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The Maintenance Management Blog

May 03, 2022

11 Ways CMMS Helps Unplanned Downtime

Let's talk cars and computers.

"Wait. I thought you were going to discuss a computerized maintenance management system and tell me eleven benefits. And why not just ten?"

I will but want to relate a couple scenarios common to many people. (Why eleven? Just to give you a bonus benefit.)

Ever try to start the car in the morning and hear nothing? Or wince at the grinding screeches? Or has your car made a kerthunk sound and died while you're driving? (The next sound you may hear is the wailing moan from the driver.)

Have you been involved with an online activity such as gaming, video conferencing, reviewing finances, or just routine surfing ("Hmm, where could I find more information on scary clowns?") when the screen winks off and the computer shuts down? Or you receive that message that tells you the system is restarting because of an error?

What's the problem? Can you discover the issue and find a solution?

Now, take these scenarios and associate them with your workplace. Things are chugging along fine. Processors are processing, conveyors are conveying, when suddenly…silence, maybe preceded by a kerthunk and the wailing moan of the nearest worker.

The same questions from above apply. What's wrong and what's the solution?

If a major piece of equipment breaks down, you have what is known as unplanned downtime.

"So, what caused the breakdown?"

For your car, this could range from low/no oil, bad spark plugs, alternator/electrical, sensors, or any number of things. How old is the car? Does it have worn out parts?

With a computer, do you have too much information stored? Has it been running sluggishly in recent days or weeks? Is it an old system that can't keep up?

In our workplace, again, there could be a number of factors involved in why the equipment went kerthunk.

An older machine that had its last gasp.

Jammed – No, not marmalade related. Something has gotten into the works, interfering with smooth operation. Think of a printer paper jam.

Trying to work with updated equipment - New programs may not work with an older computer. Are you trying to integrate an old workplace machine to newer systems?

Used too much – Try constantly driving at high speeds or pressing the gas pedal to the floor while idling for long periods of time. Computers need a refresh, a restart every now and then.

Did you run that equipment too long and it overheated, or it couldn't keep up with the speed you've asking of it?

Used too little – Finding that cool sixties Corvette in the abandoned storage building is great, but I wouldn't recommend trying to fire it up. You've got rust, lubrication, and fuel issues. An old computer may boot up, but has the system been updated?

The same problems with that old 'Vette may be what's wrong with your plant's equipment. It doesn't get used a lot, so probably isn't maintained properly.

Ah….now we come to a more common cause, the human factor. Yes, YOU are the problem. I'm sorry for metaphorically pointing a finger and laying the blame, but it's true. You didn't take care of your car, just filled the tank when the gauge needle neared the big 'E.' You ignored the warning signs on your computer or dismissed update notifications. You didn't conduct routine maintenance on the variety of machine at your factory.

Solution – Preventive maintenance. Oil changes and tune ups for the car. Regular virus cleaning for the computer. Every so often run a defrag program. When a computer saves files, it uses a bit of space here and a bit of space there. A defrag takes those 'fragments' of data and puts them in an orderly amount of space, freeing up chunks of hard drive. Think of this as leaving a hammer in the garage, a screwdriver in the kitchen, and a wrench in the bedroom. You are the defrag, gathering those tools and storing them in a toolbox.

Do not have the workplace mindset of waiting until equipment breaks down to pay attention to it. Preventive maintenance is vital for your equipment and your company.

Equipment breaks down>production delayed/halted>upset customers>increased costs for parts and labor>frowny face from the CEO.

"But I use a spreadsheet for my maintenance."

If I may give an example: My mother stopped using a manual typewriter decades ago. Sure, she could still use one and accomplish much of what she needs, but she'd be missing out on the features of a word processing program.

Spreadsheets used to be the way to go. With the ever-changing business world and the advancement in technology, that spreadsheet may not suffice. What are you missing? Do you find you're losing control over maintenance? Have you noticed an increased in unplanned downtime because PMs aren't getting done?

Solution? (Cue the drumroll.)

A computerized maintenance management system. (See, I promised I'd get here in time.)

How can a CMMS (note the cool acronym) help you minimize unplanned downtime? Let me count the ways.

1. Preventive Maintenance (PM) creation

You know you need regular oil changes (car) and virus scans (computer). What else can you add to a list of preventive maintenance around the house?

For your workplace equipment, you know what needs done. Inspections. Lubrications. Parts replacement. Cleaning. Washing.

With a CMMS, you create that list of PMs for each piece of equipment.

Image: checklist form2. Checklists/job steps/safety precautions

Step by step instructions on oil changes and tire rotation (car). A set of directions for running the 'refresh' programs for your computer's operating system.

Keep your workers safe and efficient. Decrease 'wrench-time' with detailed instructions and safety steps. You input those into the PM and include then with work orders.

3. Tools/parts

You know what you need for an oil change on your car. Your workers may know the specific parts and tools to use for a PM.

However, it never hurts to remind them. In your CMMS, add those items to the description and work orders. Some jobs may require a set of specific tools. Creating tool kits for the task will save workers time by letting them know what tools they need, and where to find them because your CMMS inventory list includes item locations.

4. Routes

Why have a worker go to one spot for this machine and come back to the office, only to be sent to another building for work on a similar machine?

Create routes in your CMMS. Send the worker to various zones on the property to inspect/maintain several machines in one time-efficient round.

5. Crews/crafts

Some jobs take more than one person or require a specialized skill. In your CMMS, you create these groups (crews/crafts) who will be assigned the particular jobs. The CMMS should also allow you to dispatch work orders to specific individuals.

6. Attachments

This is a great benefit to minimize wrench-time. Upload an image to the PM/Work Order so your employees know what they're looking for. Or attach a link to a video for a visual aid to that checklist.

7. Scheduling PMs

Every 5000 miles for that oil change. Every other oil change, rotate the tires. Seasonal tune ups. Every day run that malware scanner. Every month run other computer 'cleaners.'

A CMMS is wonderful for scheduling the frequency of PMs. This assures regular maintenance and no guesswork.

8. Cycles (No, I don't mean the bike with the bell.)

My car has an oil life percentage reading, so I know how close I am to an oil change. There are programs to run that will check your computer speed, including internet speed.

These are PMs that should be done on a regular basis even if no other maintenance is needed. Check meters and gauges on the equipment and your CMMS keeps a record. Is the temperature rising over a period of time? Catch that and resolve it.

Image: stockroom9. Inventory

I mentioned inventory earlier. You keep enough quarts of oil in the cabinet, an extra filter, and so on. You monitor what you use and buy more so as not to be caught short.

With a CMMS, you can input quantity-on-hand and set a minimum amount allowed before the system generates a purchase order. It will also let you know there aren't enough parts available for PMs when you create the work orders. That way, you'll know ahead of time rather than letting the worker discover the empty bin when he wants to retrieve stock.

10. Work requests

Does your CMMS allow non-users to submit a work request? An employee out in the field or away from the supervisor's office. He notices a problem. With a quality CMMS, you could send him a HTML link to fill out a form that would go into the system. Quicker turnaround time, reduce downtime.

Image: priority list11. Prioritizing

How important are the PMs and repairs? Don't make your workers scramble for something that could wait. On the other hand, you don't want them on coffee break thinking a repair could wait when it's actually an emergency.

When creating PMs, work requests, or work orders, there should be a setting to prioritize the importance of the job. Can it wait until tomorrow or later in the week, or is it needed ASAP, or perhaps somewhere in the middle?


Equipment fails. In every industry. In every company. It's just a fact. You can't completely avoid the unexpected. You can, however, reduce operational delays with proper preventive maintenance, routine inspections and parts replacement.

Doing this extends the life of your assets and reduces costs.

A CMMS keeps the PMs organized. It'll track costs and on-time compliance. This type of system will keep inventory in line and generate numerous reports. Spreadsheets fall short of a quality CMMS.

For answers to how Mapcon Technologies' CMMS can work for your business, whether you’re a large hospital, oil refinery, operating a fleet of vehicles, a chemical manufacturer, or one of numerous other industries, call 800-922-4336. Take more control over unplanned downtime and make your work less stressful. Mapcon can help.


Stephen Brayton

About the Author – Stephen Brayton


Stephen L. Brayton is a Marketing Associate at Mapcon Technologies, Inc. He graduated from Iowa Wesleyan College with a degree in Communications. His background includes radio, hospitality, martial arts, and print media. He has authored several published books (fiction), and his short stories have been included in numerous anthologies. With his joining the Mapcon team, he ventures in a new and exciting direction with his writing and marketing. He’ll bring a unique perspective in presenting the Mapcon system to prospective companies, as well as our current valued clients.


Filed under: maintenance, downtime — Stephen Brayton on May 03, 2022