(iframe src="https://www.googletagmanager.com/ns.html?id=GTM-TJL6ZVR" height="0" width="0" style="display:none;visibility:hidden") What is a CMMS? Guide to Maintenance Management Software [2019]

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What is a CMMS?

A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) is software that stores data about maintenance performed on equipment, machinery, and other assets. A CMMS eliminates the need for manual spreadsheets, consolidating all maintenance in one place.


of companies who used a CMMS to manage their assets reported seeing improvements in equipment life


of all attempted CMMS implementations fail

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The first CMMS

appeared around 1965 but CMMS software only became widely accessible and affordable in the 21st century

Work orders

feed data into the CMMS; this data can later be analyzed and acted upon to improve maintenance operations

Cloud-based CMMS

products are the most popular and don’t require on-premise installation

A brief history of CMMS

The first CMMS appeared around 1965 and was used by large manufacturers that owned IBM mainframe computers (the beastly kinds that are not used anymore). Technicians 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 system.

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, a CMMS is used by companies that have Internet in their facility and even the smallest maintenance budgets. This is because CMMS solutions are web-based and relatively affordable. For instance, UpKeep’s solutions start at $35/technician/month. There is even a free version.

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

How a CMMS works

At a high level, the CMMS is a data management system and the work order feeds data to that system. When a work order is closed, the data is processed by the system. Work orders contain 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.


The work order is created

A work order is assigned to a technician and asset.


The work order is completed

The technician updates the work order with new data (parts used, costs, time spent, meter readings, checklist items, etc).


The data is processed by the CMMS

The technician updates the work order with new data (parts used, costs, time spent, meter readings, checklist items, etc).


The data is surfaced

Management runs reports that reveal labor-intensive assets, technician productivity, and maintenance costs.

On-premise vs cloud CMMS

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

What is an on-premise CMMS?

An on-premise CMMS is an in-house software system that manages maintenance data. 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 CMMS products are used.

What is a cloud CMMS?

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

Another benefit of a cloud CMMS is the ability to enter maintenance data from anywhere. A cloud CMMS lets technicians use a mobile application to view and update work orders 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.


Computerized maintenance management systems help teams organize maintenance tasks and track maintenance activity. There are also CMMS products available that are free to use; however, many maintenance teams are still using pen and paper, spreadsheets, or no system at all 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 a CMMS.

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