Asset tracking: Managing your CMMS

By Steve Gahbauer   

Facilities Maintenance Industry MRO Manufacturing CMMS data maintenance manufacturing

More than 95% of the data comes from human interaction.

Managers at all plant levels rely on data to create reports and make decisions.
Photo: Adobe Stock

Maintenance has evolved from simple repair after breakdowns to amazingly predictable strategies. These, however, require the handling of more data to enable better decision-making and more effective work management. And concentrating on the “people asset” is key.

So says Erika Mazza, the CMMS and asset management data specialist at the regional municipality of Durham in Ontario. She understands the business needs of a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), which include identifying improvement opportunities and the optimization of maintenance strategies. She made a case for the importance of people in a presentation at the 2018 Ottawa MainTrain maintenance, reliability and asset management conference, convened by the Plant Engineering and Maintenance Association of Canada (PEMAC). Mazza said positive maintenance actions are triggered by people who understand how their functions are vital for machinery and systems health. In asset management, people usually perform complex activities as part of a bigger picture, and they should always be a priority. A CMMS or enterprise asset management (EAM) system are just tools.

The evolution of computerized maintenance and asset management systems went from CMMS (maintenance management) through ALM/EAM (asset lifecycle management) to APM (asset performance management). Soon smart machines will let us know their condition and automatically request service to comply with their assigned state of good repair.

One benefit of having this new way to predict and manage a plant’s assets is the improvement of people’s work conditions. Although we are entering the era of IIoT and smart machines, most plants use CMMS or EAM, where more than 95% of the data comes from human interaction. A system administrator configures the master data and keeps it up to date; maintenance managers add maintenance plans, asset attributes, bills of material and set the threshold for machine connectivity; and regular users will request service based on their observations of how a machine is performing.


Key roles

A very important trio – planner, stock manager and workforce – complete the workflow process, adding more data and completing the historical equipment record through planning of work orders, managing parts, and recording activity results, failure data and meaningful closing comments. These roles are key to enriching the equipment history and keeping existing data up to date.

This trio of people is the closest to the assets. They identify opportunities for improvements or issues that require attention. These people can update equipment conditions and nameplates, and even help optimize existing PM programs. Managers at all plant levels rely on this data and then create reports to make decisions, adjust priorities and understand asset performance.

Is the data fit for its intended uses in operations and maintenance decision-making?

There are five characteristics of high quality data:

• Data needs to be accurate to be useful. It helps reduce response and decision-making time.

• Completeness is also important. Partial data is only a small part of the picture.

• Consistency is key when entering data. Fields are set to specific characteristics. Those not set to a specific value require a robust set of standard business processes that spell out the format and syntaxes of the data entry.

• The recorded data must be aligned with the corporate strategic goals and should support the evaluation of KPIs. If information is used properly, a plant will excel in competitive markets, strengthen its reputation, maximize its profits and reduce maintenance expenses.

• New and current data is more valuable than old, outdated information. Timeliness enables real-time insights on the performance of equipment and workforce.

Reliability of data is directly tied to its source – and that source is people. But people can be unpredictable, hard to reset or reprogram, they’re easily distracted, highly multifunctional, unique, autonomous and sensitive. These factors make people liable to commit errors that will compromise the integrity of the asset data.

Mazza says errors are the outcome of multiple human and organizational factors. The human factor link is a combination of decision, learning, performance, omission and memory. Avoiding blame but instead focusing on factors contributing to a problem helps to identify practical solutions. One way to do this is to categorize the type of human errors that prompt situations, such as missing failure data on work orders, logging unrealistic labour hours, or even choosing the wrong equipment to track maintenance history. Using root cause analysis and other strategies identify the ultimate cause of the human error, helping to build strategies that prevent the occurrence and recurrence of human errors when data is entered into the CMMS/EAM.

Platform for reliability

The presenter noted it’s possible to influence behaviours and outcomes by ensuring there’s a platform that enables human reliability when deploying a new system, re-launching existing systems or sustaining the operations of CMMS/EAM. Some strategies include efficient ergonomics; practical processes and systems; a variety of training; clear communication; and motivational ideas to engage and promote a sense of ownership.

Mazza cautions these strategies are successful only if they keep in mind people and their idiosyncrasies. Human assets are complex, and the level of interaction with the CMMS/EAM and expectations of it are different. Each strategy should be moulded to their role as much as possible. Communicate how everybody has a piece of the puzzle as part of the big picture, and communicate any changes that impact the type of KPIs and data drivers required to support the plant’s strategic plan. Change management is a key to staying up to date and record relevant, useful data.

People learn, communicate and engage differently. Understanding these characteristics and building the systems and processes with them in mind by gaining a sustainable culture that will endure, evolve and continuously improve. When dealing with human reliability for asset data integrity there are many efforts, like user-centred design and error tolerance design, to make technology better suited to operation by human beings. Any piece of data input into the system must be aligned with the plant’s strategic plan and goals, so the information that comes from people will be useful and meaningful.

Mazza said as technology keeps evolving, so should we. But never forget that technology is nothing without smart people using it to the best of its functionality and harvesting it to get new insights.

Operations view

A CMMS offers multiple core maintenance functionalities that include (but are not limited to):

• Equipment data management

• Preventive maintenance

• Labour

• Work order system

• Scheduling/planning

• Vendor management

• Inventory control

• Purchasing

• Budgeting

• Asset tracking

Steve Gahbauer is an engineer, a Toronto-based business writer and a regular contributing editor. E-mail

This article was published in PLANT Magazine’s May-June 2019 print issue.


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