Unless you're working in a field that uses maintenance management software, you may not be familiar with what it is or what it does. Because of that, many small businesses may not even realize that they can benefit from a maintenance management system.
Maintenance management software (MMS), also known as enterprise asset management (EAM) and computerized (or commercial) maintenance management software (CMMS), helps businesses keep track of equipment, vehicles, facilities and more. Its uses range from industry to industry, but it takes a lot of the guesswork out of keeping your business up and running.
"CMMS is flexible enough to be used in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, health care, education, hospitality and the nonprofit sector," said Daniel Golub, business development manager at maintenance management software company HippoFM.
Think your business might be too small for a maintenance management program? One of the benefits of CMMS solutions, Golub added, is that they are scalable to meet the size and price of your company.
If you've got several assets to keep track of but you've been doing it manually from day one, it may be time to make the switch to maintenance management software.
"Spreadsheets and paper systems are extremely limited, and function primarily to track basic lists of assets, parts, etc.," said Chris Mumford, content manager at maintenance management software company ManagerPlus.
Ultimately, MMS is all about increasing organization and efficiency – things that are important to all businesses.
"Any business that wants to become more efficient and keep better track of their assets and the costs associated with the management of those assets can benefit from a CMMS," said Tim Knodel, sales manager at business software company CyberMetrics Corp.
Reasons to use maintenance management software
Aside from boosting efficiency and organization, maintenance management software provides several benefits for business of all sizes. The software can help ensure that your business stays compliant with any industry-specific regulations by providing a solid record of all work done on your assets, Mumford said.
Maintenance management software also saves you time, giving you the opportunity to work on more important things.
"CMMS frees up daily production and operating tasks, allowing a business to focus on higher-level strategic decisions and delivering the best product or service to their end user," Golub said.
And while CMMS solutions come at a price, ultimately, they can save business owners a lot of money. Golub said that many managers tend to look at this software as a cost and have a difficult time putting a dollar value on its benefits, like reduced labor costs, increased morale due to better processes, and overall maintenance transparency. But one of the biggest savings business owners see when using maintenance management software is that their equipment lasts longer.
"By having a preventative maintenance program in place, you should get more life out of your assets, which can result in a substantial cost savings," Knodel said.
Another huge benefit? Because MMS keeps track of your inventory and the cost of maintenance, you can easily manage your project costs and see where you need to spend, and more importantly, where you can save money.
"[Maintenance software] can provide key insight into operations that can drive further improvements and initiatives," Mumford said.
Things to watch out for
Of course, some issues can arise when using maintenance management software.
Knodel and Golub agreed that problems can arise if businesses do not properly train their staff to use the software, especially if staff members aren't tech-savvy.
Business owners also need to be very wary of their contract with the software provider, Golub said.
"Make sure timely software updates are included, so you always have the best version of your CMMS. And get familiar with your contract. Some providers charge high upfront costs that could put you over budget or tie you into the agreement long term with high penalties to get out of it," Golub said.
Switching to maintenance management software also means implementing an entirely new system in your business, which can be another con.
"For many companies, transitioning to a new system means leaving an old one behind. Even if the existing system is inefficient and outdated, there may be some resistance to change," Mumford said.
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Choosing the right software
If you think maintenance management software might be right for your business, make sure to research the providers available to you and choose one that fits your needs.
Golub noted that there are a few steps to choosing the right maintenance software company. Make sure you do your research and compare features and pricing models, while looking for hidden costs. Golub suggested comparing at least five different providers to ensure you find the right fit. Then, get references by reading reviews and reaching out to existing clients, to discuss how they've used the software and gauge their satisfaction levels.
It's important to make sure that the provider you choose is reliable and adaptable, and has a solid reputation.
"The key is to look at companies that have a strong track record of performance, a commitment to continuous innovation, and products and services that can be tailored to fit the unique needs of your business, and that can also grow as your business grows," Mumford said, adding that it's vital to choose a company that is committed to adaptation and improvement, since change in technology is constant.
Golub also suggested going for a Web-based MMS system as opposed to on-premise software. Cloud-based solutions are less risky, he said, and generally have minimal (or zero) upfront costs. They also include regular software updates and take measures to ensure the safety and integrity of your data.
Ultimately, the key is ensuring your software fits your needs and is, above all else, user friendly.
"In the pursuit of robust software, many companies end up compromising user friendliness," Golub said. "There is a high correlation between an unintuitive interface and software resistance from the end user. The best solution is the one that balances your functional requirements, user friendliness and affordability."
Before you buy
Before you purchase a CMMS solution, our experts said you should ask yourself these 10 questions:
- Why does our business need this system?
- What assets do we have to keep track of?
- What problems are we trying to solve?
- What features do we need?
- Does this provider have a proven track record?
- Is this system user friendly?
- Can we customize this system for our needs?
- Will this system grow and adapt with our business?
- Do we have the time to commit to implementing this system?
- Are we willing to train our staff to use it properly?
Your responses to these questions, along with your research, should help you make a more informed decision about the role maintenance management software can play in your business, and which software provider, if any, works best for you.
Implementing maintenance management software
If you do purchase maintenance software, it's important to plan ahead before you transition to using it. Data integration and account setup can take a long time to complete depending on how many assets you have or the number of users who need permissions, Golub said.
"To speed up the process, get your data ready. Create a comprehensive Excel spreadsheet listing all items to track, such as parts, assets, PM schedules and users," Golub said. "Preparing now will put you ahead of the game come implementation time."
And once your system is set up and in use, you may even discover more benefits you didn't know your business needed.
"Many companies purchase [maintenance software] with a certain objective in mind, and then discover other areas where they can improve after they've been using them for a while," Mumford said.
Originally published on Business News Daily