Pen and Paper System

Technology continues to move at a breakneck pace throughout our modern society. However, one area that's still being transformed is the maintenance department. Although some organizations have made amazing strides in implementing technological tools within their companies, many others are still struggling with pen and paper systems.

Making the significant shift to a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) can be daunting for a company that's always handled maintenance requests in the same comfortable and familiar way. However, the potential efficiencies and cost savings are worth making the transformation.

Components of a Manual Pen and Paper System

Manual maintenance systems are usually a disorganized combination of word-of-mouth, phone calls, emails, and sticky notes. When employees in these organizations discover maintenance issues, they may simply try to "catch" someone in the hall to let them know, send them an email or text, leave a voicemail, or even place a sticky note on their computer screen. Frequent phone calls to put in a work request lead to numerous interruptions for maintenance planners and supervisors, taking away hours of productivity. 

Frequent Interruptions Weaken Productivity

The maintenance manager or supervisor may then collect these disparate requests and enter them into the spreadsheet, planning for the maintenance technicians’ workload for the next day. Perhaps the department starts the day by handing out lists of tasks to the technicians. Once assignments have been made, technicians head out with their toolboxes in hand and begin working their way through the list.

Trips Back and Forth From the Field to the Office Take Time Away From Tasks

During the day, however, a technician may realize that certain jobs are missing parts, require consultation with a manufacturer's manual that is located back at the office, or reveal problems the individual is unable to solve. Perhaps, technicians simply jot these issues down on a clipboard and turn that information back into the office at the end of the workday.

The maintenance supervisor may need to take the results of the day, incorporate other requests that have come in, and schedule and plan the following day.

Hours Spent Manually Assigning Work Orders Skyrocket Costs for Organizations

By moving all of these tasks into an integrated, mobile system, a company can gain a great deal of efficiency within its maintenance department. Additionally, it's important to consider the cost of labor per hour for each company. Consider, if a technician is paid hourly, and one hour a day is spent manually writing down and finding work orders, those numbers add up quickly.

We found that the total economic impact of a CMMS can save organizations upwards of over $400K in just one year. Before using a CMMS, this company spent hundreds of hours annually completing monthly reports on the status of assets across seven facilities. With a CMMS, the time spent collecting asset information for monthly reports took 90 minutes. The time savings led to labor cost savings through increased productivity.

Advantages of a CMMS Over Pen and Paper

Implementing any type of central computerized system promises to deliver efficiencies, but for a maintenance department, a CMMS has the potential to improve the department’s work processes tremendously. A CMMS is designed to streamline work orders, manage inventory, collect maintenance data on assets and labor, and generate analytics and reports that can lead to long-term, smarter business decisions. Here are the areas where a CMMS can make the biggest difference to an organization today compared to a pen and paper system.

Creates a Historic Record of Maintenance Work

One significant advantage of automating maintenance activities is to be able to build a historic record of the maintenance work performed on each piece of equipment. This not only allows the maintenance technician currently working on repair to understand past work that has been completed, but it also allows management to identify which assets are generating the highest maintenance costs. By having this information, companies can make smarter business decisions when it comes to repair or replacement.

Historic maintenance data also allows a company to have a more transparent view into a particular piece of equipment. It may help the maintenance team identify root causes of problems or recurring issues. Instead of misdiagnosing an asset as broken and spending exorbitant amounts on replacement fees, maintenance managers can more accurately diagnose the root cause of equipment failures.

The answer could be in the parts, which are much cheaper to repair than the costs of replacing a perfectly functioning piece of equipment. For example, FMLY, a facilities management company, was able to save hundreds of dollars in savings by using a CMMS to notice micro-leaks in pipes.

In addition, a company can manipulate the data to see the performance of individual technicians, which can provide the basis for personnel correction, employee rewards, or promotion.

Schedules Preventive Maintenance

If certain pieces of equipment require a preventive maintenance program such as filter changes, lubrication, tightening, or cleaning, these activities can be automatically scheduled into a CMMS. Uploading the suggested maintenance schedule from the manufacturer's manual can result in automated work orders being generated on a regular schedule.

If preventive maintenance is based on usage instead of time, a CMMS can track machine hours or data points such as mileage in order to trigger work orders at a particular time as well, eliminating the need for an individual to schedule those recurring maintenance needs. For example, a berry farm in Washington uses a CMMS to automatically trigger work orders when a forklift has been used for over 5,000 hours. Technicians grease the forklifts after reaching that amount of time of use, so that they can continue to operate to their full capacity. 

Opens the Door to Predictive Maintenance

Companies that have shifted away from mostly reactive maintenance into preventive maintenance have the opportunity to begin exploring predictive maintenance technology. Instead of basing maintenance tasks on a time or usage-based schedule, predictive maintenance finds ways for an organization to anticipate potential asset failures before they occur, so that maintenance can be performed.

For example, a refrigeration unit that must stay within certain temperature parameters can be checked daily for potential performance problems. However, if an issue occurs after that daily check, it may still result in product quality issues.

Predictive maintenance, instead, uses a temperature sensor on the refrigeration unit, which can send an automatic alert any time the temperature falls out of range. A technician can then be sent out when the problem presents itself, instead of too frequently when there is no problem or not at the time when the repair would be most beneficial.

Integrates Inventory Information

Repairing major assets may sometimes require specialized tools or replacement parts. In a manual pen and paper system, it can be difficult to access the availability or location of those maintenance, repairs, and operations (MRO) items quickly.

Access Checklists and Manuals Quickly and Easily

Another advantage of a CMMS solution is the ability to upload a manufacturer’s specification sheets, checklists, and instruction manuals, so they can be easily accessed in a work order. Essentially, when a technician arrives at a service location, the individual should be able to scan the identification code of a particular piece of equipment and pull up everything that is needed to make the repair.

Besides checklists and manuals, this may include details from the reporting individual, pictures, and links to the asset’s history. In addition, the technician should have a single place to record the work that was performed, as well as any other issues that were discovered.

A Simple Way to Attach Asset Photos

One simple yet extremely helpful component of a digital system is the ability to take photos and attach images to individual work orders. In some cases, companies may gather work order requests from a wide variety of employees who may not know the particular name or model number of the faulty equipment. Being able to snap a picture on a smartphone and attach the image to a work order gives the maintenance department much more accurate information in terms of the problem that needs attention.

In addition, maintenance technicians working on a particular piece of equipment can also take pictures to illustrate the work that was completed or to clarify a question about another potential problem discovered during the work.

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