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Keeping Up, Running & Profitable with CMMSs

The information technology behind today's computerized maintenance management systems (CMMSs) is truly beyond after-the-fact score keeping. Properly deployed CMMSs make information actionable for better maintenance decisions in real-time.

There are options when production equipment breaks down. You can replace what's broken on the machine. You can divert production to another machine or another line, if possible. You can run at reduced capacity. At worse, you can keep your other equipment assets running, producing work-in-process (WIP) inventory.

Equipment uptime is vital. "Obviously the more productive my equipment, the higher the yield is on the product, the more money I'm making," says Dave Loesch, managing director of YieldPro Consulting Group (Atlanta, GA).

And WIP inventory is becoming unacceptable. Notes Dave Fisk, manager of Global Accounts for PSDI (Bedford, MA), "A lot of automotive Tier 1 plants, more so the Tier 2 plants, are under a lot of pressure from the OEMs to work in a truly just-in-time (JIT) environment, to maximize uptimes, and to minimize costs. These suppliers can lose million-dollar contracts over a couple of cents, even fractions of a cent, per part."

Enter computerized maintenance management systems (CMMSs). CMMSs helps keep everything up and running as inexpensively as possible where downtime, even poorly operating equipment, is reflected directly in product costs. Here are some points to consider in choosing such systems.

Not All CMMSs Are Created Equal

While changeover activities, such as shutting down and reconfiguring equipment, are mostly work order-related activities typically performed by maintenance, there is the issue of scale. Sometimes entire plants need to be reconfigured, as in the case of automotive model year changeovers. "The longer my changeover takes, the less product I make; the less product through production, the less yield I have," explains Loesch. "A good maintenance vendor will understand the repetitive environment and will have mechanisms in the CMMSs to handle these changeovers."

These mechanisms include functionality to handle entire production line changeovers, as opposed to managing small sets of routine maintenance activities. For example:

  • Can the system track the changeover (when it started and stopped)?
  • What labor, equipment, and tooling requirements are there?
  • What safety-related tasks must be done throughout the production line (before and after)?

Not Just a Pretty Face

How many screens does it take to generate a maintenance work order and to access the supporting maintenance information, such as equipment specifications, wiring diagrams, up- and downstream equipment, and safety issues?

Ease-of-use issues brings up a funny thing that happened during the TQM craze: It begot the acronym TPM (Total Plant Maintenance). Among other things, TPM emphasizes operator involvement, particularly accountability for the proper and smooth functioning of the production equipment the operator runs. This approach has a variety of benefits: front-line operators acting as on-the-spot maintenance staff, fewer specialized maintenance people and increased equipment reliability at lower labor costs, and total plant involvement in the maintenance effort.

But there are consequences. Call it what you will, but corporate down-sizing typically makes maintenance staffs lean, sometimes anemic. Maintenance people become more multi-skilled, multicrafted. Being "jacks of all trades" coupled with JIT production strategies makes these people very, very busy. And now everybody in the plant, especially machine operators, are clamoring for quick access to detailed maintenance-related information.

The last thing these people need is to fight with yet another computer system to get the necessary information to get their jobs done, which is often to keep the computer-based production equipment running.

Until recently, conventional CMMSs were relatively complicated: Too often you'd need at least four programs and five screens to record the details of a maintenance job. Entering a work order request was one program, dispatching it was another, issuing parts for the work order required a third program, and charging labor occurred in a fourth. You get the picture.

The heck with that. "Ease of use is paramount," says Fisk. "And so is the flexibility to bend the system to do what you want and to present the information in the way that the plant floor needs. If they can't use the CMMSs or don't want to use it, it's just not going to work."

Happily, driving a CMMS with a mouse, for example, goes well with the trends of empowerment and downsizing. It's not just Windows for Windows sake; the graphical user interface (GUI) and multitasking actually serve the business purpose of letting the people who are maintaining your plants enter data, get data, actively participate in maintenance management, and truly understand what they are doing and what they are supposed to do. Moreover, having the ability to pull the failure records of all the motor drives in the factory, for example, and graphically display their operational and failure trends, leads to dynamic and predictive maintenance management.

CMMSs as A Window to Information

But ease-of-use is more than pretty screens and dialog boxes, which most CMMSs have now anyway by using a Windows or Windows-like GUI. Consider what's happening on the plant floor. More than ever, plants have a far more diverse range of sophisticated and dangerous equipment, such as high-speed robots, automated assembly equipment, automated forges, and presses. Says Rudie Roy, PSDI's Industry marketing manager, "No longer do you have people working in an area for decades, who know that equipment almost instinctively. Nor can you rely on people knowing the safety aspects of that equipment." So remember to evaluate the type of information you get from the CMMSs. For example, a CMMSs that provides safety-related information is invaluable. And both the CMMSs and the equipment vendors are happy to comply; safety-related information, such as lockout/tagout and environmental hazards, relates directly to liability issues.

Current CMMSs are providing other types of information, as well. For example, E-commerce capabilities let maintenance people view vendor equipment and spare parts specifications over the Internet, see what is in stock, place the order, initiate online payments—and in the process, keep maintenance inventories down. This is why PSDI acquired the Applied Resource Management Group's M|Net (London, Ontario) last February. Through M|Net, buyers, distributors, and manufacturers can access information over the Internet about the status of products in the supply chain, including demand and current inventory levels. The goal is to provide an end-to-end electronic marketplace for procuring maintenance repair operations goods and services. Back in February, there were already more than 400 suppliers online.

Similarly, PSDI Maximo users have electronic access to maintenance and reliability benchmarking data from HSB Reliability Technologies (Alexandria, VA), a maintenance engineering consulting company. Users can automatically load preventive maintenance tasks directly into their Maximo maintenance management systems. "This one-click access to HSB's exclusive reliability centered maintenance information is integral to achieving optimal equipment performance and reducing the system's implementation time," says Roy.

Integrating to ERP

"A CMMs is becoming more than an execution-type system, being elevated to the status of an enterprise asset management system," says Steve Clouther, vice president at Automation Research Corp. (Dedham, MA). These systems connote looking beyond individual equipment, tools, and maintenance procedures and "trying to understand where they fit into the big picture, and how predictive and preventive maintenance apply to what's happening in the plant."

Sometimes the issue is not that a machine is failing, but that it is running out of spec during the production run. Such poor performance can lead to a fair amount of time correcting a problem that would not have occurred in the first place if proper maintenance was performed on the equipment and equipment utilization was being tracked. Out-of-spec production, obviously, affects the enterprise. So, a "huge" trend, according to Clouther, is to integrate maintenance systems to enterprise resource planning (ERP) and other business systems. This creates "synergy." For instance, the integration lets maintenance users transfer spare part transactions and update work orders with part data and costs contained in the ERP inventory module. Or equipment usage data, which is critical for the preventive maintenance (PM) schedules generated by the CMMSs, can be automatically updated using the equipment run times in the ERP shop floor control module.

Integrating CMMSs to ERP also eliminates the need for individual and redundant systems. For example, the ERP accounts receivable and accounts payable modules can also manage the purchase of maintenance spare parts. Management can now get a complete view of expenses, without the need for monthly file updates and other transfers from disparateinformation systems. Likewise, a single personnel (human resource) database file that applies to everyone across the entire enterprise can contain both conventional personnel information as well as information about who is qualified to work on what type of equipment and whether they are available.

Some ERP systems include maintenance functionality, but you may want to keep that functionality separate from ERP. Why? It all boils down to choice. You can implement a single ERP system, or you can integrate the "best-of-breed" in maintenance functionality to the "best-of-breed" in other business applications, such as finance, human resources, and production control.

CMMSs/ERP integration is becoming easier as time goes by. PSDI, for example, has application programming interfaces to integrate its Maximo to the ERP systems from SAP, PeopleSoft, and Oracle. PSDI has so much experience doing this that it offers a fixed-price contract for this integration effort.

Integrating CMMSs to ERP may wind up being of little use, not that the ERP vendors will admit it. In the next few years, count on advanced planning and scheduling (APS) routines to replace the conventional material requirements planning engines found in classical ERP systems. This change is because of the industry's realization that the infinite scheduling model just doesn't cut it anymore [see Automotive Manufacturing and ProductionMay 1998].

Here's what's happening. Maximizing the throughput of your production assets requires planning and scheduling all the constraints in your manufacturing environment. One of these constraints is equipment capacity. And one of the variables defining equipment capacity, which happens to be an input to APS-based production planning and manufacturing scheduling systems, is equipment maintenance.

Unfortunately, current ERP systems, even the ones with "integrated" maintenance systems, are fairly short-sighted. They are very good at accounting and inventory control, but none, says Loesch, has the equipment downtime information from the CMMS to feed the ERP-based schedules. "The real issue for an automobile manufacturer, or any discrete job shop environment, is whether the maintenance system provides capacity input to the finite scheduler so that you can really optimize resources and assets." That input can include the labor, material, time, and cost constraints regarding both routine PM-related equipment downtime and extensive emergency repairs.

Real Benefits

Is it all worth it? You bet. Maintenance costs account for an average of 8% of a company's revenues, usually somewhere between 1% to 10%. The average manufacturing cost of goods sold is 28% direct maintenance cost. Downtime costs are typically four to five times greater than maintenance costs. Thus, on average, a 10% improvement in maintenance costs results in 36% increase in profitability.

At the national level, between $300 billion and $500 billion per year is spent in manufacturing on maintenance.

You can buy a lot of production capacity—and cars—with that. 

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Don't Forget Services

"There's been a shift upwards toward providing more maintenance management services," says Steve Clouther, vice president at Automation Research Corp. (Dedham, MA). The cynical view is that vendors can realize more revenues from services than from software licenses. But, says Clouther, the shift really "goes hand-in-hand with the higher-level focus on enterprise asset management, as opposed to just providing shrink-wrapped computerized maintenance management with a maintenance contract."

As an example, a project manager for Datastream Systems, Inc. (Greenville, SC) guides maintenance professions through these steps when implementing a CMMS:

1. Site assessment, baseline evaluation, software selection, and hardware assessment

2. Conduct implementation planning process

3. Provide client/server integration services

4. Evaluate equipment and collect data

5. Assess inventory and stockroom

6. Develop equipment database

7. Develop preventive maintenance plan

8. Review preventive maintenance plan

9. Provide system start-up training

10. Conduct implementation review.

If you're going to integrate the CMMSs to ERP and other control systems, add some heavy-duty systems integration services, such as defining database structures and creating data tables, data conversion, and software customizations in terms of reports, features/functionality, and interfaces.