What Is a CMMS?

This article dives deep into the basics of computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS). You'll learn about what a CMMS is, what it does, and how its benefits can best be harnessed. Already in the know? Schedule a demo to see UpKeep's preventive maintenance solution first hand.

The CMMS Buyer's Guide

Selecting a CMMS for your team can be overwhelming. The goal of this Buyer's Guide is to help you navigate the process.
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The Essential CMMS Implementation Guide

Most organizations go through the same challenges when implementing a CMMS. In this guide, we will go through common pitfalls maintenance teams face and how to overcome them.
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What Should You Look for in a CMMS?

When it's time to select your CMMS, be sure to consider fit within your business, resources required, and the system's growth potential.

What Is CMMS Software & What Does it do?

A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), also referred to as maintenance management software or asset management software, is software that stores data about maintenance operations, such as maintenance performed on equipment, machinery, and other assets. CMMS software improves asset management by eliminating the need for manual spreadsheets and consolidating all maintenance team activities in one place.

With a CMMS system, teams can easily record and organize asset data, plan preventive maintenance tasks, create work orders, and generate reports. Modern systems even operate on multiple platforms, from desktop PCs to handheld tablets and smartphones, making them a powerful way to streamline maintenance processes.

How a CMMS Works

At a high level, computerized maintenance management software is a data-driven solution, and the work order feeds that data. When an order is closed, the data is processed by the system. Work orders contain key asset maintenance data including parts and costs, wrench time, asset repaired, and time to complete. This data is then processed into reports used by maintenance managers and other departmental heads to make data-driven decisions.

Any time a work request is submitted, maintenance teams use a CMMS to create an order. Additionally, recurring orders may be created to handle preventive maintenance and inspections. Some systems can even automatically generate orders based on data from sensors. After the order is completed by a technician, it’s closed out and the data is entered into the system, making it available for reports and planning.

A mobile CMMS can streamline this entire maintenance process by allowing technicians to access and update work order information on site, saving valuable labor hours by keeping travel times to a minimum. Assuming data is entered into the system consistently, processes like maintenance planning, scheduling, root cause analysis, and so forth are expedited by making information easily accessible.

  1. A work order is created and assigned to a technician and asset.

  2. A technician updates the work order with new data (parts used, costs, time spent, meter readings, etc.) as they complete the work order.

  3. The CMMS software processes the data and updates the asset record.

  4. As the data is surfaced, management runs reports that reveal labor-intensive assets, technician productivity, and costs.

4 Key CMMS Features

CMMS software stores data about maintenance performed on equipment, machinery, and other assets. These are just a handful of CMMS features. To see other features that are in demand, visit UpKeep’s feature page.

Work Order Management

The work order is at the core of any CMMS software. Whether it's an order for scheduled maintenance, an inspection, or breakdown repair, the maintenance manager can quickly assign work orders to technicians or teams. The technicians who have accounts will get notified when an order is assigned to them. You can also add locations, assets, parts, wrench time, costs, and other data to orders. Completed orders feed data to the CMMS for future reporting and analysis.

Work Requests

The work request gives operators, technicians, janitors, staff, and anyone else the ability to notify maintenance management about an issue. Anyone can access an online work request portal and create work requests from their mobile device. It’s as easy as taking a picture of the issue, creating a description, identifying a location or asset, and clicking submit. Management is then notified by email and push notification about the request.

Enterprise Asset Management

A CMMS tracks the entire lifecycle of an asset—from the original purchase date until it gets decommissioned. It also holds a preventive maintenance schedule and shows a history of work orders performed on a particular asset. Some solutions let you track downtime and depreciation. This data allows enterprise asset management (EAM) teams to align with accounting and operations on whether an asset should be saved or sold.

Mobile App

Only recently did a mobile solutions become a popular feature among CMMS providers. Before this was offered, technicians performed double data entry. That is, they wrote information related to work orders on paper and, after completing the order, entered it into the software on a desktop. The inability to log data onsite crippled productivity with an extra step. Before mobile apps, there were web versions of solutions that technicians could access on their phone but they left much to be desired.

Benefits of Using a CMMS

A CMMS system helps organize, track, and diagnose assets in a facility or organization. Alongside this functionality comes a host of benefits for any organization, ranging from increased manufacturing productivity to higher uptime and customer satisfaction. Regardless of industry, product type, or location, benefits include:

Benefit #1: Organized Maintenance Scheduling

Whether maintenance needs to be performed on massive mechanized equipment or tenant piping, computerized maintenance management software assists a facility by simplifying maintenance scheduling. Some even allows fine-line schedule tuning for any kind of maintenance an organization uses, supporting a huge number of different schedules.

Schedule organization becomes most useful when an organization uses various maintenance strategies within the same place. A CMMS makes it easy for managers to get an overview of their maintenance strategies—reactive vs proactive maintenance, for example—and drill into specific strategies to see how well tasks are being performed.

Benefit #2: Asset Information in Real Time

Without a CMMS, it’s difficult to get any kind of birds-eye view on all of a facility’s assets since the software allows users to view a wide range of assets, often color-coding or symbolizing different asset health statuses. This makes it far simpler to understand the facility’s overall health at a glance.

This also makes it particularly easy to nail down problem areas within a facility. By viewing one area of a facility in relation to all others, a maintenance manager can figure out where their maintenance attention is needed the most. For instance, in UpKeep, you can filter work orders by areas within the facility. Areas with more high-priority work orders can be prioritized over other areas if there’s a large maintenance backlog and labor resources are tight.

Benefit #3: Easily-Organized Work Orders & Requests

Prior to the advent of the CMMS, work orders involved a tremendous amount of paperwork, sorting, and physical file structures. CMMS software seeks to make work orders a more easily-categorizable system, allowing employees to submit requests for work and managers to track these requests. Work orders can then be assigned within the program to the proper technician or team for completion.

Depending on the software, work orders can even be automatically created when certain conditions are met (cycle counts of a machine, work requests submitted by certain people, and even measurements read by condition monitoring sensors).

To read more benefits, see 10 Benefits of Using a CMMS Solution.

Bottom Line Savings

For many organizations, maintenance management can be nearly half of a business’ operational budget. According to ReliabilityWeb, facilities can increase their reliability from 35 percent to 50 percent after CMMS implementation. Additionally, work order management improvements boosts savings another 5 percent to 15 percent and optimization of inventory can reduce cost by another 20 percent.

Perhaps the biggest bottom line savings is the reduction of downtime. According to a survey by ITIC, nearly all businesses report that one hour of downtime costs more than $100,000. Implementing a CMMS has the potential to save hours of downtime each year.

What Industries Use a CMMS?

Any industry that has any degree of maintenance operations needs can benefit from using CMMS software. The features they use may change depending on the scale of their operations and types of assets used, but the fundamental functions of generating and managing work orders are integral to most organizations.

Some of the industries that benefit from implementing a one include:

Each of these industries has assets that need regular maintenance, whether those include large industrial machines, mobile equipment, buildings, or land. By managing their maintenance tasks through a CMMS, their MRO processes become more efficient, taking less time and money to perform effectively. As a result, each of these industries can reduce overhead, even if onlyy used for work order management.

Types of CMMS Software

A CMMS can be divided into two general types: on-premise and cloud-based. The option you choose will have a significant impact on the way you use the software.


An on-premise CMMS is an in-house software system that handles maintenance and inventory management. You often pay upfront for the installation of the system and are responsible for setting up firewalls and IT infrastructure. These systems were used before high-speed Internet and software-as-a-service (SaaS) products existed. Today, cloud-based products are used.


Unlike an on-premise solution, a cloud-based CMMS is managed by the provider, so all you need to do is focus on using the product. With a software that's hosted on infrastructure managed by the provider, updates happen automatically. You get new features without having to install a new version of the software. With on-premise, you must make updates to the system yourself as they become available.

Another benefit of cloud-based is the ability to enter maintenance data from anywhere. It lets technicians use a mobile application to view and update a work order from the repair site or anywhere else there is an internet connection. The mobile application syncs with the main server where all maintenance data is hosted. This way, technicians don’t have to re-enter data from a desktop computer.


A computerized maintenance management system shouldn't be confused with an enterprise asset management (EAM) system, which typically has a more comprehensive level of inventory and purchasing management functionality. The fundamental differences between these two systems ultimately come down to their breadth of applications, with a CMMS being more specialized and an EAM offering a wider range of features.

The Role of a CMMS

A CMMS is designed purely to handle an organization's maintenance operations. While modern systems often have features that somewhat overlap with EAM software, these tools are focused primarily on managing asset repairs. The limited scope of a CMMS enables it to be highly specialized and streamlined for asset maintenance, potentially allowing it to fulfill its role better than a more generalized software system would. Additionally, this level of focus makes it best for smaller organizations with a more limited maintenance budget.

The Role of an EAM System

For companies that operate on a larger scale, maintenance processes often get more complex and diverse, requiring a more comprehensive solution. EAM software includes a wider range of functionality than a CMMS does, including support for procurement, project management, engineering, accounting, safety, compliance, and enterprise-level strategic planning. As such, these systems include data on all aspects of an organization’s assets, not just those related to maintenance.

Selecting the Best CMMS

When it’s time to select your CMMS, be sure to consider fit with your business, resources required, and the system’s growth potential.

Company Fit

First, be sure your solution fits the needs of your business. If you are a small organization, you may need a simple software solution without all the bells and whistles. On the other hand, if you expect rapid growth, you’ll want a CMMS solution that can scale quickly and easily. Larger companies with multiple facilities may require a more sophisticated, proven solution that can easily integrate with other business systems.

Resources Required

Second, match the resources required with the resources available. The initial cost of a CMMS system is important; however, it’s critical to consider the ongoing costs such as training, upgrades, or subscription costs. Be sure your organization can follow through with not only purchasing and implementation but the ongoing tasks necessary to maximize the features of the solution.

Potential for Growth

Finally, evaluate the CMMS for its ability to grow with your organization. Cloud-based technology is the future of this software as well as mobile functionality. Be sure your chosen solution provider is ready to help keep you up-to-date in terms of the technology itself.

For more of a deep dive into selecting the best CMMS, check out this article

Successfully Implementing a CMMS 

While most facilities can benefit from a CMMS, it’s not always clear how to implement one successfully. In fact, implementation can be a task fraught with headaches, with over 70% of new projects failing to launch, according to a survey conducted by UpKeep.

However, there are some simple steps every organization can take prior to, during, and after their CMMS implementation to make sure their system is a success.

1. Scope out the Project

First, it helps to figure out your goals. What does the facility want to track? Which areas need this implementation the most? What features are necessary for the facility to run at maximum uptime? How much money is allocated for this CMMS project? An organization should be realistic about their costs and timeline. Having an inadequate budget could mean spending a lot of money for no end product whatsoever.

2. Select a CMMS Wisely

Rather than going off of one person’s recommendation or the first search result, it’s beneficial to look at a range of different CMMS products to figure out which ones offer necessary functionality. The scope of a project will determine your needs.

3. Get Stakeholders Involved

Prior to implementation, everyone involved in this decision-making process needs to be on board. Having the approval of managers, maintenance teams, and other key stakeholders is essential for a smooth launch. These stakeholders should be aware of new developments.

To continue reading about implementation, check out 14 Ways to Implement a CMMS Successfully. 

Numerous businesses have benefitted from implementing a CMMS, particularly the mobile-first solution offered by UpKeep. Many of our customers have seen highly positive asset maintenance results after integrating our system into their maintenance processes. A couple of these success stories include IMT and Governors Island.

Innovative Micro Technology

When Robert Gauna joined Innovative Micro Technology (IMT), he was tasked with building a well-rounded facilities team along with an effective predictive maintenance program. The problem was they had no visibility into their equipment or its maintenance requirements. As far as their equipment’s condition and maintenance needs were concerned, the company was in the dark.

In March of 2020, IMT began the process of implementing a CMMS into its process. After spending some time importing all their data, the company has since seen numerous benefits, including improved equipment visibility, improved safety visibility, and more balanced workloads for their technicians. With more visibility over their data, IMT has realized cost savings that are likely to continue growing in the future.

Governors Island

For Governors Island’s small grounds maintenance team, communication was a challenge. Landscape manager Gil South would have to visit every site on the island every day, which was no small task, given that it takes ten minutes to get from one side of the island to the other. To expedite communication within the team on daily tasks, a mobile solution was needed.

A CMMS proved an excellent solution since its intuitive design supported the team’s fast-paced workflow. After a year, the crew saw significant savings in terms of time usage. Rather than visit each site to review work plans with each employee, Gil could rely on UpKeep’s mobile platform to communicate jobs and information. The end result was more efficient utilization of time, boosting actual working time from four hours out of an eight-hour workday to five or six.

Governors Island has seen other benefits as well, including improved insight into manpower requirements, a better understanding of how interruptions impact their processes, and inventory management. Finally, at the completion of each job, the team has the satisfaction of knowing that all important information has been logged away for future use.

History of CMMS

The first CMMS software appeared around 1965 and was used by large manufacturers that owned IBM mainframe computers (the beastly kinds that are not used anymore). Teams would log data on punchcards that were fed to the computer. Years later, they would log data on paper that was given to data entry specialists. Only in the 1980s when computers became more usable did technicians log data themselves directly into the asset management software.

Usability is now less of an issue in the 21st century with personal computers. And a CMMS is not reserved for large manufacturers that have high maintenance budgets. Today, the solution is used by companies that have internet in their facility and even the smallest maintenance budgets. This is because solutions are web-based and relatively affordable. 

Accessibility and affordability aside, today, a CMMS is judged mainly on its features and ease of use for managers to make data-driven decisions about maintenance operations. Usability is still an important factor because, as more features are added, solutions can become increasingly complex which decreases any chance for successful implementation.

A CMMS helps teams organize maintenance tasks and track maintenance activity, while allowing managers to streamline processes. And some are free to use! However, many companies are still using pen and paper, spreadsheets, or don't even have maintenance operations, according to an UpKeep survey.

With CMMS products easier than ever to use and widely available to teams with different budgets, it’s at least worth testing one!

Want to learn more?

Check out these related articles to learn more.
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What is a work order?

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The inside look

Frequently Asked Questions

Maintenance shouldn’t mean guesswork and paperwork. UpKeep makes is simple to see where everything stands, all in one place. That means less guesswork and more time to focus on what matters.

Before investing in a CMMS, it’s important to define your goals and have a good understanding of your maintenance needs. You’ll also need to set up the infrastructure including a leader and budget. Once those things are in place, review a few options, select a solution to try, and conduct a trial run to see how the solution works for your organization before making a big commitment.

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