What You Need to Know Before Choosing Maintenance Scheduling Software
There are dozens of options available when it comes to choosing maintenance software. All of them have essentially the same goal, but there are significant differences between products. How can you tell which one is right for you?
One way to tackle this challenge is to make a list of all the available products and compare their features. That’s going to take a lot of time and your time is in short supply.
As we noted in “Maintenance Scheduling Software: What Works For Your Needs?,” a search for “maintenance scheduling software” on Google will return well over 1 million hits! That’s far too many results to go through.
There’s a better way to determine which maintenance scheduling software suits your needs. It starts at the beginning, by determining exactly what those needs are.
5 Steps to Determine What You Need When Choosing Maintenance Software
It might be better to look at this as what your organization needs. The requirements of a multinational food and beverage company with 43 sites around the world are quite different from the requirements of a smaller food processor that has just three sites, all located in the same geographic region. The needs of a mining or energy company will diverge even further.
At this stage, you’re not even looking at software. You are holding up a mirror to your maintenance department and determining exactly what it shows you. In turn, this will tell you which features of a maintenance software solution are critical, which are nice to have, and which features don’t matter to you at all.
1. Examine Your Processes
The first step is determining what is truly needed by the maintenance department within your organization. This begins with a critical examination of your current maintenance processes.
This step is essential, as it helps you to find out where the pain points are in your process. Knowing where the bottlenecks are (and what’s causing them) will help you find maintenance software that eliminates or minimizes those pain points.
Look over the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for your organization’s maintenance department. These will give you a good overview of what should be happening on a daily basis.
Ask supervisors if there are spots in these where they know that practice has diverged from what the book says, and why this happened. Note down what they say. Take this opportunity to either get those processes back in line with the SOPs or change the SOPs themselves.
As an aside, your organization may not have SOPs for your maintenance department. This is the time to create them if that’s the case. Don’t make this more complicated than it needs to be. Just get the maintenance crew members to write down some brief descriptions of what they do in a day/week/month.
If your team has never created standard operating procedures before, we recommend that you help demonstrate what you are looking for by creating a standard template that maintenance team members can fill in.
You might suspect that this will not result in robust, best practice SOPs. You are correct to think this. It’s a start, though, and anything is better than nothing when it comes to SOPs.
What you’re really looking for are answers to certain questions regarding how maintenance is currently scheduled, carried out, and then reported. Knowing exactly where the pain points in the current process are will give you a good idea of what needs to be improved. In turn, this helps you choose the software that can target those improvements.
2. Examine Your Assets
Get a list of all physical assets, their functions, and their locations from the maintenance department. This is more important than it may appear at first glance.
A particular CMMS may have a feature that allows you to look at assets by location or by facility. Another may offer advanced functionality when it comes to “rotating assets,” such as a truck fleet. These features can be extremely important, totally inconsequential, or somewhere in-between depending on the nature of your organization and its assets.
Just like when you’re looking at your processes, this is really a quest to find out which assets are giving you the most pain and why.
3. Examine the Work Itself
We’re not recommending you go down to the production floor and start looking over some poor tech’s shoulder while they try to bring a malfunctioning pump back online. Instead, take a bird’s eye view and look at it from the highest levels.
As in the earlier stages, when choosing maintenance software, what you’re really looking for are the pain points:
- Are maintenance requests being solved in a timely manner? If not, why not?
- How much overtime work is occurring? Is there a discernible pattern to overtime?
- How often does the maintenance department need to call in outside contractors?
- Is the maintenance backlog well managed? For information on what a backlog is and is not, and how to manage it, read “Maintenance Backlog: Take Control with a Priority Index.”
- Are we tracking high-quality data, and using it in a way that helps us grow?
4. Talk to Maintenance!
We really can’t stress this enough. Schedulers, planners, and technicians know exactly what causes the most trouble and how often it comes up. You’re wasting resources if you are not taking advantage of this accrued knowledge.
Their input is highly valuable, but there’s value in simply letting them know that they are part of this process. Most people resist change, even when they can see that the change will be for the better in the end. Bringing the maintenance crews into the process relatively early will help with adoption of whatever solution you choose.
You should also take this opportunity to review the pain points you’ve discovered with your maintenance and operations teams. They know the situation down on the ground and their viewpoint is extremely useful.
Bringing in both maintenance and operation’s perspectives will allow you to decrease any potential tension between the departments and help you gain insights from both the production and maintenance side.
It may seem strange that this is Step 4 rather than Step 1, but we can assure that there’s a method to our madness. Steps 1 through 3 depend on you spotting pain points, which you can then discuss with the maintenance team during Step 4.
They may tell you that the pain points you’ve identified are not, in fact, very painful at all, and that you’ve missed some of the issues that cost them time, money, and sweat.
This doesn’t mean that you should take their word as gospel. You’ve probably heard the expression “couldn’t see the forest for the trees.” They may be so used to “business as usual” that their pain points are just a part of everyday life. You may have to show them that there is a better way. Hard numbers are the most convincing way to do this, so pick the solution that tracks the numbers that are most important to you.
5. Compile Your Pain Points
You should know just where the pain is coming from at this point. Make a complete list, and then determine which processes need automation to relieve that pain. Sort your list by priorities, determining which features are essential and which would be nice to have but aren’t 100% required.
Now that you’ve got your list, all that’s left is to seek out the software that alleviates those pain points, right?
Sorry, no. There’s still more work to be done before you’re truly ready to choose a solution.
Not every maintenance solution is suited to every type of business. This is a simple fact. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t good solutions.
They may be the best-in-class in their sphere. However, if their sphere and yours doesn’t overlap sufficiently, there is little to no value in adopting them.
1. Does the Software Integrate With Your ERP?
Not all organizations use ERP software, so this may not be a consideration for you. However, most large organizations with significant maintenance needs do use ERP software of some kind.
Making sure your maintenance solution “plays nice” with your ERP should be a top priority. This means that you can rely on it to serve as a single source of truth at all points in time.
2. Do You Need an On-premise Solution or Cloud Solution?
This question is about both organizational suitability and organizational mandates. There’s little point in adopting an on-premise solution if your organization has a mandate to move all workloads to the cloud by the end of next year.
Note that a good cloud solution is much more involved than simply shoving on-premise software onto a remote server.
3. How Big Is Your Organization? Does the Solution Scale?
The maintenance needs of an organization with 23 facilities across six continents are somewhat different from those of a company with two facilities (both of them in the same country). You want to find a maintenance solution that is suited to organizations of your approximate size.
However, you probably have plans to grow both your company and your processes. Make sure that whatever solution you choose is not only suited to your organization today but can grow along with you.
When choosing maintenance software, the “right” solution in all cases is the one that’s most suited to your needs. It’s up to you to determine exactly what your needs are, not just for today but for the foreseeable future.
4. How Difficult Is the New Software To Learn?
Not only do you want to find a powerful system that will allow you to perform all of the asset management functions you need, but you will also want one that everyone on your team will be able to use.
The system should be easy for your crew to learn. This will help prevent you from losing efficiency due to a lack of user understanding. If your new system is obtuse and hard to use, your team may be unable to use it or use it incorrectly.
Pick the Correct Maintenance Scheduling Solution for You
There are many different maintenance solutions on the market. It’s a broad field with many entries, and all of them work slightly differently. Knowing your needs will inevitably lead to a narrowing of the field.
A very precise list of your needs will show you what you want and don’t want. We spent a lot of time in this article discussing pain points, but there are very few things in life more painful than spending a ton of money and time on a solution that simply doesn’t work for you. Is it really fair to even call it a solution at that point?