Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS)

by Don Sapp, Plexus Scientific
Revised and updated by Dan Eckstein, Total Resource Management
Updated by the Facilities O&M Committee

Last updated: 10-23-2014


Know What Work Has Been Done on Your Assets and What it Costs!

CMMS are utilized by facilities maintenance organizations to record, manage and communicate their day-to-day operations. The system can provide reports used in managing the organization's resources, preparing facilities key performance indicators (KPIs)/metrics to use in evaluating the effectiveness of the current operations and for making organizational and personnel decisions. In today's maintenance world the CMMS is an essential tool for the modern facilities maintenance organization.

Prior to the computer age, paper records were maintained to track the work. Reports were simple but costly to prepare. With the dawn of the computer age it was recognized that computer software could be used to record work requirements, track the status of the work and analyze the recorded data for managing the work, produce reports and help control costs. Computers are powerful, relatively inexpensive, easy to use, and provide tools to support improved maintenance practices. Tools are available for facility professionals that can manage the planning and day-to-day operations and maintenance activities required for a single facility or a large complex, providing all of the information required to manage the work, the work force, and the costs necessary to generate management reports and historical data.


The goal of a maintenance manager is to employ a management system that optimizes the use of scarce resources (manpower, equipment, material, and funds) to maintain the facilities and equipment that are the responsibility of the maintenance organization. The system should provide for integrated processes giving the manager control over the maintenance of all facilities and maintainable equipment from acquisition to disposal. The following identifies what the system should do:

  • Address all resources involved,
  • Maintain maintenance inventory,
  • Record and maintain work history,
  • Include work tasks and frequencies,
  • Accommodate all methods of work accomplishment,
  • Effectively interface and communicate with related and supporting systems ranging from work generation through work performance and evaluation,
  • Support each customer's mission,
  • Ensure communication with each customer,
  • Provide feedback information for analysis, and
  • Reduce costs through effective maintenance planning.

A modern CMMS meets these requirements and assists the facilities maintenance manager with work reception, planning, control, performance, evaluation, and reporting. Such a system will also maintain historical information for management use. The manager should evaluate management data requirements and establish electronic data needs prior to acquiring a CMMS or additions to/replacement of an existing system. The evaluation should include a return on investment (ROI) analysis before investing in additional or new CMMS capabilities. The manager should only acquire what is necessary to accomplish the maintenance organization's goals. The following paragraphs include details of capabilities that may be included in a modern CMMS.

A. Operating Locations

The CMMS may include an application that allows an operator to enter and track locations of equipment (locations in which equipment operates) and organize these locations into logical hierarchies or network systems. Work orders can then be written either against the location itself or against the equipment in the operating location. Using operating locations allows for the tracking of the equipment's lifecycles (history) and provides the capability to track the equipment's performance at specific sites.

B. Equipment

The CMMS may include a module that allows an operator to keep accurate and detailed records of each piece of equipment. This module would include equipment related data, such as bill of material, Preventive Maintenance (PM) schedule, service contracts, safety procedures, measurement points, multiple meters, inspection routes, specification data (name plate), equipment downtime, and related documentation. This equipment data is used for managing day-to-day operations and historical data that can be used to help make cost effective replace or repair decisions. The data can also be used to develop additional management information, such as building equipment downtime failure code hierarchies for use in maintenance management metrics.

C. Resources

The CMMS may include a separate module to track labor resources. This module typically includes records for all maintenance personnel, including their craft or trade categories, such as mechanic, electrician, or plumber. Additionally, this module may include labor rates in order to capture and track true labor costs against any asset or piece of equipment. Some CMMS will allow maintenance managers to also track skill levels and qualifications for each resource to help in planning and scheduling work. Grouping labor categories into common associations can help a manager assign work to particular shop rather than an individual.

D. Safety Plans

With the emphasis placed on safety throughout Government and industry a capability for safety plans/planning may be included in a CMMS. The following capabilities should be available:

  • Manual or automatic safety plan numbering.
  • Building safety plans for special work.
  • Track hazards for multiple equipment and locations.
  • Associating multiple precautions to a hazard.
  • Track hazardous materials for multiple equipment and locations.
  • Once hazards and precautions are entered they should be available for reference and data entry.
  • Track ratings for health, flammability, reactively, contact, and Material Safety Data Sheets for hazardous materials.
  • Define lock-out/tag-out procedures.
  • Define tag identifications for specific equipment and locations.
  • Define safety plans for multiple equipment or locations.
  • View and linking documents.
  • Associate safety plans to job plans, to preventative maintenance masters and to work orders.
  • Print safety plans automatically on work orders.
  • Allow tag-out procedures to be associated to hazards or directly to locations, equipment, and safety plans or work orders.

E. Inventory Control

An inventory control module may be included to allow an operator to track inventory movement such as items being moved in or out of inventory, or from one location to another. Stocked, non-stocked, and special order items could be tracked. The module should also have the capability for tracking item vendors, location of items, item cost information, and the substitute or alternate items that can be used if necessary. Some CMMS recommend and provide the ability to track tools and provide basic tool-room management features as part of the inventory module. This feature will allow work planners the ability to see what tools are in stock and assign tools to various work categories to reduce research effort on the part of mechanics and technicians working in the field.

F. Work Request

A work request module should be an integral part of a CMMS. The module can provide the capability for a requestor to input a request, such as a trouble call, or it can be entered by the maintenance organization's work control. The data entry screen should be designed for minimal data entry. The work order number can be assigned manually or automatically. A requester can enter minimal data and work control can enter additional information as required. Data should be entered once, and pop-up tables in the system should eliminate the need to memorize codes.

G. Work Order Tracking

A CMMS must include work order tracking because it is the heart of a work order system. The data should require entry only once, and pop-up tables should eliminate the need to memorize codes. The tracking system should provide instant access to all of the information needed for detailed planning and scheduling, including work plan operations, labor, materials, tools, costs, equipment, blueprints, related documents, and failure analysis. Of course, this is dependent on how many modules are installed and how much information has been entered in the system. The manager must evaluate data requirements and the practicality of adding modules.

H. Work Management

A work management module may be a part of the CMMS. The module could provide the capability that would let a planner specify which labor to apply to specific work orders and when. The module permits planning and dispatching.

  • Planning—In planning, labor assignments would be planned for future shifts. Each person's calendar availability would be considered when the assignments are made. The assignments would be created sequentially over the shift, filling each person's daily schedule with priority work for the craft. It could even split larger jobs over multiple shifts—automatically.
  • Dispatching—In dispatching, labor assignments would be carried out as soon as possible. This system could begin tracking labor time from the instant the assignment is made. The system operator could interrupt work already in progress in order to reassign labor resources to more crucial work.

I. Quick Reporting

The CMMS could provide a rapid and easy means for opening, reporting on, and closing work orders, and reporting work on small jobs after-the-fact. Labor, materials, failure codes, completion date, and downtime could all be reported.

J. Preventive Maintenance

The following capabilities may be provided in a CMMS to manage a Preventive Maintenance (PM) program:

  • Support multiple criteria for generating PM work orders. If a PM master has both time-based and meter-based frequency information, the program should use whichever becomes due first, and then update the other.
  • Generate time-based PM work orders based upon last generation or last completion date. Next due date and job plans should be displayed.
  • Permit and track PM extensions with adjustments to next due date.
  • Trigger meter-based PM by two separate meters.
  • Print sequence job plans when wanted.
  • Create a PM against an item so new parts have PM automatically generated on purchase.
  • Specify the number of days ahead to generate work orders from PM masters that may not yet have met their frequency criteria.
  • Consolidate weekly, monthly, and quarterly job plans on a single master.
  • Assign sequence numbers to job plans to tell the system which job plan to use when a PM work order is generated from a PM master.
  • Permit overriding frequency criteria in order to generate PM work orders whenever plant conditions require.
  • Route PM with multiple equipment or locations.
  • Generate work orders in batch or individually for only the equipment wanted.
  • Should have the capability to be used with the system scheduler to forecast resources and budgets.

K. Utilities

A utilities module may be included that contains detailed information on utilities consumption, distribution, use, metering, allocation to users, and cost. It could include modeling capability and linkage to utility control systems.

L. Facility/Equipment History

A history module may be included that would contain the maintenance histories of the facilities and equipment. It would contain summaries of PM, repairs, rehabilitation, modifications, additions, construction, and other work affecting the configuration or condition of the items. It would include completed and canceled work orders. The maintenance history records can be used to support proactive maintenance techniques such as root-cause failure analysis and reliability engineering.

M. Purchasing

A mature CMMS may also include a Purchasing module to initiate the requisition of material against a work order and track the delivery and cost data of the item when the material arrives. This capability will allow the maintenance manager improved visibility of matters that can impact work planning and efficiency. Procuring required material outside the CMMS can often leave information gaps that can inhibit the effectiveness of work execution and result in redundant parts orderings and non-standard procurement practices. The purchasing module may include many functions such as a vendor master catalog, invoicing, purchase orders, receiving, and even request for quotations.

N. Facilities Maintenance Contracts

A CMMS may contain a contracts module that includes information on maintenance contracts. With other database files, it provides a picture of each contractor's past performance, current loading, and planned work. It could include information on specifications, Government furnished property, quality assurance, payment processing, delivery orders issued, schedules, and related matters. It could cover both contracts for facilities maintenance and support services.

O. Key Performance Indicators(KPI)/Metrics

The CMMS can be utilized to accumulate the data for KPIs for use in evaluating the organization's maintenance program. The maintenance management organization must select the metrics to utilize in establishing their goals and to measure progress in meeting those goals. The importance of Selecting the Right Key Performance Indicators cannot be overstated. The KPIs must be based on data that can be obtained and provide meaningful information that will be utilized in managing the organization.

P. Specialized Capabilities and Features

Some CMMS providers have also developed specialized capabilities and features for particular business sectors, functions, or requirements. Maintenance managers today can use their CMMS to track transportation and fleet inventory, including maintenance history, mileages, lease terms, rates, and accounting data. Other managers are using their CMMS to track deployed assets such as computers and other IT equipment. Through their CMMS they track changes, additions, and movement of equipment, including software inventory on computers, tablets, and smart phones. When selecting a CMMS; consider the full scope of asset management options, with a focus on consolidated IT solutions.


A CMMS can be used to manage simple or complex facilities, from a single building to a complete campus. A CMMS can also be used to manage the maintenance program for a grouping of equipment such as a fleet of vehicles. The systems are very versatile since most are in modular form for the various maintenance functions and can be customized to fit the particular application. Whatever system or set of modules are selected for use, careful consideration needs to be given to functional requirements and a sound deployment plan. The CMMS must meet the needs, constraints, and opportunities of the business and be implemented in a way that users will welcome the technology and have a vision for the benefits it brings. Proper configuration, testing, and training cannot be over emphasized when bringing a new CMMS or upgrading an existing system to an organization.

Lessons Learned

Before procuring and implementing a CMMS determining if the system is to be an asset and a usable tool in the managing of the day-to-day maintenance and operations within an organization must be taken into account.

General Considerations:

  1. Understand what other systems are in use by your organization with which the CMMS will have to interface such as financial and geospatial systems, and ensure that this interface can be easily managed. Users and managers of these systems should be involved in developing your CMMS, including your IT group.
  2. When considering a new system, make sure that the data from your existing system can be easily and accurately transferred.
  3. Look for full support from the vendor during installation and testing. Ensure this includes ample training of your staff in the use of the system in both operating the system and how to maximize the benefit of the information within the system. The vendor should leave you with a clear understanding of what it can and cannot do, as well as annual maintenance and upgrade costs.

Potential Pitfalls:

  1. Do not go into the selection of a system without a clear definition of requirements - what you expect it to do and how it is to meet your specialized needs. Also, have a clear understanding what metrics you want your CMMS to produce and what the work process is for your organization. You may want to bring in outside professional guidance that is experienced in CMMS but not associated with any particular vendor or system.
  2. Do not try to develop a CMMS in-house. You will spend an inordinate amount of time and money designing a system that is likely already available on the market. There are many vendors of good off-the-shelf systems that have the advantage of years in developing and improving systems for other similar clients.
  3. Do not make your CMMS your primary payroll and accounting system. Remember it is a work management system that requires data relating to time and costs (thus interfacing with your financial systems) but it should not be the system that employees rely on to get paid, otherwise it will get tied up every two weeks with payroll time entry.
  4. Do not get locked into a structure that is difficult to enter data and lacks the necessary flexibility to be upgraded or modified. Consider who will be entering the data and their computer skills. The CMMS should have the flexibility to enter data from multiple sources and media. The more ease of data entry will improve its accuracy and the resulting output. Also, the system should be flexible enough to allow the transfer of data during the design and construction phases of a project, e.g. Construction Operations Building information exchange (COBie).
  5. If you are considering replacing your existing system, do not get locked to "lost costs." Don't fall for the logic that what you have now is not doing the job but you have too much time and money invested in it to change. Consider only the time and cost to correct your existing system to meet your needs versus what a new system would cost.
  6. Do not limit yourself to looking at only one system early in the selection process. Develop a short list and "road test" each product. Establish rating criteria and score the actual performance of each candidate.
  7. Do not be the Beta test. Look for systems that have a proven track record with agencies similar to yours. Avoid unneeded complexity.

Emerging Issues

Failure of CMMS implementations is a continuing problem voiced by industry experts. To avoid this pitfall a thorough management study of the system is required to evaluate the use of such a system in their organization and to determine the costs benefits. Not all maintenance organizations require the use of a complete set of CMMS modules. Those that have implemented CMMS programs without a complete study, typically fail to use the capabilities incorporated in the software and may eventually view the program as a failure.

Avoiding the pitfalls in decision-making concerning implementing or modifying CMMS in a maintenance organization means research must be a high priority.

CMMS would benefit significantly from a standardized asset identification system in which each piece of equipment or building component is given an identification number common to all facilities throughout an organization. GSA has such a system called the Government Asset Identification System. It uses National CAD Standards acronyms to identify assets. It will cross reference CAD acronyms with Omniclass. If Government agencies adopt National CAD and Omniclass standards to identify their assets, they will expect to reduce costs, improve information fore executive decisions, increase operational efficiency, and integrate facility management with new and existing technologies.

The most notable emerging issue is the implementation of Building Information Modeling (BIM). BIM is an enabler that vastly improves the quality of information available to all facility tools. Information collected during design and construction can and should be used commission facilities and validate performance. That model information can then be used to ensure the facility continues to perform as intended. A BIM can support all the applications identified earlier in this article. The emerging National BIM Standard-United States™ provides the open formats which allow information to be captured and used by most CMMS tools. In fact, you should seek out products that do support these open standards in order to minimize data lock with any specific vendor.

Major Resources


Operations and Maintenance

Comprehensive Facility Operation & Maintenance Manual

The Internet provides a wealth of information for use in making CMMS implementation decisions. Two of the sites offering this type of information are Maintenance Resources and Maintenance Resources provides CMMS reference articles from "What is CMMS?" and articles dealing with various aspects of CMMS. is designed to provide the CMMS end user community with information, resources and education relating to preplanning purchases and making effective use of computerized maintenance management systems.

In evaluating the acquisition of a CMMS or adding to or replacing an existing CMMS an ROI should be performed to obtain data to justify the acquisition. An ROI calculator to determine an organizations potential savings from an improved management of their maintenance program is available at the following locations:

The following provide links to some company web sites that offer CMMS software. There are many others that can be found on the Internet with a "CMMS" search.

Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG) Resource Page Reliability-Centered Maintenance (RCM) provides information and guidance on preventive maintenance and on selecting KPIs.

The National Aeronautics and Spaces Administrations (NASA) provides insight into the use of Facilities Maintenance Management Automation in Chapter 6 of their procedures requirements document, Facilities Maintenance and Operations Management.

The National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) hosts the Facilities Maintenance and Operations Committee (FMOC). An FMOC presentation describes the Government Asset Identification System.