Eight Things You Need to Know About Your CMMS

Eight Things You Need to Know About Your CMMS

by Megan Matthews – Project Manager, CMMS Services

and Don Felgar – Software Development Engineer, CMMS Services

We all expect to open our computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) in the morning and find it ready to do the day’s work. However, there are eight critical facets of your CMMS that need to be in good working order to ensure the system is being utilized properly and that your data will be there when you need it. If you are unsure of anything on this list – or wonder how your plant’s system stacks up – we’d be happy to work up a health-check report on your system to identify areas where you can improve.

  1. Database and Attachment Backups

When the worst happens and your CMMS crashes, the database and attachment backups are critical to getting you back in operation quickly. The less frequently your system runs backups, the more data you risk losing. In addition, your backups need to be stored somewhere safe – which means on a different server. Otherwise, a system crash will wipe out all of your data. Talk to your IT or CMMS support staff to ensure that your backup frequency and location align with your tolerance for data loss.

  1. System Performance

All CMMS systems require regular tuning and monitoring to ensure continued high performance. If you don’t have an IT or CMMS resource monitoring your server and CMMS application, the system’s performance will slowly degrade over time. To keep it running smoothly, review the operating system’s and CMMS’s error logs and address any issues promptly. Restart the CMMS and/or OS regularly to allow the system to recover and reorganize resources. Finally, review disk and memory availability on a regular basis. These three tasks will go a long way toward ensuring efficient, dependable operation.

Start with these two fundamentals: Secure your system in layers; and don’t rely on ‘security through obscurity.’ Using layers of security means, for example, not allowing an attacker to gain access to two servers by obtaining one password. If an attacker manages to access your Maximo application server, you can still make it difficult to access your database server. If they get into your wi-fi, at least make it tough for them to access computers on that wi-fi.

An example of security-through-obscurity logic would be, ‘We’re just a small power plant, and this is just a CMMS system; it’s okay to use an insecure password.’ Here are some better measures than relying on obscurity:

  • Review your password policy. Most CMMS systems can be configured to require a password length, combination of characters and password expiration.
  • Set up firewalls and review them frequently. Ideally, no one should be able to connect to your database server except your administrators and your CMMS application.
  • Lock down your CMMS access by IP address. This is probably the single best protection against the most common attacks – which are automated, net-wide efforts rather than someone focusing on you in particular.
  • Review your session logs regularly to find out if you’ve already been compromised. This could be someone accessing your system without authorization, such as a former employee with a still-valid password.
  • An unsigned certificate makes you vulnerable to a ‘man in the middle’ attack, i. e., someone intercepts your internet traffic, decodes it and then passes it along to the server you think you are talking to. This would be a sophisticated attack, one that has singled out your plant.
  • Have a look at your wi-fi: You should change the password periodically and also maintain a list of hardware MAC addresses of all the devices authorized to connect to it.
  • If your CMMS is publicly visible, you should be using SSL/TLS to encrypt traffic. This prevents an attacker from obtaining passwords from your internet traffic. As with the VPN, your SSL certificates should be signed and up-to-date.

By following these seven tips, you can substantially reduce your chances of being hacked. Backups also factor in here, as the newer waves of attacks often involve encrypting files on your server drives and demanding ransom for the decryption key. In this kind of scenario, you get some degree of protection by keeping your backup system operating well.

  1. Work Order Backlog

A CMMS system is more than the sum of its parts; it’s also the sum of its usage. To ensure that your system is helping you reduce downtime and avoid safety hazards, you need to verify that it’s being used properly. Work orders that are never closed or that sit in unfinished status for long periods are likely to cause problems. The best way to avoid these is by monitoring your work-order backlog through a monthly report or key performance indicator (KPI). Start with those over 90 days old, and see if you can eliminate all but those less than 30 days. You’ll operate more effectively, with less downtime and fewer failures.

Technically Speaking_NAES
  1. Work Order Utilization

Work orders (WOs) are a critical part of your CMMS and should be used as more than simple placeholders for work. Many sites use methods of logging, entering labor and purchasing that can circumvent their CMMS. CMMS systems have the ability to track not only work orders but the labor, assets, purchasing and work history associated with these records. When properly used, this tracking can help you perform the following:

  • Determine when an asset needs repairs or is reaching the end of its life cycle;
  • Figure cost of work (including labor) to determine when it would be most cost-effective to pull in external resources rather than just relying on in-house resources;
  • Plan labor to ensure that your staff is utilized in the most effective and efficient way;
  • Use preventive maintenance work orders to ensure critical components are being properly maintained and review/ update them regularly;
  • Develop work logs to provide relevant information to those returning to the job and those searching archived work orders for guidance on current work.

Reports and KPIs can be used to report the percentage of work orders that are properly completed and include all of this relevant data. When properly utilized, the work-order system can drive a good reliability-centered maintenance plan and reduce downtime.

  1. Inventory Overstock

Inventory at the plant is critical to ensure quick turnaround for repairs and inspections, but it can add a lot of unnecessary cost. A CMMS can help you minimize these costs, but only if you are using it effectively. Manual inventory orders, poor management of stock and ‘ordering for the job’ can result in overruns and needless expense.

If you enter planned and actual material usage, your CMMS program can determine when inventory should be ordered. It can order material in batches to reduce shipping costs, take advantage of bulk purchase savings, and order material to arrive on time to reduce wasteful expedited shipping fees. Reports showing the maximum and minimum stock for inventory, purchasing history, and vendor history can help your inventory specialist fine-tune your system. You can also generate a chart of inventory based on previous usage that can help you identify those items that have languished for years and should be either liquidated or refurbished.

  1. Purchasing Utilization

Together with inventory management, purchasing plays a critical role in keeping your plant operating cost-effectively. It’s important to enter proper lead time so that items can be ordered in timely fashion, thereby minimizing shipping costs and avoiding unplanned outages. In addition, you need to apply costs to the appropriate work order or asset. This will help identify assets that are trending toward failure, so you can take action to ensure safe operation and preempt costly outages. You can also use this information for budgeting and as a historical resource for planning future work. A ‘committed dollars’ report can help you identify purchase orders for which an invoice has not yet been received, allowing you to clearly identify your costs.

  1. Asset Cost

Once you’ve completed the tasks in Item 7, you should be in a position to identify total asset cost. This should include not only materials, labor and repairs but any outage expenses as well as fines or levies stemming from regulatory actions. A report itemizing these costs can be used to drive planning and help you keep your plant operating at peak performance.

The plants that achieve the highest performance are those that make the best use of available resources, monitor their use of these resources and, when they identify issues, address them promptly. If you need assistance with this process, feel free to contact us at cmms@naes.com.