How to Optimize Your CMMS

Answered November 03 2020

optimizing a CMMS

Note: This CMMS plan article is based on a webinar “How to Optimize Your Current CMMS” with Ricky Smith. To view the recording of the webinar, visit this link.

The first fully integrated computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) was created under John Day at Alumax Mount Holly, and since then, the fully integrated CMMS has become a staple in many facilities throughout the world. 

However, they don’t do everything on their own. It’s important to use them effectively if your facility is going to see improved reliability. CMMS optimization is key.

Intro: Preliminary Steps for CMMS Implementation

Before diving into how to optimize an existing CMMS, it helps to look at best practices for implementing one in the first place. Keep these items in mind:

  • Implementation is everything.
  • Roles and responsibilities must be defined for all users.
  • All assets with equipment data and parts data should be loaded into the CMMS.
  • Establish asset hierarchy.
  • Define asset criticality.
  • Create a CMMS user’s manual or education module and train everyone.
  • The maintenance department is accountable for the use, application, and management of the system.
  • The maintenance supervisor should verify all work order data before the planner inputs it.

With these items in mind, let’s look at some basic steps for optimizing your CMMS.

Step 1: Hire an Expert

The first step is to hire an expert—either an organization or an individual—who knows all the functions of a CMMS. It doesn’t necessarily have to be someone who knows your specific CMMS (though that can help), but they should know about these systems in general since that’s what’s needed to help you through the process.

The functions they should know about include the full array of maintenance processes, such as:

  1. Work identification (preventive maintenance (PM), predictive maintenance (PdM), operator care)
  2. Maintenance planning
  3. Maintenance scheduling
  4. Work execution
  5. Work order closeout
  6. FRACAS (Failure Reporting, Analysis, and Corrective Action System)

These processes compose what is called the Maintenance Continuous Improvement Loop. Each step is crucial. As such, the expert you hire should be familiar with each of these steps in order to make sure your CMMS optimization efforts are successful.

Fact: “If a step in a process is skipped or performed at a substandard level, it creates defects known as failures. The output of a healthy reliability process is optimal reliability at optimal cost.” – Ron Thomas, Dofasco Steel, 1994

Step 2: Create a CMMS Optimization Plan with All Stakeholders

The next step is to create a CMMS optimization plan with all stakeholders.

Use Project Management Software

It’s best to use a project management software system to create and manage your plan. That way, you can have the plan posted up on a screen for everyone to see. It should be as visible as possible, so that no one is left in a vacuum.

Identify Stakeholders

The stakeholders involved include many people within your organization, but they could also include outside consultants as well. Some examples of stakeholders include:

  • Plant manager
  • Maintenance manager
  • Engineering manager

A good rule of thumb for figuring out who your stakeholders are is to determine who is authorized to sign a check.

Define Steps

In addition to stakeholders, define the steps needed to optimize your CMMS, complete with targets, goals, and due dates.

Create MPMs

Finally, if you don’t have existing maintenance process maps (MPMs), create or purchase them. MPMs can be found online or created from scratch. It’s typically best to maintain them through some form of software where they can be adjusted and managed as needed.

Tip: Maintenance process maps should be made as visible as possible. That way, if someone misses a step in the process, their mistake can be promptly corrected.

Use the RACI Process to Identify Roles and Responsibilities

Finally, make sure the roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder are outlined. A good way to do this is to meet with everyone involved and go through the RACI process (also known as making a responsibility assignment matrix).

The way this process works is you outline each expected outcome for your CMMS and determine who plays what role in achieving that outcome. The roles and responsibilities are:

  • Responsible (R) – Those who carry out the task, or “the doers.”
  • Accountable (A) – The person who is ultimately accountable, or “where the buck stops.”
  • Consulted (C) – The people kept “in the loop.” Communication here is two-way.
  • Informed (I) – The people kept up to date. Communication here is one-way.

By defining roles and responsibilities in this way, it makes it clear to the whole team how they’re going to work together when optimizing your CMMS.

Fact: The RACI method is actually used by the U.S. Military in the Pentagon to determine roles and responsibilities.

Step 3: Create a Training Education Plan for All Stakeholders

Next comes creating an education plan. The goal here is to change people’s behavior and knowledge. Often, that will mean showing them what a good CMMS can do for them.


Part of your training will involve testing. Testing is necessary to determine whether you have successfully transferred knowledge, and it can also be used to gauge someone’s existing knowledge prior to training.

Use an Expert to Educate Your Stakeholders

Upon creating an education plan for your stakeholders, educate them through different methods targeted at your audience. It’s best to have a maintenance expert provide that training.

Toolbox Talks

Toolbox talks can be an effective way to provide training since they’re brief, single-point lessons that can be shared at the start of a shift or meeting.

Post a Dictionary of Terms

Many terms and words may be interpreted differently by different people, so it’s important to make sure you have clear definitions for those terms posted where everyone can see them. A great resource for definitions is SMRP since they define numerous maintenance terms clearly and concisely.

Without clear definitions, you’re left with everyone’s opinion.

Step 4: Execute and Manage the Plan

After creating an education plan, it’s time to execute and manage your CMMS optimization plan. That starts with educating all stakeholders on what they must do, why they have to do it, and how they should carry it out.

Update Your Project Software

As you execute your plan, use your project management software to track your progress. Update it weekly. A great way to do that is to choose one of your most driven technicians and assign them a work order to update the program.

Identify Leading and Lagging KPIs

Next, identify leading and lagging key performance indicators (KPIs) that will be impacted by your CMMS optimization. Leading indicators are those KPIs that lead to results, whereas lagging indicators are the results.

Post a Project Plan Board

You’ll want to make those KPIs visible since they let everyone know about your progress. Make them as “in your face” as possible, either by putting them on large charts or displaying them on plant monitors. By having that information visible, you’ll help get your team more excited about your new CMMS execution plan.

CMMS Execution Plan Summarized

The specifics of your CMMS execution plan will depend on your facility, but the general steps are:

  • Define your expected outcome
  • Verify asset hierarchy using ISO 14224 standards
  • Walk down assets and collect asset information
  • Restructure your CMMS data based on collected information
  • Verify maintenance process maps
  • Establish leading and lagging KPIs

While this process looks simple on the surface, it can get very complex. Nevertheless, each step is important.

Step 5: Verify Your Current Maintenance Process

As you execute your CMMS optimization plan, you’ll need to verify your current maintenance process. This starts with making sure you have a proactive maintenance process in place.

If maintenance in your facility is largely proactive, then the best thing you can do is optimize it. On the other hand, if you mainly perform reactive maintenance, then you’ll need to determine what you need to do to become more proactive.

It’s important to paint a picture of what this looks like. Take time to map and verify all the steps it will take to reform your processes, and create process maps to support those changes. Without a clear plan, you won’t end up getting where you need to go.

Your typical proactive maintenance process looks like this:

  • PM/PdM/operator care inspections
  • Maintenance planning
  • Maintenance scheduling
  • Work execution

You’ll need to define metrics for each step in your maintenance process. Those metrics will tell you how on-track you are with maintaining a proactive process. For instance, a good metric for PM/PdM/inspections is PM/PdM compliance. The effectiveness of maintenance planning and scheduling can be measured with percentage of planned work and schedule compliance respectively.

Tip: If you don’t have a maintenance planner or scheduler, you can start by assigning one person a work order for planning and scheduling tasks and providing formal training. Doc Palmer also has a book on planning and scheduling.

These metrics will tell you what’s being managed effectively. If any of the steps in your process are being skipped or performed below standard—causing leading indicators to drop—it will create defects that negatively impact lagging indicators. With that information, you’ll be able to make needed changes.

Step 6: Create KPI Dashboards for Each Process

Finally, you’ll need to create a KPI dashboard for each process. Again, these will consist of leading and lagging indicators.

Leading indicators might include:

  • Percentage of planned work
  • PM compliance
  • Maintenance rework
  • Stockouts
  • Vendor efficiency
  • Inventory accuracy
  • Inventory turns

If those are managed effectively, then your lagging indicators should see improvement. Lagging indicators include:

  • Schedule compliance
  • Maintenance costs
  • Overall equipment effectiveness

The purpose of configuring KPI dashboards to show these metrics is to create a scoreboard for your CMMS optimization. When your maintenance team is able to see your current score, they’ll be more engaged in improving it. As with any scoreboard, you want it to be highly visible.

The way your score fluctuates in any particular area will give you clues on to how to improve. For instance, large amounts of maintenance rework might be the result of improperly done inspections, ineffective PMs, poor planning and scheduling, and so forth.

Next Steps

When the above steps are done, your next steps will involve verifying that you have everything in place. These may include the following:

Confirm That Your Current KPIs Match What’s Going On in Your Plant

If what you see in your plant doesn’t match your KPIs, then you have a problem that needs to be fixed.

Make Sure You Have Effective Maintenance Process Maps

If you don’t have MPMs already, create some. Alternatively, find some online and make any needed adjustments. They don’t have to be complicated, but they do need to match your processes.

Create a Simple CMMS Users Guide

Again, simplicity is important here. No one is going to read through a massive volume. A simple one-page guide on how to do important functions—complete with screenshots—is usually sufficient for most users.

Make Sure RACI Charts Are Complete

When creating your RACI charts, make sure these stakeholders are present:

  • Maintenance planner or scheduler
  • Maintenance manager
  • Production supervisor (if possible)
  • Maintenance supervisor
  • Storeroom supervisor or attendant
  • An operator (if possible)
  • Your most obstinate technician

The last one can help improve buy-in. Basically, if you can get your most strong-willed technician on board, you’ll make buy-in much easier.


While this may seem like a great deal to work through, just remember that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step” (Lao Tzu, 600BC). With that in mind, figure out the best first step for your facility and start working from there.

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