Optimising the balance between reactive and proactive maintenance is all about process-wide visibility and trend spotting. When they’re responsible for maintaining a large site, or even multiple sites, engineering teams are often too busy playing catch-up to analyse which assets are causing the most frequent maintenance headaches today and which are the most likely to start playing up tomorrow.
Computerised Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) have been gaining ground for some time and offer a wide range of reporting options that make it much easier for teams to spot the biggest drains on maintenance resources.
“Identifying which assets are causing the most problems is a key advantage,” confirms Steven Prentice, senior consultant with Real Asset Management (RAM), which supplies the Maintenance5000 CMMS package. This enables users to view past trends in terms of the key performance indicators (KPIs) that most usefully measure maintenance performance and return on investment.
Identifying which assets are causing the most problems is a key advantage
Steven Prentice, senior consultant with Real Asset Management (RAM)
“Companies can identify trends using KPI charts and graphs. They will then be able to identify where money is being spent and when it might be cheaper to simply replace an asset instead of continuing to maintain it,” says Prentice.
“That’s one of the key benefits of our KPI dashboards. Presenting that sort of information in a concise manner really does make it easier for companies to make more informed business decisions when it comes to assets.”
For example, some CMMS solutions offer the option of a Pareto analysis report. Also known as the 80/20 rule, the Pareto Principle is a statistical approach based on the idea that the majority of problems in almost any situation are caused by a minority of factors.
But whatever the style of reporting, the important thing is to be able to chop up the data according to which parameters are the most important to users. That might mean spotting the assets that are generating the most jobs, those that gobble up the lion’s share of the spares budget, or those that cause the most downtime.
Regardless of the particular priorities for each site, greater clarity should reduce the need for firefighting and shift the maintenance regime towards a proactive approach. While the precise optimum will vary between organisations, a 70:30 split between planned and reactive maintenance is the typical goal.
“Adopting an effective CMMS can be crucial in shifting the balance,” says Prentice. “If all planned maintenance is logged in the system and alerts are configured to ensure engineers carry out work when they are supposed to – this leads to a far greater job completion rate.
“With jobs being completed more thoroughly, this means that the likelihood of tasks being missed and machines/equipment not being maintained and breaking down is reduced.”
So CMMS traditionally help companies keep tabs on assets and their performance, but a relatively recent development flips this concept around to manage maintenance resources too.
With jobs being completed more thoroughly, this means that the likelihood of tasks being missed and machines/equipment not being maintained and breaking down is reduced
For example, SoftSols’ AUTOagility feature can be programmed with a set of rules that enable it to decide which team member has the right skills and availability to handle a particular job.
Once users have established the database of relevant skills and priorities, the process runs without the need for further human intervention.
The software can even be employed to break work down into prioritised, sequential tasks, so jobs are allocated in priority order only on completion of the preceding step.
“Automating the workflow and decision-making within the software is a big step forward,” says SoftSols Group managing director David Hipkin.
Some vendors are also directing CMMS functionality to more specialised applications. Terrington Data Management, for example, aims to fill in the gaps that other CMMS systems overlook by generating all the forms and mapping out all the inspection tasks required to achieve regulatory compliance in hazardous environments.
“We find that most systems say you need to inspect a certain area, but the CMMS doesn’t include all the detailed requirements needed to comply with regulations,” says business development manager Tracey Marshall.
The system can use historical data to track previous failures and helps inspectors to determine the nature and severity of factors such as vibration or corrosion that impact on the risk of failures in future. It can then use the information about past performance and risk to weight the frequency with which particular assets crop up in the spot checks or detailed inspections that it schedules going forward. “It enables a risk-based inspection approach,” explains Marshall.
We find that most systems say you need to inspect a certain area, but the CMMS doesn’t include all the detailed requirements needed to comply with regulations
Tracey Marshall, business development, Terrington Data Management
The upfront investment required to manage a big IT project can be a stretch for many companies, but technology trends now make CMMS a realistic prospect for many more organisations, as well as amplifying the potential benefits.
Chief among these trends is the rise of cloudhosted solutions and Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery models. Cloud-based solutions host software and store data on remote hardware, rather than on customer-owned hardware. SaaS is similar, but clients effectively rent the remotely-held software, typically on a ‘per user’ basis.
Neither approach demands the same upfront investment in IT equipment as a conventional CMMS installation. They also bring greater flexibility and ensure that the latest software upgrades are always available with the minimum of disruption.
On the other hand, some companies may have safety or security issues or other reasons that mean they prefer to retain all their data on site with a more traditional arrangement.
“We’ve been advocating hosted solutions for a long time, but in the last couple of years we’ve seen the uptake accelerating,” says Hipkin. “The market is ready for it and the opportunities it opens up are massive. Small companies get access to something that they might not otherwise be able to use. And for large corporates, it can take all the pain away.”
Prentice adds: “When it comes to cloud-hosted solutions, a lot of our clients have opted to have our software hosted in the Cloud. There are many advantages to this, it reduces administration costs, removes the need for them to install client-side server software/hardware, and enables them to benefit from upgrades/security patches being carried out by RAM’s customer services team.
“Having the system cloud-based saves clients’ IT departments from having to get involved with the process. Of course, there are still a number of clients that prefer to have the software installed on-premise.
People have the devices and they’re more affordable. It’s challenging the software vendors because of people’s expectations of what they can use mobile devices for. It’s a great way of getting more usage out of the software
David Hipkin, SoftSols Group managing director
“There seems to be a balance between companies that want a SaaS solution via a subscription and those that would rather pay most of the costs upfront… It has opened the market for smaller companies to acquire software packages that might have previously been out of budget. Both approaches will have their advantages,” he adds.
The other big shift is the increased use of mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. “People have the devices and they’re more affordable. It’s challenging the software vendors because of people’s expectations of what they can use mobile devices for,” says Hipkin. “It’s a great way of getting more usage out of the software.”
According to Marshall, even clients who use Terrington’s software in hazardous areas are benefiting from improved mobility: “It’s still specialist equipment but there are intrinsically safe tablets available. It’s a game changer because you can take pictures and attach them directly to the inspection record. Before and after photos can be attached, which saves time and helps demonstrate that work has been carried out correctly.”
This enables users to achieve regulatory compliance and would also help them demonstrate due diligence in the event of a problem later on. “A picture’s worth 1,000 words,” she adds.