How Small is Too Small for Equipment Maintenance Software?

Read the article in Construction Outlook magazine - page 61


By: Greg Norris, B2W Software


As specialized software for managing equipment maintenance gains traction, many contractors grapple with a basic question. ‘How big do we need to be to benefit?’ The answer is not as simple as counting assets.


For large companies, switching to software as an alternative to paper and spreadsheets is becoming almost a given, according to John Kane, product manager at B2W Software. “The issue is not ‘if’ but ‘how’ and which software to use,” he explains.


At the other end of the spectrum, the cost and the effort of implementing an application like B2W Maintain might be prohibitive for a company with only a handful of assets or one that outsources maintenance of a small fleet. That leaves a lot of smaller and mid-size companies that could be underestimating the ROI value.


What does maintenance software do?

Specific features vary, but every computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) essentially helps maintenance teams prevent problems rather than just fix them; complete maintenance work more efficiently; and leverage data to make better decisions.


Software automates preventive maintenance by taking in data on utilization, such as engine hours, and generating notifications in advance when maintenance intervals are approaching. This increase the likelihood that the work will be done. Online applications and visibility bring efficiency to evaluating and prioritizing work requests, scheduling and completing work orders, processing mechanic payroll hours, managing parts, and other standard processes in the maintenance workflow.


A centralized system also provides easy access to complete information about each asset, including repair history. Reporting and analytics allow more informed decisions on things like utilization, mechanic staffing or the cost effectiveness of replacing an asset versus continuing to maintain it.


What should you consider?

Fleet size is a starting point in assessing the feasibility of maintenance software. The type of equipment and the work it does also factors in, as some assets require more frequent, intensive and complicated maintenance than others.


“The minimum threshold varies, but even companies with a dozen or so assets could benefit, and any company with 25 pieces of equipment should at least evaluate a CMMS,” says Kane. That evaluation should hinge on relatively straightforward ROI calculations and not just the sticker price of the software, he adds.


Spending 10 percent or more of overall revenue on equipment maintenance is common among construction companies that do not have maintenance software. Follow-on costs of unplanned downtime, jobsite disruptions and replacement equipment add to that.


“Getting that KPI to five percent or lower is common for companies that adopt maintenance software,” says Kane. “In that scenario, a $10-million company that goes from 10 percent to 5 percent could save $500,000 per year, making the cost of the software itself seem extremely minimal.”


Company culture and comfort level with technology should also be considered. Succeeding tends to not be as simple as buying software and handing out tablets. Contractors that get the best and the fastest ROI are the ones that adjust maintenance processes to optimize the software and commit to a more proactive, data-driven culture. The good news is, good applications are user friendly, even for employees that are not especially adept with computers or technology.


A software system for maintenance management might seem overwhelming but, as with a piece of equipment itself, contractors do not need to use every feature right away to justify it. Automation of preventive maintenance is a great place to start. Once maintenance intervals and requirements are entered, the software system can trigger work orders. Contractors can then bring KPI and warranty tracking, parts inventory management, mechanic payroll integration and other software capabilities online over time and as required.


Communication across workflows is another benefit of a CMMS that tends to be overlooked. Managing maintenance processes with software opens up opportunities for online collaboration and visibility that are impossible when that information is on paper or in a maintenance manager’s head. Repair requests, for example, can be received directly from a field tracking application, and managers in the field can track the status of those repairs to better plan how they can utilize the equipment. Equipment inspections completed with electronic forms can deliver data directly to the maintenance software. Schedulers and dispatchers can see the maintenance schedule, allowing them to assign and move equipment with maximum efficiency.


Finally, growth plans are another factor to consider. Small companies that don’t intend to stay small can benefit when they implement maintenance software to create a proactive maintenance culture from the outset.


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