FSI contributes to a review in PWE of modern CMMS/EAM solutions as the cornerstone of a sound maintenance and asset management technology.

Greater plant and asset longevity, reduced downtime and improved workforce optimisation are often cited as some of the benefits reputable Computerised Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) and Enterprise Asset Management Systems (EAM) offer the end user.  Such advantages can understandably make for a more profitable and pain-free maintenance regime as well as contribute towards overall operational best practice.  But what are the key enablers of these, and other, benefits?  According to David Hipkin, managing director, SoftSols Group, some 80% of the benefits from some software solutions can come from 20% of the system's overall functionality: "The core is a simple-to-navigate equipment register, easy work order tracking and history, and a user-friendly plant maintenance scheduling system."  He adds: "Basic stores and purchasing is also a 'must have' for some companies", but points out that many companies do without.  In essence, Hipkin maintains that the core system should be capable of aiding maintenance management, but have the additional capability to produce reports that help management focus on key issues for the purpose of cost savings and general efficiency improvements.

Compton Darlington, business development director, FSI, agrees.  He believes that, in addition to a functionality roll-call that includes Asset Management, Planned Maintenance, Reactive Maintenance (Helpdesk) and Task Management, there is an increasing trend for "simple summarised management-level key indicators."

Darlington adds that prospective end users would do well to seek a solutions provider able to offer a flexible approach to client requirements; from automation of events to reduced manual administration, or through integration with other applications, such as financials, HR or BMS.

But what about the widely trumpeted advantage of Web enablement; how can this help maintenance best practice?  Marty Osborn, senior director of industry marketing - Infor Enterprise Asset Management (EAM), is, like so many other vendors in the market, a staunch advocate of such technology.  He highlights the growing popularity of Web-based Service Orientated Architecture (SOA): "The days of installing software on the individual client are over," he says.  2By having a true Web-based solution, companies can now leverage the information they have in a true enterprise solution that can be easily deployed."  Indeed, the potential benefits of SOA seem impressive; such as facilitating greater IT resource integration that enables greater synergy between separate business processes.  FDS Advanced Systems add that, through Web enablement, access to facilities management information is possible without adding to system overheads, giving the user greater flexibility within the system.

Hand in hand

EAM is a market that has been around for over 25 years, and for some time the terms EAM and CMMS have increasingly gone hand in hand.  So is EAM now a must-have or can CMMS still stand on its own?  While recognising the advantages of CMMS, Osborn sees EAM as the secret to making significant reductions in operating expenses and improvements to the bottom line: "Top performers optimise their assets; it's true in any field - sports, the arts, and business," he says.  "Yet in business, optimising performance of capital assets often plays distant runner-up to the more glamorous pursuit of top-line growth; but it can be costly.  Under-performing capital assets can leave tremendous profit potential on the table."

The EAM market may be viewed as a mature market.  However, according to Osborn, EAM is undergoing a fundamental transformation as it moves from a more plant-oriented solution to an enterprise solution.  "This change is driven by a number of factors: improvements in technology, increased awareness in the true cost of downtime, and the fact that ERP systems have taken the mind share of executives for the past ten years," he says.  "Now that most companies have done something in the ERP area they are free to look at other applications that affect the business in other ways, not just accounting and sales."

On the mobile

Mobile solutions have also come of age.  Darlington points out that a level of initial reluctance to embrace such options - possibly due to a perceived 'big-brother' element - has rapidly seen a volt face, with an increasing number of companies embracing the technology.  He highlights how hand-held technologies can provide diverse geographical locations with the means to operate a similar standard of maintenance management (Service Level Agreements, etc.) to that which can be achieved through more conventional CMMS solutions.  FDS Advanced Systems is also very bullish about the technology.  The company points out that with the aid of mobile data software on PDA's, the increase in connectivity options such as WiFi and Bluetooth, and the way work orders can be received via PDA's in a 'live' situation, "there is no need to return back to base to synchronise cradle-based units."  In FDS Advanced Systems' view, mobile data solutions are on the 'must have' list: "Take work order management; mobile engineers can receive notification of jobs, access work order instructions, close off work orders etc., all remotely.  You don't need to return to base to receive and complete work orders.

"Users can build a complete timesheet because timings are accurate, and this can lead to more informed decision making.  There are positive cost-and-time saving benefits, enabling the user to schedule resource more effectively.  Also, with regard to safety instructions, engineers cannot start a job without acknowledging the risks involved."

Hipkin adds that mobile PDA technology can eliminate paperwork and is yet another way (if well designed) of making it easy for engineers to keep the records up to date.  FDS Advanced Systems adds that users can also combine planned and reactive maintenance jobs whilst out on site and increase worker productivity.  With regard to conventional CMMS, the company points out that the user can access a broad range of facilities information, adding that mobile CMMS and conventional CMMS systems are complimentary and can run alongside one another/  Also, as Osborn points out, new asset tracking and data collection devices, including RFID, are effective tools for enhancing asset care and monitoring.

Preventative strategy

Of course, extending asset life is vitally important in order to avoid new, unnecessary capital purchases, and modern CMMS/EAM solutions are well geared to helping facilitate this.  However, they are likely to be used most effectively in concert with a proven preventative maintenance strategy.  As Osborn points out, the cost of replacing failing equipment can be "staggering."  In his view, organisations that "do a better job of scheduling preventive maintenance to prevent asset problems will ultimately extend the life of the asset."

With proven benefits offered by mobile technology, Web enhancement, and the increasing flexibility of CMMS/EAM solutions and services offered by the vendor community, there seems little excuse for companies not to take advantage.