Easy to use. Powerful software. Priced right.

The Maintenance Management Blog

August 22, 2012

Maintenance Software and your Unit Cost of Operation

Maintenance Software

What are your responsibilities as the maintenance professional in your organization? No, it’s not a loaded question. But you know you’re called upon to answer questions that – most times – you don’t have time to answer.

And forget about telling the person on the other end of the phone line "I"ll get back to you in couple days." More often than not, questions posed to maintenance managers from the departments they serve involve money. Their money! The money you spent getting their equipment back up and running!

If you’re using all the features of your CMMS (computerized maintenance management system) Maintenance Software package, the answers to these inquiries are not hard to produce. On the other hand, if you find yourself assigning overtime to the secretary or your clerks for these answers, perhaps you should read on. This article will mainly benefit organizations having a Central Maintenance group that services many departments. It’s also applicable to facilities whose departments or units have their own maintenance team.

Work Orders and Work Order Requests

Work Orders (WOs) are the lifeblood of any maintenance shop! They provide a wealth of information and allow the company to make intelligent decisions on spending.

When generated by an effective Maintenance Software package (and executed in a timely fashion), they give the company its best chance at maximizing production. First, we must realize, repair and maintenance WOs are a result of the eyes and ears of the personnel right on the plant floor who care about minimizing downtime and preventing unplanned shutdowns. It follows, then, that the more eyes and ears a company has to report maintenance problems, the better your chance of success at maximizing production.

So, if you’re not allowing access to your CMMS or Maintenance Software for WO Requests, perhaps it’s time to consider the benefits of doing so. Duplicate WO requests can be easily removed; still, they point to the fact that problems are being noted. Two requests for the same repair trump an unreported problem any day!

WO Request (WOR) screens should be formatted to provide the maintenance manager or his Planner with just the basics; the requestors name, phone number, and department or unit name can be auto-loaded immediately after the WOR number is generated. A Problem Description should be enough for follow-up. By keeping the WOR screens "required" fields to a minimum, workers won’t feel intimidated and apprehensive about using the program. Requestors don’t need to know all the facts – Craft Codes, Cost Centers, Estimated Hours – the important thing is they took the time to notify you.

Okay – now that you've purged the duplicates out of the way and have the WOs planned, scheduling and executing will follow. There are several ways to determine which WO gets "in the schedule". Many organizations use a Priority system based on the Equipment Rating and the WO Rating. In most Maintenance Software programs, these are optional data entry fields. If your team did not take the time to prioritize the equipment when building your system, this may not be an effective means of determining which WO gets done and which one can wait. If your plant is like the one I worked for, the “squeaky wheel” concept many times won out when one job was being considered over another. Without a meaningful Equipment Rating program in place, the justification for execution is often taken out of your hands.


At some point, your maintenance team has their work lined up; they have the right tools, the necessary spare parts are on-hand, and the safety aspects of the job have been discussed with the workers. The work gets completed and the unit is notified. Great job, guys! Is the work done? I mean – really, really done? Not quite.

The Timecard module in your Maintenance Software has the potential of providing Unit Cost of Operation information that most companies overlook. Why? Most often, it’s because they already have a Timecard/Payroll system in place. And who wants to do duplicate work; turning in an employees’ time to Payroll and documenting his time spent on WOs. If your plant doesn’t use the Timecard module within the Maintenance Software, someone has to gather time spent by each employee on each WO and enter it on the WO Update/Completion screen. Either way, the work’s being done twice, so why not consider this an opportunity for improvement?

I worked with representatives from our Data Center, Payroll, and Accounting departments and was able to create daily transfer reports from the Maintenance Software. They were automatically processed through the company’s Payroll, Accounting, and Safety departments every night. Verification routines were programmed to ensure the transfer was successful and that data was never duplicated. Since the data used to pay the employees was the same data charged to the WO through the Timecard system, everyone was “reading from the same sheet of music” as is often said.

Unit Cost of Operation

So where does the Unit Cost of Operation come into play? It’s pretty simple; WOs are written against Equipment or Locations which all impact Cost Centers or Account Codes. (The excellent MAPCON Maintenance Software in use at our plant also allowed time to be charged directly to Cost Centers and "Special" numbers as well). If your plant draws month-end cost information from its Payroll, Accounting, and Purchasing systems, managers are able to get an overall report based on a unit/department/process line cost center.

Your Maintenance Software – when coupled with its WO and Timecard modules – can produce detailed reporting not available by conventional means. Since there are more than one piece of equipment on a process line and often more than one process line in each department, managers may have to settle for Summary Reporting. He can see that Process Line 2 cost $30,000 to operate last month but would be shocked to find out that over half of his budget was spent on (for example) repairs to the Entry Conveyor system. And the same scenario existed last month – and the month before… Perhaps something needs to be done to bring the Entry Conveyor up to reliability?

Where’s this information documented? In the WO and Timecard systems of your Maintenance Software! Is it time you took control of your operation? That’s an easy question to answer: What was your $30,000 spent on last month?


Ed Johnson

About the Author – Ed Johnson

Edward Johnson has spent his entire professional career in the field of Maintenance. After graduating from a state-approved Machinist Apprenticeship in NE Ohio, he enlisted in the US Army. He served as an Instructor in the Machinist Course at the United States Army Ordnance Center & School in Aberdeen, MD. Mr. Johnson was decorated and promoted for his work in implementing a Self-Paced learning concept for that program.

After completing his tour of duty, Ed returned to his job in NE Ohio where he worked as a Machine Shop Supervisor and Maintenance Planner & Scheduler – finishing his career as the System Manager of the plants MAPCON Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS). Mr. Johnson trained and supported over 700 users of the CMMS. He also served as President of the MAPCON Users Group for 14 years before his retirement. Mr. Johnson has been published in Maintenance Technology magazine in 2004 and in several books dealing with Maintenance Management. He is currently retired, residing with his wife Kathy in NE Ohio.

Filed under: CMMS, maintenance software, Unit Cost of Operation — Ed Johnson on August 22, 2012