected solution” ranked #19 of 21 criteria in
terms of importance. As above, this is most likely because respondents are from technical areas within
the plant, as opposed to IT. It is for this reason that stakeholders from IT and Finance should be part of
the selection committee to ensure options are evaluated in terms of total cost of ownership, including:
- ongoing maintenance and support and
Web-architected solutions tend to lower these costs and facilitate ongoing system enhancements.
Mistake #10 – You celebrate the day the CMMS/
EAM system goes live.
When would you consider the CMMS/EAM system successfully implemented? Most companies
would argue that the system is implemented after a successful go-live, when it is up and running
with minimal interruptions, and the system has stabilized. However, this is flawed in that the basis
for selecting and implementing a CMMS/EAM system was presumably to realize benefits, not
simply install a system.
Success must be defined in terms of performance measures and targets, and the CMMS/EAM
system can then be used to track progress in achieving them. This is not well understood by most
companies, as shown in Exhibit 1 where “benefits realization” is ranked only 8th of 21 criteria in terms
In conclusion, I would argue that the most important criterion in the selection of a CMMS/EAM
vendor and its software solution is the ability to facilitate achievement of target benefits. All other
criteria discussed in this white paper must then align and support benefits realization. Your CMMS/
EAM vendor is an important partner in ensuring success in the long term.
About the author
David Berger, P.Eng. (Alta), Director, Western Management Consultants, Toronto, is a Certified
Management Consultant (C.M.C.) registered in Ontario and an adjunct professor at York
University in Toronto, where he has taught operations management for the MBA program for
23 years. He has conducted numerous maintenance audits; helped senior management develop
maintenance strategies involving maintenance, operations, and engineering; assisted companies
in implementing process improvement initiatives with significant results; and led a variety of IT
projects, from developing a detailed specification to package selection and implementation, for
CMMS/EAM, PdM, RCM, and supply chain software. David Berger may be contacted at david@
About the sponsor
Western Management Consultants (WMC), founded in 1975, has offices across Canada providing
management consulting services around the world. Its senior, experienced consultants assist
clients across the public and private sector spectrum, from multinational corporations to small
family-owned businesses, in resolving problems and capitalizing on opportunities in seven main
areas of expertise: strategic management, information technology, business process improvement,
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Information on WMC can be found on our website at www.wmc.ca
Copyright 2009 by Western Management Consultants
Western Management Consultants
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Toronto, Canada M5H 1B6
Phone: (416) 362-6863
Mistake #1 – You are far too focused on the software’s “look and feel.” p.4
Mistake #2 – You are purchasing software based on functional fit only. p.5
Mistake #3 – You think your CMMS/EAM is just a static data and reporting system. p.6
Mistake #4 – You are hung up on the slicing and dicing of CMMS/EAM data. p.7
Mistake #5 – You believe that “green” functionality is today’s “flavor of the month.” p.8
Mistake #6 – You are focused solely on how the CMMS/EAM will satisfy your current
Mistake #7 – You tend to focus on how the CMMS/EAM benefits your location, instead of what
benefits the organization overall. p.10
Mistake #8 – You think implementing a single-vendor ERP/EAM solution translates into the
most “fully integrated” solution. p.10
Mistake #9 – You think it is always better to own and control your hardware, software and
support services. p.11
Mistake #10 – You celebrate the day the CMMS/EAM system goes live. p.12