The statistics are startling — up to 80 percent of all computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) implementations have failed. When considering the costs associated with a CMMS project, an 80-percent failure rate is a tough number for any company to overcome, but with simple steps for a well thought-out implementation plan, anyone can harness the full potential that CMMS can bring to an organization. What follows is an introduction to the steps you can take to ensure your CMMS implementation is a success.

1) Determining the Scope of Your Project
Rushing to purchase a CMMS package often leads to a rush to implement. Stop and think before you buy. One of the top five reasons for implementation failure is wrong CMMS selection. You need the right CMMS for your application, and the scope should be defined before you select the package. What exactly are you looking for your CMMS to do? What modules are critical to your business now — equipment, preventive maintenance, etc.? Can some modules such as purchasing wait awhile? How do you see your company using CMMS after two or even five years? Will you be interfacing it with other systems or using mobile technology in the future?

2) Getting Management Commitment
Often executive management doesn’t have a clear conception of CMMS and the types of initial and ongoing resources that must be committed to the project. Aside from the acquisition software cost, there are ongoing costs for maintenance, training, data gathering and data entry, to name a few. Make sure these costs are included in the project estimate to give upper management a full picture of the time and budget required for your project. This will help you to receive their commitment for the full project.

3) Planning Your Project
Think about your implementation from start to finish. What are the key milestones? Determine who will be implementing the CMMS, who will be gathering data and what types of data they will be gathering. Figure out a parts numbering scheme, an equipment ID scheme, location schemes, and labor and material charge accounts. Define code tables as a team during the planning phase such as work order type, work order status and completion remark codes. Some initial planning can reduce confusion later.

4) Preparing for Change
Don’t make the assumption that all of your employees will welcome the CMMS with open arms. Employees may see the CMMS as a tool that will replace them in the future, and workers are fearful of anything that may put them out of work. It’s important to get all of your employees involved early, publish informational memos about the change, and hold question-and-answer sessions to get employee input so workers take ownership in the project and are excited about the positive change that CMMS can bring. What obstacles can your current maintenance workers visualize in terms of data gathering and data entry? Are certain workers resistant to the change? One resistant worker now can cause unnecessary obstacles later, leading to failure.

5) Training
CMMS is a sophisticated application and will require training for all employees using the system. Don’t make the mistake of underestimating your training requirements. There will need to be initial software training from the CMMS vendor and ongoing (or internal) training for your employees. Every organization implements CMMS in a different way, and your employees need training on your specific CMMS use. Training employees on the way your company uses terminology is important. The distinction between a “bulb,” a “light” and a “compact fluorescent” may seem like splitting hairs now, but can lead to confusion and purchasing errors down the road. As new employees are hired, they will need training, too. Timing of training is also important.

6) Data gathering
Gathering all of the necessary and usable data your employees will need to enter into the CMMS is usually the biggest culprit in any implementation project failure. Effectively gathering all of the data will usually require six to 12 months of committed manpower resources. Determining what data will be gathered (equipment model, serial numbers, cost, warranty data, preventive maintenance, procedures and frequencies, parts and parts information) and how that data will be gathered is a key component of your implementation plan.

7) Data Entry
You’ve planned out your implementation, purchased your system and gathered your data. Having a solid plan for how to enter the data into the system will deter confusion later.

Initially, there is a massive amount of work required for entering in all of the data you have gathered. Who will do this job? There are outside contractors to consider, current employees to tap or temporary hires. Fortunately, this large amount of work only needs to be done once.

Next, you need to determine the best method of entering in the necessary day-to-day information that the CMMS will manage. Should an administrative assistant enter in completed work orders at the end of the day or will each maintenance technician enter in his or her own completed work orders? Consider each possible solution to determine the pros and cons of your specific situation.

8) Reports and Analysis
Having four or five effective and usable reports is far more productive for your system than having hundreds of reports that no one will access. Think about who will be analyzing these reports on a day-to-day basis. What decisions will be made based on the analyses? Before you even set up your system, figure out what you need the system to do for you. Tailor your reports accordingly. Also, ensure that your reports are giving you the information you need to understand short- and long-term trends in maintenance operation.

9) Follow-up and Continuous improvement
Don’t just use the CMMS as a record-keeping tool to keep lists of your assets and their parts. Spreadsheets can do that. Make sure your employees know the full functionality of a CMMS and plan ways to improve your use of it in the future. A CMMS gives you the ability to look at a massive amount of trackable data. Is someone looking at the data? How can you spot trends, analyze them and take corrective action? For example, are there failures with a specific piece of equipment or a part? The CMMS can help you determine why those failures are happening. Are you constantly monitoring and improving upon your maintenance operation?

10) Links and Attachments
Take advantage of all that a CMMS has to offer. Some systems allow you to add various types of documents (Word, PDF, scanned copy, digital pictures, audios, videos or Web links) to records. Is Bob the only maintenance technician on the floor who can repair a specific machine? What happens when Bob retires? With CMMS attachments, after a few years, anyone can access the information saved by Bob to see how the repair can be completed. The attachment tool is also handy for attaching PDF versions of original manuals, training guides and other paper-only materials that can easily be lost.