Make CMMS Your Digitalization Hub
EP Editorial Staff | March 1, 2023
Expand your CMMS beyond maintenance to realize digital-transformation success.
By Eric Whitley, L2L
Digital transformation is a term that refers to fundamental organizational change using digital technologies to modify a company’s business model. The goal is greater adaptability, improved business performance, and increased output. The potential gains are significant. Boston Consulting Group (bcg.com) analyzed data in 2020 and found that digitally integrated companies’ annual earnings grew 1.8 times more than their non-digitally enabled competitors, while their enterprise value increased 2.4 times.
Although a large portion of technology is generic to evolving business practices, solutions such as robotics, augmented reality, digital twins, and additive manufacturing are more specific to manufacturing. These digital-transformation efforts happen, in part, through new equipment purchases, although there is a big move by companies to retrofit legacy equipment to remain competitive.
Regardless of the catalyst, the outcome of this trend is an exponential increase in data volumes and their sources, requiring better integration, management, and storage. Once captured, the control and exploitation of such data, and the accurate measurement of KPIs for transformation success, require powerful analytics to supply meaningful insights.
Challenges for the organization are the disparate and distributed sensors, production scheduling software, SCADA systems, and HMI devices used as inputs for smart manufacturing. Integrating these systems and tools is crucial for a successful digital transformation, with companies investing heavily in proprietary third-party software to manage the task.
Use Your CMMS
If organizations currently use a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), they may already possess the necessary software. A modern CMMS is capable of centralized control, software and sensor integration, data collection, analysis, and exploitation. While these capabilities form the core of digital-transformation efforts, organizations often focus their CMMS solely on maintenance management, failing to realize its broader application, and missing an opportunity for cost saving and efficiency.
As technology has improved, CMMS capabilities have expanded to blur the lines between enterprise asset management systems (EAM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. They are IIoT ready and contain native integration capabilities for commonly used software. Where integration is problematic, CMMS developers have the system knowledge to create integration hubs and ensure that the incoming data structure and naming conventions align correctly with their CMMS’s required meta-data elements.
CMMS software and its analytics engine are typically cloud based, enabling rapid scaling for an increased workload. On-site IT departments and infrastructure can be scaled back, with updates and security managed remotely by the CMMS provider. By expanding the remit of their CMMS, organizations remove the need for additional software and gain direct and indirect advantages for their business.
Direct benefits of making a CMMS the hub of your transformation initiative include:
Rapid rollout: With a proven and familiar CMMS, learning curves for employees are reduced, shortening the duration of the transformation project. This faster time to productivity, coupled with a reduced need for capital investment in additional software, offers a faster return on investment (ROI).
Centralized data storage and access: Using third-party hubs to integrate multiple software packages across an organization comes with some disadvantages, as it increases complexity and bears the risk of security weaknesses and siloed data. Using your CMMS minimizes integration risk while providing a single, centralized database to ensure data is secure, backed up off site, and available to all as the single point of truth.
Insight and innovation: Data capture and storage mean little if organizations fail to take advantage of the insights contained in their data. A CMMS provides extensive analytic capabilities to track and optimize performance, share insights, and monitor risk. It also supports automated warnings, predictions, decision making, and actions. These capabilities are generic and equally valuable to a wider business analysis, using data mining to discern information patterns for maintenance, product design, and/or manufacturing-method improvements.
Improved utility: Software providers design CMMS systems for planning and scheduling, remote condition monitoring, automated decision making, and predictive insight. They can also link to the production, finance, inventory, safety, and quality modules. Expanding CMMS for use beyond the maintenance function provides enhanced capabilities to previously isolated departments, further blurring the lines between a CMMS, EAM, and ERP.
Strict quality management: Maintenance management requires compliance with a broad range of legislation and quality procedures, including safety and environmental issues. Therefore, a CMMS meets strict standards for maintaining data integrity and security, supporting data transparency, monitoring user access and actions, providing traceability, and assisting audits.
There are also several indirect benefits:
Improved collaboration and results: Real-time, organization-wide exchange of information and employee collaboration is an objective of digital transformation. A CMMS comes with a centralized database of reliable information that provides subject-matter experts with quick and remote data access that results in fast and adaptable responses.
Worker empowerment and improved company culture: Workers feel disempowered when companies control information tightly and limit decision making to a select few. Linking CMMS across departments democratizes information flows, aiding decision making and boosting worker engagement.
Data-backed decision making: Too often, decisions in a company are made based on historical events, perceived decision-maker competence, or to support an isolated agenda. Providing a reliable, comprehensive, and easily accessed database of events and outcomes makes it easier to use empirical information to challenge, support, or audit decisions.
Flat hierarchical structures: Digital transformation offers an opportunity for fundamental change in a company’s business model and organizational structure. Disseminating data and removing layers of control improve operational efficiency and effectiveness.
A business might choose to incrementally roll out a digital-transformation initiative. With this approach, the impact on business operations and investment costs is still considerable. While large enterprises may have the budget and manpower to power their way through, small- and medium-sized manufacturing businesses rarely do.
The failure to convert digital-transformation initiatives into meaningful business ranges from 70% to 95%. That means only 5% to 30% of businesses get it right. Given the complexity of digital-transformation projects, unraveling the reasons for failure is equally intricate. These can include people, leadership, implementation, and technology issues.
A common factor is businesses failing to implement modern, open-software architecture to meet business needs, while being scalable, stable, secure, supporting rapid change, and integrating seamlessly with other applications.
Digital transformation is a complex undertaking that promises considerable upside when done well. As always, with a great reward comes increased risk. Small- to medium-sized enterprises, squeezed between the need for change and a high risk of failure, should welcome the ability to reduce capital investment while de-risking their implementation.
Talking to their CMMS provider about expanding their maintenance software’s remit might be the key to joining the select group of businesses that get their digital transformations right. EP
Eric Whitley is Director of Smart Manufacturing at L2L, Salt Lake City (L2L.com). He helps clients learn and implement a pragmatic approach to digital transformation. He’s authored several articles, played a leading role in the TPM effort at Autoliv ASP and the Management Certification programs at The Ohio State Univ. Download a free CMMS guide.