Most organizations spend a large amount of money to implement a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). This is an investment that should be leveraged for maximum return. However, in most CMMS implementations, only one or a handful of superusers are trained in the real details of the CMMS. These superusers are then expected to provide on-the-job training to the remainder of the team. But the superusers wind up too busy being data entry clerks to actually train anyone else.
In this article, we'll make the case for training your entire maintenance team as CMMS superusers. By following this path, companies can gain a competitive advantage through better quality data and organizational improvement.
The Value of a Well-Implemented and Utilized CMMS
First and foremost, it will provide you with better quality data output. Why is quality data output important? Because with high-quality CMMS data, an organization can:
- Identify and address “bad actors.”
- Determine and quantify failure modes in equipment.
- Have solid financial data around equipment failures to cost-justify repair/refurbish/replace decisions for assets.
- Develop an asset management strategy that contains detailed asset condition information.
The Pitfalls of Insufficient Training
A common roadblock for performing a proper reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) analysis, or even determining equipment criticality, is lack of good work order data. And a lack of good work order data usually results from not having the maintenance team professionally trained and disciplined in CMMS use.
Training takes time, and pulling maintenance technicians, planners, schedulers, and MRO storeroom personnel offline to learn a new software application can seem “non-value added” to some leaders and managers. I’ve even heard maintenance and production managers say, “I don’t want the maintenance guys spending their time in front of a computer!”
Those managers somehow do not see the value in having valid, comprehensive maintenance and failure information captured in a database for future use. The previous example of needing data to input into an RCM analysis disproves that viewpoint. Not that the RCM analysis can't be done without the data. In fact, RCM analysts sometimes create workarounds that involve mining the tribal knowledge of the team. It gets results, just not as accurate.
For organizations that want to develop a reliability strategy, ensure the right maintenance is being done, and not waste resources, CMMS data is a competitive advantage. It gives insight into equipment failure modes and frequencies that will reveal the areas in need of the most attention, and even what strategies might be used to prevent the problems. Having your team trained to use the CMMS system properly can get you that data and bring you that competitive advantage.
Unfortunately, in most CMMS implementations, there is no formal training plan to ensure that training objectives are met. Also, there is no follow-up or onboarding training plan created. This results in a maintenance team that only knows the rudimentary uses of the CMMS, which turns it into a work order management system from which you can get, at best, what work orders were done on an asset, how many labor hours were expended, and in some cases, what parts were used.
Further, no failure mode is recorded. And corrective action is usually noted in a hurried manner such as “fixed” or “replaced bearing” without any amplifying information or details. When a CMMS is simply used to assign and denote the completion of work orders like this, vital asset information is lost.
In a bearing replacement, for example, detailed inspections should be made regarding the bearing fits on the shaft and in the bore. These should be recorded and kept as part of the work order data. The “as found” and “as left” shaft alignment data should also be recorded, while the post-alignment test and vibration readings should be part of the equipment history file. These are all quality assurance steps that not only ensure good workmanship, but provide a work history that can be consulted if unusual failures occur.
You can save a lot of time investigating and troubleshooting if you know exactly how previous repairs were accomplished, so efforts can be focused on other root causes. Conversely, it can reveal if you were using an outdated shaft fit specification because you changed bearing suppliers, which would give you a quick win in a simple update to your work procedure.
What Training Does the Maintenance Team Need to Properly Utilize a CMMS?
A CMMS, when correctly implemented, is a powerful reliability tool. A better way of training staff to best utilize this tool then is to train the entire maintenance team—technicians, planners, schedulers, MRO storeroom staff—to almost a superuser level.
When you have technicians who can update failure modes as they find them, that can save a huge amount of administrative work for the single or handful of CMMS superusers on your team. Usually a superuser is either a trusted team member, planner, scheduler, supervisor, or someone in the corporate office. As previously mentioned, CMMS superusers normally have a lot of other responsibilities and don’t have the time it takes to comprehensively train a maintenance technician in proper CMMS utilization.
Having an entire team that can divide and conquer in regards to maintaining and continuously improving asset data in your CMMS can provide a competitive advantage in managing assets.
What training does the maintenance team need to be able to properly utilize the CMMS? To quote Stephen Covey: “Begin with the end in mind.” What are you looking to get out of your CMMS? If it’s asset intelligence that can lead to improving the maintenance program for each machine in your care, that means:
- Detailed data on every preventive maintenance task, repair, component replacement, and failure.
- Being able to utilize attachments and forms.
- Being able to enter, or if necessary, add failure modes and corrective actions into the dropdown menus.
- Detailed data on procedures used, specifications, tolerances, torque patterns, and post-work testing for quality assurance.
This requires much more training and knowledge than simply logging in, posting hours to a job, and closing it, though those are also needed skills.
Every person on the maintenance team should be able to run a job through the CMMS from inception to inspection. There are certain functions you do not want every technician to have, like the authority to create a work order from a work request/notification, or the ability to create and delete assets. But they should be able to raise a work order from scratch if required, or to use an express or emergency work order for reactive work.
Each team member should also understand the basic planning function, so they can “plan on the fly” in emergency situations to ensure that labor hours and spares get charged to the job properly. The goal should be to have as many people as possible entering as much of the information needed as possible.
How to Secure Team Buy-In
How do we get the maintenance technicians, planners, schedulers, and supervisors interested in this training? After all, we want them to be engaged and supportive of the effort. They need to be shown the ways that the data will be used to make their job better and easier in the long term. Do not try to sell them a quick fix because this is a culture change. It must be supported by top management, and you must communicate about it frequently. How frequently should you communicate about the effort? Well, if you think you are overdoing it by 300%, it’s probably about right.
What should you be communicating about? There are a lot of topics to be sure, but what will get the team on your side? They will certainly be reluctant to take on training that is sure to give them more work, so significant persuasion is required. You must have a vision that will show them how these efforts will pay off for them. You must answer the question from the team: “What’s in it for me?”
The answer to that comes in several statistics. First is the output of an RCM analysis. The average output of an RCM analysis tends to follow the 30/30/30/10 rule, which proposes that:
- 30% of preventive maintenance tasks are unnecessary and can be eliminated.
- 30% of preventive maintenance tasks are valid but lack sufficient detail.
- 30% of preventive maintenance tasks are valid and procedures are adequate.
- 10% of preventive maintenance tasks can be replaced with condition monitoring.
This can result in a 40% reduction in preventive maintenance workload, which is much easier to do with valid, reliable CMMS data. This point should be emphasized to the team. Another area to highlight is that the reduction in preventive maintenance workload will not result in reduction in labor force, but in being redirected to improvement projects and defect elimination programs.
Once you have your team of superusers trained and are getting good data out of your CMMS system, then you should turn your attention to sustaining the process. Document your CMMS procedures using cheat sheets, short videos, and standard work instructions to build an onboarding training plan. This way new hire technicians can get up to speed on the standards of using the CMMS quickly and efficiently. Get feedback on the training process and continuously improve it. Make it a living program that will continue to give you great data to work with to improve your team performance.
A CMMS is a substantial investment that can have equally substantial returns if utilized effectively. The key to effective utilization is proper training for the people who have their hands on the system doing data entry the most. Ensuring that all hands-on users receive extensive, formal training is the key to getting the quality data the organization needs for decision support and organizational improvement. Considering the price usually paid for a CMMS, the investment in training is a good one when the returns can be as great as elimination of 40% of the preventive maintenance workload and repurposing of those labor hours to system improvements. Leverage your training to unleash those gains.