For process operators looking to get to grips with maintenance, deploying a software solution to help is an obvious choice. What may be less obvious to the uninitiated is whether a Computerised Maintenance Management System (CMMS) is the right approach or whether they need an Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) system. So what’s the difference?
Historically, CMMS and EAM systems emerged via different routes, says Jon Moody, chief product officer with SSG Insight. But he questions whether the traditional distinctions still hold true: “Historically you had specialist systems for different parts of the business, so you had a ring-fenced CMMS, which was appropriate for a certain size of business.
“But then when you move into the more enterprise arena where a business might use something like SAP or IBM and already have ingrained relationships with providers, it made sense for them to expand out to include asset management and maintenance to enhance general availability. These were known as EAM systems.”
If you look from a pure product point of view I would suggest that CMMS systems are blurring the lines in terms of capability
Jon Moody, chief product officer, SSG Insight
“If we look at the landscape now it may still be true that many enterprises want to leverage the investments they’ve already made in those sort of relationships. But if you look from a pure product point of view I would suggest that CMMS systems are blurring the lines in terms of capability. So if you look at the features side by side there’s less of a distinction. It comes down more to relationships and how each organisation’s ecosystem is structured from a technological point of view.”
He adds that solutions that are based around SSG’s Agility software can include both the ends of the spectrum: “We certainly work with organisations at an enterprise level where we’re providing the majority of functionality that would be classed as EAM functionality. Conversely, we’ll work with organisations at a different level where we’ll provide more traditional, core computerised maintenance management.”
John Roberts [pictured below], director of Idhammar Systems, goes a step further, believing that the functionality of today’s top-end CMMS renders the distinction between these as EAM capabilities pretty meaningless: “The term EAM system is ultimately a marketing concept, a way to differentiate the top-level, rich-in-functionality CMMS on the market from those that offer just the basics to manage equipment maintenance.
“At Idhammar Systems, we have always provided that top level of total asset management functionality, but true to our maintenance roots, we chose to define our solution as a CMMS... In reality, there is no difference between a high-spec CMMS like Idhammar MMS and the leading EAM systems.”
He adds that the crucial thing is to be able to tailor the functionality – and hence the cost – of any solution to match the requirements of different user organisations: “The clever bit is that the Idhammar MMS is modular, so if users are looking for basic maintenance management functionality, they can benefit from a best-ofbreed solution without paying EAM prices.”
So what sort of functions can users expect from today’s CMMS that might have been beyond their capabilities in the past?
“The difference between today’s CMMS and legacy offerings is the requirement/expectation for mobile apps, KPI scoreboard/dashboards, cloud deployment (SaaS) and data interoperability between the CMMS and other business systems, including ERP, BMS, HR and finance systems,” says Shawn Ackermann, general manager of Elecosoft Southampton, which developed the ShireSystem CMMS.
But he warns that deploying CMMS will not solve a company’s maintenance issues by itself. It will only deliver if it is fed with accurate data from across the operation. “Making data-driven decisions is key to any organisations which are in control of their maintenance.
The term EAM system is ultimately a marketing concept, a way to differentiate the top-level, rich-in-functionality CMMS on the market from those that offer just the basics to manage equipment maintenance
John Roberts, director of Idhammar Systems,
Having a maintenance strategy in place before an actual breakdown occurs will, in most cases, predict a failure pattern or allow planned downtime for maintenance and replacement to be carried out. “Having recorded data/parts history can also aid in the reduction of the mean time to failure (MTTF) and mean time to repair (MTTR). Cost saving via the implementation of planned preventative maintenance is a manager’s main aim when constructing yearly budgets.”
While the quantifiable benefits of deploying a CMMS will vary between users, Ackermann says that a realistic goal in most instances is to achieve a split of 75% planned work versus 25% unplanned maintenance such as breakdowns. “When starting with a new CMMS, you would need at least a month’s data to start working towards increasing your split or controlling your maintenance activities,” he says.
Maintenance as a gain
For understandable reasons, maintenance has traditionally been viewed by most organisations as a cost centre. However, Moody believes that the benefits available with a CMMS go beyond simple cost reduction and mean that maintenance activities can be thought of as delivering extra value: “Maintenance is an enabler of efficiency and the more efficient you become the more value you can deliver.”
For instance, in addition to preventing breakdowns, a CMMS will ensure that the right tools, skills and spares are available so that no time is wasted during scheduled shutdowns. Reduced stockholding for spares is another knock-on benefit.
Moody also argues that the benefits often increase over time: “You can start to look at trends and become more predictive in all aspects of maintenance. Especially with the advent of the Internet of Things [IoT] and Industry 4.0, more and more equipment can self-diagnose and tell managers when things will need to be serviced so they can deploy the right engineers.”
In addition to communicating with the assets being monitored, a CMMS ideally needs to interface with a range of other business systems – notably planning – in order to optimise the benefits, as Ackermann explains: “ShireSystem has seen a rise in the process industry for the need of a CMMS that will help facilitate production and maintenance planners plan downtime so that maintenance engineers can get access to machinery when scheduled. A production plan look ahead should give you enough visibility to all departments for planning of maintenance manpower, spares, contractor, tools etc.”
When starting with a new CMMS, you would need at least a month’s data to start working towards increasing your split or controlling your maintenance activities
Shawn Ackermann, general manager, Elecosoft Southampton
Similarly, Idhammar has been working to introduce world class manufacturing (WCM) elements into its CMMS, according to Roberts: “Recent development has included main pillars of WCM such as: focused improvement, project management, personnel training records, risk assessment, root cause analysis, financial cost control, safety management, environmental protection, quality management, equipment downtime and more.”
As well as the increased functionality within CMMS, two-way communication with a range of other systems can help create a virtuous circle of efficiency improvements in maintenance and beyond.
For example, as well as its CMMS systems, Idhammar also offers software focusing on the other key performance indicator, overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).
OEE is essentially a measure of productivity and Roberts explains how the two systems support one another: “The OEE and CMMS systems can work together to ensure optimum efficiencies and quality operations… For example, if the right structure is in place, an OEE can pick up signals of any system downtime and records the causes of faults whilst the CMMS system automatically starts a workflow to address the situation that has arisen, helping to reduce downtime and tackle the issue. Additionally, any information on production lines and remedial actions and solutions will be stored in a CMMS, making it an invaluable tool for manufacturers.”
Looking ahead, the current interest in Industry 4.0 technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning promises that the potential efficiency rewards of deploying a CMMS will only grow in future, according to Moody: “It’s a case of software starting to understand patterns and offering that back to the customer on a personised level, giving them ways to make better business decisions.”