How should you choose a software package and carry out a CMMS/EAM project?

How to choose a CMMS Software?
How to choose a CMMS Software?



For the success of the project, the installation of a CMMS system requires a detailed, in-depth preliminary study of requirements, a precise definition of objectives, careful preparation of the participants, and the support of everyone. This type of project must be carried out under the initiative of the management and with the participation of every company employee. These conditions will, on the one hand, allow a relevant choice to be made from all the product offers on the market, and on the other hand, will make it possible to plan the most intelligent and efficient way of organising the system.

It is interesting to look at the statistics from a survey of students who did their work experience placement in the field of maintenance or who worked as an apprentice in a company. Around 20% of them chose as the subject of their report ‘selection and installation of a CMMS tool in our company’. After six months of consultation and sometimes difficult discussions between the various departments, we find that the main problem with CMMS is not a technical problem, but one that requires a change of culture that must be approved by all departments and managers in the company: purchasing, methods, manufacture, maintenance, new projects, and accounts. Most of these work experience reports conclude that failure is almost inevitable unless a specific person is appointed to take responsibility for a CMMS project, even if the specification was clearly defined and the CMMS software was purchased and installed. What also can happen is that the tool is no longer used as soon as the student leaves, even though it appeared to be well accepted and was deemed to be performing satisfactorily.

The decision to invest in a CMMS tool calls for the habits of company departments to be re-examined when, for historical reasons, they use different coding systems for the same piece of equipment according to their particular field (purchasing, methods, new projects, maintenance, or operations). The CMMS product offer and market are moving towards the use of nomadic technologies, which will lead to another questioning of the habits that were developed since the first installation.

It is always difficult for a decision-maker to choose something that is both long-lasting and suitable for the company. Many companies that decided to invest in a particular product ten years ago are now changing their strategies to adopt software packages that will eventually become de facto standards—a situation that some people find regrettable, comparing it to conventional office software.

What Is a CMMS?

A CMMS is part of the information, management and control system for the maintenance function, whose purpose is to maintain facilities and buildings in working order so that they are capable at all times of meeting their design specifications in an efficient and economical manner. The computerised management tool is thus an aid to tracking, archiving, analysing, and decision-making.

Remaining in a general context, the CMMS can therefore be a decision-making tool that helps to:

  • Control costs for the facilities to be maintained
  • Ensure the long-term durability of assets
  • Optimise technical and human maintenance resources
  • Manage the preparation of servicing operations, their scheduling and costs
  • Optimise management of the stock of spare parts in order to reduce the value of this stock whilst maintaining satisfactory availability of facilities
  • Perform an inventory of technical facilities and create documentation for them
  • Increase the reliability of facilities by analysing formalised collected feedback, by deciding on and presenting reasoned plans of action.

Defining the True Requirements

As the publishers of CMMS software have shown, regular improvements are made in the ergonomics of display modules, their capabilities and power (faster processing speed, increasingly powerful databases compatible with different data standards), and in the wide variety of choices for data summary presentations for use by decision-makers (from a pie chart giving the annual costs of a given facility to the optional decision-making tool).

The computer processors that run CMMS applications are constantly improving; they have gone from processing speeds of a few tens of MHz to processors operating at over 3 GHz. Thanks to developments in computer architecture, systems are available in the form of a standalone workstation, an Intranet (or Extranet) network, or a client-server network. This means that there is a product to cover practically any type of requirement. The maintenance department looking for a system is therefore spoilt for choice, but will often need to consult the company’s information systems department and its information systems policy.

The first consideration to be borne in mind by those seeking to acquire a CMMS is that the tool will need to be used in an ergonomic fashion, just like a telephone or a screwdriver, without requiring any computer skills. It is of great value, however, to arrange for the information systems department to provide support for any powerful software, because knowledge of databases will be useful. The key to obtaining the right CMMS package is first to define the true user requirements and to buy only the functions that are of use to the company.

An Important Step: Specifying What Is Needed

A specification must be drawn up using value analysis and functional analysis techniques (for the functional specification). This defines the requirements in terms of useful functions, not in terms of functions already defined.

As L. D. Miles, the founder of value analysis after the Second World War remarked, “If I cannot obtain a product, I must obtain the functions of the product.” This can be summed up by substituting the sentences written by M. Delafolie in his book on value analysis: “What CMMS functions should I buy?” rather than “What CMMS software should I buy?”

This has become common practice in design or re-design studies for industrial products and services, and is perfectly suited to the situation of defining a CMMS specification.

Experience has shown that, if these precautions are not taken, many CMMS projects end up lying forgotten in the bottom drawer because they did not satisfy user requirements.

As Jean-Claude Francastel said at the 15th CMMS panorama, the most important pieces of advice are:

  • State your objectives clearly: a CMMS—What for? For whom? What is the expected result?
  • Express the need in terms of strictly necessary functions. Eliminate anything that is not necessary.
  • Work in a multidisciplinary group to perform a formal analysis of requirements and to write a functional specification subject to a consensus among all potential users.
  • Do not underestimate the preliminary resources to be implemented before the final decision.
  • Any errors or omissions during the writing of the specification are practically irretrievable once the product has been purchased. They result in additional costs and delays in order to apply corrections or to define new software functionality.
  • Ask preselected suppliers to give references: customers using their CMMS applications. Do not hesitate to visit sites where these software packages are in operation to find out how their users rate them.
  • Find out how long the product will last and the supplier’s ability to provide upgrades over time. For example, are they selling Version 1.1 or Version 9.1?
  • Check the supplier’s ability to provide maintenance and assistance.
  • Plan a training period for all personnel (from shop floor workers to the company’s top technical manager).
  • Check how well the organisation and the software suit each other. If the organisation is sufficiently formalised, the software should be able to adapt. If, in addition, there is already a CMMS, a configurable software package should be chosen. Finally, if the organisation is not very formalised, it will be possible to exploit the structuring effect of the software package.
  • The implementation of a CMMS requires a change in company culture involving a long-term effort, and this must constitute a lasting strategic policy of the company. The requirements for setting up a CMMS are similar to those required for the implementation of a new maintenance policy such as Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)® or MBF (similar to RCM, reliability-centred maintenance).
  • If possible, choose a project leader who is independent of the production and maintenance departments, who can ensure the durability of the CMMS application and who will be an advocate of CMMS—the ‘CMMS Leader’.

Changing Habits

One of the most difficult tasks is to get rid of old habits. User scepticism is a very common obstacle; they often say, “We’ve been doing it our way for ten years and we don’t see any reason to change our methods now.”

The experience of companies that have chosen a CMMS system is characterised by two very different attitudes:

a) When companies (small ones) do not have any in-house expertise in the field, in most cases the decision-makers made a subjective choice according to the selling points and offers put forward by the CMMS sales representative. This entails major risks: the product can only partially fulfil the company’s needs. It might be expensive to operate and maintain. Production delays caused by software malfunctions can end up damaging the company’s image and lead to loss of market share.

b) When the company has in-house resources or uses subcontractors to draw up the functional specification, they are partially protected from poor choices not suiting their functional requirements. The advantage of this method, which costs a lot of time and money during the specification phase, is that it can procure many responses to an invitation to tender based on the customer’s functional specification. The final purchase decision is often made by an ad hoc committee, and the risk of subsequent problems is minimised thanks to the multidisciplinary evaluation performed.

The use of word processing software has become commonplace in every business sector in spite of some initial reluctance at the prospect of using a screen, a keyboard and a mouse. The introduction of a CMMS tool in companies will follow a similar path.

Employees must be prepared for this gradual change in mindset, short-term objectives must be set, and employees must be kept informed regularly about the increased productivity obtained thanks to the CMMS tool. It is essential that the people who feed data into the CMMS software are able to see the results and know that the efforts they have been asked to make are strategic for the company.
This is the price of ensuring the success of all the effort made by all categories of personnel. The best proof of a well set-up CMMS comes when the information system breaks down and it is no longer possible to access the operating functions of the equipment of a manufacturing facility. All employees are then without their asset management tool, and operations can be paralysed for several hours.

A CMMS package satisfying all the requirements of a company should be just as essential as the telephone or the maintenance technician’s toolbox.

CMMS user satisfaction survey

First observation: the level of user satisfaction and return on investment varies greatly. Most of those surveyed consider that major or minor benefits were obtained through the use of the CMMS. However, between 20% and 40% of those interviewed were unable to determine whether the installation of the CMMS had brought any improvements. 20% of the answers revealed that the CMMS system had been incorrectly sized.

The answers show that the success of a CMMS installation depends on the involvement of management, the correct choice of CMMS software, and effective training of personnel.

The answers indicated that those considering replacing or upgrading their CMMS place more importance on the right choice of CMMS software and do not consider training in use of the software to be a major factor of success.

Survey Summary Tables

Table I: Benefits obtained with a CMMS


Benefits obtained with the CMMSVery significant
No answer
Reduced labour9,2%37,5%31%11.5%
Reduced material costs11,5%43,7%20,7%13,8%
Increased availability21,8%33,3%25,3%9,2%
Increased reliability21,8%35,6%24,1%8%
Improved cost control44,8%26,4%16,1%2,3%
Improved feedback46,6%18,4%23%2,3%
Improved maintenance scheduling32,2%36,8%18,4%2,3%
Improved actual maintenance time37,9%32,2%16,1%2,3%
Improved management of spare parts24,1%37,9%23%4,6%

Table II: The two most important factors for successful CMMS implementation


Factor% naming this factor as most important% naming this factor as second most important% naming this factor as first or second most important
Involvement of management20%26%46%
Choosing the right CMMS software23%12%35%
Effective training9%16%25%
Return on investment14%10%24%
Allocated budget5%14%19%
Culture change supported by management11%8%19%
Efficient management of the project group9%10%19%
Technical support from software supplier9%4%13%

Table III: Main reasons for changing or acquiring CMMS software


To increase maintenance performance25%
To increase functionality18,4%
To integrate maintenance with other company functions10,3%
Don’t know9,2%
The supplier no longer provides after-sales service for the old CMMS package2,3%
To comply with internal company standards2,2%

Main authors: Jean-Claude Francastel, Gilles Zwingelstein, Francis Vasse

© AFIM 2007

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