All posts by Mapcon

The Future of CMMS and Virtual Reality

Virtual reality and CMMS

If you are like me, you have been awaiting the rise of virtual reality (or VR) for a very long time. Thanks to recent advances in technologies such as 360-degree photography, the long wait is finally over and we can now leave our old humdrum, boring world in the dust as we dive head-first into digital realms unknown! But not all is fun and games when it comes to VR. In fact, the technology serves many purposes outside of entertainment. One area is in the workplace, which begs the question, how will future computer maintenance management systems (CMMS) adapt to this new tool?

Virtual reality and the reliability industry, believe it or not, are a perfect match for one another. If you own a pair of VR goggles, such as the ones offered by Samsung or even the cardboard offerings from Google, then you know that the possibilities are nearly limitless. And while there may not be thousands of apps for these devices yet, with the pending launch of Sony’s virtual reality system for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Neo, you can expect a huge explosion in the marketplace.

One cool feature that VR can bring to an industrial or warehouse setting is interactive education. Already, there are software programs that allow you to practice certain skill sets, such as public speaking (I highly recommend this particular option, by the way, especially for managers or management hopefuls) and even surgery, though hopefully any doctor you encounter has worked on real-life humans as well!

Picture a piece of maintenance management software that allowed you to do something as simple as read a digital training manual or, better yet, let you practice performing maintenance on a virtual copy of a machine. Imagine the time and money that would save when training employees, especially if the equipment you needed to train on was in a far-away location.

Now, take that a step further. Perhaps a machine breaks down and you can’t quite figure out how to replace a part; the manuals are full of heavy techno-jargon and are poorly written, offering no clear instructions on how to fix the machine. Enter virtual reality. Pop on your headset and get a tour of the machine from the inside out, click on the spare part you need to replace, and then watch a video of it being replaced. What could be easier?

Another great tool that VR can bring to the reliability industry is document storage. Just like regular CMMSes today, a VR CMMS could hold all of your important documents, which you could flip through as though you had them right in front of you. And if you have a portable VR system, all the better!

Add to the list the possibility of remote workshops, conferences, live customer support, and virtual stores that you could browse as though you were there in person and you can easily see how virtual reality (and augmented reality as well) are set to be a major part of our industry in the not-too-distant future.

Now, if only they could make those VR goggles look a little less nerdy …

Famous Operations: What can we learn?

Facility Maintenance

Let’s face it: Not every facility is the same. While the concept of preventive maintenance may seem pretty cut-and-dried for the layman, in reality, it can be pretty complex and open to interpretation based upon the type of facility you are in charge of. With that in mind, sometimes, it is a good idea to tour other factories and buildings to get a sense of what other companies are doing and maybe take a few of their tricks back to your department. You never know: You may just learn a thing or two!

All around the globe, factories and warehouses are brimming with reliability professionals, all after the same goal: keeping their business up and running and trying to make their department a profit center instead of a resource drain. Companies can live and die based on their preventative and proactive maintenance plans; production errors, too much downtime, and workplace injuries can be more disastrous to a company than bad PR or a poor sales quarter.

Fortunately, there are industry leaders to look at and study worldwide to see what their maintenance managers are doing to help keep things on track. For instance, food facilities have to put an extra focus on handling and preparation procedures as well as food safety protocols, whereas a chemical manufacturer may emphasize work safety and spill prevention.

In reality, all facilities need to worry about core issues: reducing downtime, keeping grounds safe for workers and customers, increasing production, properly managing assets, and efficiently managing machine or equipment maintenance.

Hershey is a great example of a large company that you can learn a thing or two from in terms of managing a facility. One of the largest chocolate providers in the world, Hershey produces a large array of edible goods, each requiring its own set of custom molds and production processes. Chocolate goes through heating and cooling steps to ensure that your candy bar arrives not only delicious but with a certain consistency and appearance as well. Because of this, keeping the assembly line flowing is pivotal; any shutdown can result in ruined batches of candy and a significant loss of profits.

Cross-contamination is another concern for food manufacturers. Chocolate producers, such as Cadbury, whose main production facility lies in Bournville, England, must be careful to ensure that plain chocolate products do not accidentally take on peanut dust during manufacture, as consumers with nut allergies could be negatively affected. Strict quality standards must be in place to ensure that this delicious but hazardous breach does not occur!

Boeing may not be in the food business, but they can certainly teach us a thing or two about the importance of eliminating downtime or, at the very least, responding to emergencies rapidly. Across the globe, thousands of airplanes are preparing to take off at any moment. Some carry passengers, while others carry cargo, but at the end of the day, any delay in operation can cost a business thousands of dollars per minute. With that in mind, Boeing not only needs to produce quality parts and machinery but respond rapidly when a vendor needs an emergency part to get their plane up and running again. Having a supply network in place to handle incidents such as this is crucial to a company like Boeing and possibly to your own business as well.

Meanwhile, Dow Chemical is a producer of many household products that we use in the home and office everyday. By the very nature of their business, their employees must deal with potentially hazardous chemicals night and day (the word is even in their name, folks). When spills happen, it isn’t just a matter of lost profit, but it can be a safety hazard as well. Having procedures in place and training employees on proper materials handling and cleanup is of utmost importance to a company like Dow. Managing safety gear and keeping up to date with the latest compliance standards are equally important, and you can bet your last dollar that Dow Chemical maintenance pros have a top-notch system in place to keep track of these things.

So next time you are visiting a new city or are away on travel, consider taking a tour of a local factory or manufacturer. Let the company know you are “in the biz” and maybe they will give you a behind-the-scenes peek at how they keep their organization in tip-top shape. Maybe you can bring something back to your own facility to make your maintenance processes even better!

Facility Space Allocation 101

Facilities Management

Whether you are moving into a new facility, upgrading your current one, or building a whole new property from scratch, one of the most important factors to consider during the initial phase (including budgeting) is space allocation. How much space is needed for each department? Where will equipment be placed? These and more are basic space allocation questions every facility manager should be prepared to ask and plan for.

As a facility manager or maintenance supervisor in the reliability industry, you no doubt know well the importance of space allocation in a building. After all, everything has its place. Unfortunately, just as with a monetary budget, space budgets are limited as well, and inevitably, we never have as much space as we want. In fact, we often do not have as much square footage as we need. That is where space allocation planning comes into play.

Planning is key when deciding where every piece of equipment will go. Having enough room for the equipment to rest and operate is only part of the equation: We also have to consider the space required for workers to operate the machinery, maintain it, and even just walk around it. If there is not a clear work space and walkway, there can be traffic jams and worker safety issues. It can also affect production rates as well. All of these are big no-nos and things that must be factored into the space allocation equation.

Speaking of safety, fire hazards are another concern. If a fire breaks out, you need clear exit paths and enough space for employees to evacuate. You also need room for rescue teams to put out the fire, spots for fire extinguishers and fire alarms, and proper ventilation systems, all of which require space you may not normally think about.

In addition, certain machines tend to throw off a lot of heat and should never be placed next to flammable chemicals or materials. Be sure you plan how much space is needed between walls and other equipment to avoid a fire hazard. The same can be said for hazardous chemicals, too. In fact, you will want a specific place to store any chemicals and chemical cleanup materials as well.

Another concern that is not always on the immediate agenda of facility managers is creature comforts for employees. That isn’t to say that facility managers do not care about this. Reliability managers tend to think of equipment or customers naturally. However, carving out some of your property for break rooms and bathrooms is also pivotal, as is planning the best place for them. The farther an employee has to travel to a restroom, the longer the break will be. Putting a break room too close to work space makes it less relaxing for employees; it should be a place where they can unwind and put work behind them for a while.

If you employ a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), and hopefully you are at this point, it can make the space allocation process even easier, as it makes it easier to get an overall picture of your assets and equipment. It can also help you save on space, as you can store documents and other important information directly in your system, cutting down on wasted square footage. Finally, a CMMS makes it so you can easily track your spare parts and replacement pieces, meaning you can centralize their location and keep the space that you do have tidy!

CMMS and Tax Season

CMMS And Tax Season

As we put the first month of the year firmly behind us, there is a magical feeling in the air. No, that isn’t the sting of Cupid’s arrow you are feeling: It is the heavy, bludgeoning blow of Uncle Sam’s tax stick, preparing to whack you firmly on the skull. With the tax season in full swing and the tax man making his yearly rounds, it is well past time to get your paperwork in order. If you got a slow start or are lacking in the time department, you may be in luck; a CMMS might be able to lend you a hand!

When most of us in the reliability industry think about computer maintenance management systems (CMMSes), or facility management software, we tend to think of it only in terms of how it can help keep our machinery up and running or track problems on our properties. However, there is a built-in, readily available aspect of CMMSes that moves them beyond just your typical asset management tool.

Maintenance systems are great for tracking things: assets, work orders, parts, and even financial data. Because of that, they make ideal tools to help gather important tax documentation to provide to your CPA (certified public accountant) or tax professional. For instance, since part of the role of a CMMS is to issue work orders and keep track of what work was performed, how long each job took, and so forth, you should be able to readily print a list of all employees in your department, how many billable hours they worked, and more. In addition, you may also employ contractors or freelancers, who have their own unique tax requirements. Your maintenance software will keep track of the work performed by these types of employees as well.

Another way your CMMS can help during tax season is by keeping track of the various assets you order to keep your equipment and facility in tip-top shape, like spare parts you need for repairs. Even the equipment you service needs to be tracked as part of your operating expenses. Likewise, if your boiler breaks down or your roof needs repairing, these are all important things to note on your taxes, as they could help reduce your tax liability.

Your company’s accountant will also need to document operating costs and calculate any profits (or losses) to report to the IRS, so it is crucial to have meticulous notes about every expenditure, be it man-hours or physical equipment, as well as any information that will help determine if your department is operating at a profit or a loss. A good CMMS can perform this reporting function as well.

One important, yet often-overlooked, area that a maintenance system helps a business with (and therefore is helpful in the tax department) is energy efficiency. By tracking energy usage and energy waste, you can take steps to employ the use of energy-friendly or energy-saving machinery. This will help reduce overall utility costs and may make your company eligible for tax credits.

The above is just a short list of ways your computerized maintenance management system can help during the tax season. So when the tax bill comes in, be sure to thank your CMMS (and your accountant) for helping to reduce your tax bill!

The 9 Best Things About Asset Management

M113 vehicle maintenance

When we talk about picking the best computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) for your organization, one of the top things to consider is how good the software is at asset management. With that in mind, in this blog post I am going to highlight 9 of the best things proper asset management can bring to your company.

What Is Asset Management?

Before you can understand the many benefits of asset management, you have to have a clear definition of exactly what asset management is. We frequently think of it in terms of asset tracking or keeping track of equipment and machinery, but this is a short-sighted viewpoint. In reality, asset management is exactly what it sounds like: managing your assets! This includes many things, such as tracking information on your equipment (think location, purchase date, warranty info, instruction manuals), scheduling maintenance jobs (and knowing when that maintenance needs to occur), and even energy management – the latter of which I am a big proponent of.

Knowing What You Have

Without a proper asset management system, it can be difficult to track what equipment you have. This is especially true for companies with moving parts, like a hospital or construction business. Not knowing what equipment you have can lead to many issues, such as theft, machine breakdown, over-ordering equipment, and so forth. None of this is an issue if you’re effectively managing your assets.

Knowing Where Your Equipment Is

On par with knowing what equipment you have, knowing the physical location of said equipment – and any replacement parts – is vital. After all, if you cannot find that heart monitor, for all intents and purposes, it does not exist. I have seen many situations where a maintenance manager goes from employee to employee trying to locate some machinery, wasting time and money, and getting more and more frustrated. Save yourself the hassle: manage those assets!

Ease of Finding Documentation

Just as important as the two points above, a good asset management program lets you easily store and find important documentation and information for each and every single piece of equipment you are responsible for. In my mind, this is one of the best things about asset management and CMMS in general. Knowing where a manual is, having warranty data on hand, knowing who to call for replacement parts – invaluable, and all things you can store in your maintenance management software.

Preventing Machine Failure

Knowing your assets means that you know important information about the equipment. This is critical for preventing machine failure. When you purchase a machine, you typically know the expected lifetime of that product, as well as how often you should maintain it, and what that maintenance entails. This is another benefit of asset management. By knowing when to perform your maintenance (and following through with it), you can not only prevent early machine failure, but can actually increase your equipment’s life expectancy.

Budgeting

In the end, equipment and parts breakdown no matter how well you care for them. Knowing your products lifespan and generating reports showing what machinery under your care is reaching its end-of-life can help you budget properly and plan for these failures.

Save Money

Some will say the best thing about asset management is that it helps you save money, and that is hard to argue with. After all, it is the ultimate goal of a CMMS. For all of the reasons listed above and below, managing your assets can save you money.

Avoid Regulatory and Safety Fines and Issues

In certain industries, such as healthcare and other businesses that have to consider safety regulations, good asset management keeps you compliant, provides proof of proper maintenance and adherence to regulatory guidelines, and can even aid you in times of litigation.

Employee Efficiency

Tracking when equipment was last maintained, and when it needs to be maintained again, helps you to increase employee efficiency. It prevents maintenance redundancy, and tracks how long maintenance on each piece of machinery takes. This, in turn, lets you know how to properly schedule your employees.

Accounting

A common misnomer in the CMMS industry is that the only reason you should purchase a piece of maintenance management software is for accounting purposes. Obviously, this is wrong. However, you can certainly include that as a benefit of asset management. What could be easier than pulling up a report of all the equipment and parts you purchased throughout the year in one fell swoop?

Links:

The Business of Asset Management

Lisa Richards

About the Author – Lisa Richards

Lisa Richards is an experienced professional in the field of industrial management and is an avid blogger about maintenance management systems and productivity innovation. Richards’ undergraduate degree in Industrial Engineering opened the door for her initial career path with a Midwest-based agricultural implement manufacturer with global market reach. Over a span of 10 years, Lisa worked her way through various staff leadership positions in the manufacturing process until reaching the operations manager level at a construction and forestry equipment facility. Lisa excelled at increasing productivity while maintaining or lowering operating budgets for her plant sites. An Illinois native, Lisa recently returned to her suburban Chicago North Shore hometown to raise her family. Lisa has chosen to be active in her community and schools while her two young girls begin their own journey through life. Richards has now joined the MAPCON team as an educational outreach writer in support of their efforts to inform maintenance management specialists about the advantages in marrying advanced maintenance software with cutting-edge facility and industrial management strategies.