Plant Maintenance Software: The Good, The Gaps, and Getting the Most from Any System

By Amy Mele
17 Sep 20

Maintenance Impact on the Organization

A key principle of modern manufacturing is to operate as efficiently as possible. This is often thought of in terms of operations, such as making more product with less raw material consumption or improving quality to minimize scrap and rework. While these are certainly valuable avenues to explore in bettering operational efficiency, it is equally important, if not more so, to turn a considering eye on support organizations.

How these groups perform, with maintenance typically chief among them, is critically impactful to operations’ overall measures of success. The assignments and responsibilities of these supporting functions often constitute the majority of downtime events affecting operations, whether planned or not.

The resulting need to therefore minimize mechanic time on jobs and optimize execution has driven plant maintenance software to become a standard tool for best in class manufacturers.

How Does Plant Maintenance Software Help?

Plant maintenance software is used by an organization with physical assets or property to maintain records on the maintenance operations of that organization. Specifically, it can be utilized to monitor current status and document historical plant asset status, either via manual entry or integration with external systems or IoT-enabled devices, as well as to capture information on activities performed. Some versions also include optional modules that can be applied to major project activities, such as the design and construction of new facilities.

Having a real-time perspective on plant equipment status greatly enhances a maintenance organization’s ability to respond rapidly and to minimize any period of downtime. In addition, the capability to effectively manage activities allows for better planning and coordination of work that will impact production. However, the true value of the software comes from accruing the data that forms asset histories, the details of each instance of work performed, by whom, when, and why.

Through analysis, this aggregate information exposes waste in current practices and areas for improvement:

  • Lack of clarity in the job description and requirements
  • Lack of visibility to jobs available
  • Machine availability to perform work
  • Time spent looking for parts or tools
  • Time spent looking for information (manuals, instructions, and drawings)
  • Travel time to and from the job site
  • Lack of standard work for reactive maintenance
  • Moving resources between jobs and leaving jobs incomplete

Some of these opportunities may go unrecognized, while others are well known to Maintenance veterans yet remain unaddressed.

The comprehensive information captured within plant maintenance software adds further value here: aside from highlighting process gaps influencing efficiency, it also supplies objective context around these gaps.

Correlating cost, man-hours, or machine downtime metrics to each potential improvement enables prioritization and galvanizes organizations to action.

Plant Maintenance Software vs CMMS

When discussing technology solutions for Maintenance organizations, plant maintenance software may not be the most popular name in users’ lexicon; most people are more familiar with “CMMS”, or computerized maintenance management system (or software). Although seemingly interchangeable, there are some distinctions between them that can be made.

Traditionally, CMMS is a suite of functionalities that support end user objectives of optimizing maintenance and asset management. These solutions include activities such as:

  • Administering preventive maintenance plans
  • Scheduling labor resources
  • Conducting maintenance and asset reporting
  • Managing contacts
  • Managing building estimates (depending on the CMMS).

Popular options for CMMS include Maximo, eMaint, Fiix, and Leading2Lean.

As CMMS constitutes a generalized set of uses, it is often broken down into subsets by application. Some of the more common solutions are:

  • Enterprise Asset Management, which is focused on physical assets like equipment or vehicles and is primarily utilized to focus on extending asset life, manage asset status, and evaluate asset performance.
  • Computer-Aided Facility Management is centered on the maintenance of one or more facilities, with features like maintenance management, property maintenance, personnel and equipment resource scheduling, and document storage for maps and blueprints.
  • Plant maintenance software, as with these other offerings, may be referred to by the blanket term CMMS or as a subset of it. Since plant maintenance is often used in production environment applications, which may have particular safety and maintenance requirements, an industry-specific plant maintenance solution or module of a CMMS may be appropriate.

 

Similarities - Plant Maintenance Software vs CMMS

As plant maintenance software can be enveloped within a CMMS, these two products have several commonalities:

Asset Management

Ability to maintain an asset of any type through both preventive maintenance and status monitoring

Work Order Management

Ability to digitally administer work orders to automate the process of creating, planning, approving, and executing work requests on time

Data Collection & Analysis

Ability to collect, either via manual entry or IoT connectivity, data on asset status and performance to provide insight into maintenance metrics to identify common failure modes and develop corrective and preventive measures.

Proactive Approach

Ability to transition from reactive work to planned preventive work through the collection and analysis of asset data.

 

Differences - Plant Maintenance Software vs CMMS

Reporting Functionality

CMMS reporting functionality enables users to monitor relevant metrics and predict future performance based on historical and present data.

Task Prioritization

CMMS ensures the necessary inventory and labor resources are available to complete tasks, or to order and stock components and schedule activities to ensure the required resources are available at the time of work.

Design and Construction

Some industry-specific plant software can support design and construction of industrial facilities to maximize efficiency and ensure both safety and compliance requirements are satisfied, preventing future problems.

Estimations Capability

Some plant software includes an estimation module that predicts labor and material costs using real-time data so companies can plan accordingly to maintain budget adherence

What Doesn’t Plant Maintenance Software Do (And Why Does That Matter)?

From the above review of plant maintenance software and how it fits in to the overall scheme of CMMS, it should be evident that deploying one or both systems can capture immense value for not only the Maintenance support organization, but production overall. The ability to respond faster and more accurately to downtime events, better predict machine failures and avert them, and more efficiently allocate resources to planned work should ensure better asset availability and manufacturing throughput.

However, as mentioned at the outset of this discussion, Maintenance is only one piece of the puzzle of business success. Production remains the key to any manufacturing organization, bolstered by a slew of other support groups such as Training, Engineering, and Quality. Despite these teams’ common goal of assisting production, their disparate workflows, particularly manually-driven ones, means there are as many systems and data repositories in use as there are departments. These systems become silos, inhibiting data, and progress sharing without intense effort from every organization. Yet without such endeavors, there would be no coordination of work, slowing performance improvements, or even leading to conflicting activities.

The Production Focused Solution

There, most fortunately, is a solution to this challenge. The L2L Lean Execution System provides a single platform within which all departments’ workflows are represented: from plant maintenance and CMMS to Production Management, Training, Project Management, and even Lean tools. Each group’s workflows are digitized, their data compiled into metrics, and reporting and analysis executed within one easily accessible application.

By centralizing information across the plant, L2L enables cross-team communication and drives collaboration for significant operational improvement. To see how you can improve your plant maintenance and overall organizational performance, check out the L2L LES platform today!

 

 

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