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What’s wrong with my EAM system?

If your car (or your loved one’s car) wasn’t running properly you would get it checked out, right? If it wasn’t getting the expected miles per gallon, the gas gauge wasn’t working properly and the vehicle was leaving oil marks on your driveway, you would be pretty frustrated. And for safety’s sake you would do something about it right away.

It’s not unusual for maintenance and reliability professionals to be frustrated with an EAM system that’s not providing reliable and safe service that gets them where they need to go, on time, at an economical cost. Let’s take a quick look at what problems you might be facing, what likely caused the problems, and how you might approach resolving them.

The purpose of a CMMS / EAM system

A computerized maintenance management (CMMS) or Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) system provides a central database and business functions to manage the assets of an organization. The purpose of the software is to promote safety, improve asset performance and drive efficiencies. This purpose is achieved by providing functions to:

  • Organize plant assets into a hierarchy
  • Maintain detailed equipment information records
  • Track labor resources in terms of skills, availability and workload
  • Perform work order costing (labor, materials, services)
  • Support EH&S (Employee Health and Safety) programs
  • Manage and control spare parts inventory
  • Support material and service procurement
  • Perform vendor / contractor management and measurement
  • Manage the work order lifecycle
  • Manage preventive / predictive maintenance programs
  • Record and maintain equipment history
  • Support KPIs for maintenance and reliability
  • Interface to support systems such as equipment health monitoring, DCS, calibration and fuel consumption

The problems many organizations face

Clients who are faced with EAM systems that don’t support effective asset management report issues like this:

  • Their asset hierarchies don’t support reliability analytics
  • Not enough meaningful equipment history
  • It’s difficult to measure whether preventive or predictive programs are working
  • Planning and scheduling are happening in name only
  • MRO materials are overstocked yet they’re paying high material expediting costs
  • It’s hard to pull any meaningful KPIs out of their system

What likely caused the problems

When EAM systems are underperforming it’s often because the initial focus was on implementing a new software system thus missing the opportunity to re-engineer to meet maintenance and reliability best practices. In some organizations, maintenance and reliability (M&R) leaders are not included on the implementation team. This can lead to an IT-shaped implementation that doesn’t reflect the real-world processes and data requirements for optimizing asset performance.

In another scenario M&R leaders were involved but there was a lack of knowledge of configuration options within the EAM software. This can lead to vital functionality being overlooked or configured in such a way as to minimize its usefulness. Also, money can be wasted attempting to replicate standard functionality that is not seamlessly integrated into the EAM system.

There may well have been a lack of training to help people learn how to use the system and follow new processes in order to track and report on the right data.

How you might approach resolving the problems with your EAM system

Make sure you have a solid foundation for your data

Without setting up your master data correctly, it won’t be possible to optimize any system. It is critical to build your asset hierarchies and asset categories to support cost and failure reporting for systems of equipment, individual equipment, and populations of like equipment. Also, it is important to identify the criticality of your assets. This will help the organization to execute the work on the assets that are the most important to the organization.

Your EAM configuration needs to provide the ability to categorize the type of work performed with a set of priority options to accurately reflect the urgency of work. Configuring a set of work order types as well as sub-categories within those types gives the M&R organization valuable information as to where time and money are being spent. This categorization can shine a light on whether the organization is “fighting fires” or performing proactive work.

Track all of your maintenance activity in the system

This means all of your work orders and all of your spare parts. When this information is tracked over time, the history will make analysis and cost control possible. Time expended and material consumed need to be charged to work orders (as opposed to cost centers) to reflect an accurate record of maintenance activity against your assets. An organization will be able to identify bad actors, material consumption trends, and “favorite” work orders. By “favorite” work orders, we mean a place where time and materials are charged that had nothing to do with the work that was actually done.

Be sure to set up failure codes correctly and use them

Failure codes explain why an asset failed and technicians should use them when they are completing a repair and capturing details about the repair in the system. Don’t overdo the number of codes available – keep them general enough that you will be able to pull reliability analytics over time. The codes presented by the system should be specific to the type of asset for which history is being captured. For example, when entering failure codes for a pump, you would not want to see failure codes for an exchanger in your list.

Develop work processes that represent M&R best practices

Processes are one of the most important aspects of your EAM system but one of the most overlooked. All too often, organizations take a transactional approach to developing processes. That is, the process is focused on completing a software transaction instead of collecting information necessary to support best practices and continuous improvement. If M&R best practices require calculation of MTBF (mean time between failure) for an asset or category of assets, the work process should indicate how and where the underlying data is captured.

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