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The Maintenance Management Blog

July 29, 2015

Before There Was A CMMS

Before There Was A CMMS

As hard as it may be to imagine, there was a time when maintenance crews functioned without the aid of a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). In fact, not all facility managers and reliability professionals depend on maintenance software today, as crazy as that may seem. How did manufacturers, hospitals, and other companies in our industry operate without this highly versatile software?

In today"s society, technology dominates every aspect of our lives. From smartphones to smart homes, it seems that there is some form of hi-tech gadgetry in the background of every moment of our lives. However, this world of technological wonders has not always existed. In fact, mobile devices were nowhere near as common 20 years ago as they are today. And ask anyone a couple of decades ago what the Internet was and only the nerdiest of the nerdy would be able to answer, and even then, it would be using archaic terms like "bulletin board system" and "baud rate."

The same holds true for facilities. Most modern manufacturing plants, for instance, have a robust computerized maintenance management system that allows them to manage every aspect of their assets, no matter where they are located. Add in the forthcoming Internet of things (IoT) and the future of the reliability industry starts to look more and more like something out of a science fiction movie.

Prior to all of this fancy tech, however, facility managers and maintenance supervisors still had the same tasks that needed to be accomplished. Before maintenance management software, you still needed to track assets and know where all of your equipment was located. The same can be said for any spare parts and replacement pieces. Some managers relied on notebooks or, worse, their memory, while others dusted off their keyboards and kept track of everything via a spreadsheet.

When they ran out of spare parts or a machine broke down, maintenance managers would turn to a giant filing cabinet and endure paper cuts on their fingers, all courtesy of manila envelopes individually labeled with the name of each machine and its manufacturer. The same system worked for vendor information, equipment documentation, old work orders … the list goes on and on. Instead of typing a few characters into your CMMS and instantly pulling up information, you had to waste time searching through files. Worse still, those files could be located all the way across the building, adding to the hassle (and sometimes downtime) of faltering equipment.

Important tasks such as issuing work orders and reporting were tedious and time-consuming. Hand-written work orders that could easily become lost were the norm. Following up on those work orders to ensure that everything was performed correctly was just as laborious. Forget easily pulling up every piece of supporting documentation for a vendor if a machine needed replacing before its warranty ran out. Proving that you performed due diligence and proper maintenance could take hours.

While the maintenance and facility managers of the past managed to thrive and even innovate, paving the way for their tech-savvy brethren, they no doubt would have benefited greatly from the technology that we have today. Without a doubt, CMMS have changed the way we function and have made day-to-day functions easier. And the good news is that the trend of automation and smart technology looks like it is here to stay!


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.

Filed under: CMMS before software — Lisa Richards on July 29, 2015