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The Maintenance Management Blog

March 31, 2022

CMMS and Business Ethics, Part I

Image: messy officeOne might think business ethics have been around since Noah purchased a bunch of wood for a very large boat. While the concept may have existed throughout those centuries, the term itself, intensive study, and attention came in the early 1970s. Since then, scores of books have been written, classes instructed, and workshops hosted.

Actually, I wasn't far off in my estimates of how long business ethics have existed. An early source is attributed to a guy named Thiruvalluvar who lived in India around 300 B.C. (*Britannica) and wrote points related to business ethics in a book entitled Tirukkuṛaḷ. (No, I don't know how to pronounce either the man's name or his book.)

This discussion isn't about defining business ethics. As mentioned, there are many articles covering this subject besides the Wikipedia page. However, I found one that lists seven points about what a business ethics program should consist of. This article is found on the University of Redlands site. Along with promoting some of the university's business courses, the blog highlights several key points. The seven listed under the 'Business ethics drives employee behavior' sub-head is the focus for today. I wish to tie these to a computerized maintenance management system.

The article doesn't mention any particular program for implementing business ethics, certainly not a CMMS. My discussion is not to say that such a system needs to be part of a company's business ethics agenda. I wish only to show how in subtle—and maybe not so subtle—ways, it promotes business ethics through its menus and features.

1. Define the program mandate

What are the expected behaviors of employees? This is the first aspect that management should consider. Many practices, rules, and regulations have been in place long enough they almost have become 'standardized.' However, there may be variances from one company to another. The basic idea here, though, is to have a laid-out plan for people to follow, maybe as part of an employee handbook. (Why is this the size of an encyclopedia?)

Planning is the first step when considering a CMMS. How is the system going to e used? What modules and features might benefit your company? How does this relate to business ethics and employee behavior? Because you're wanting to improve maintenance management, maybe inventory control, better organization, smoother operations. Employees focused on a clear objective only improves all of these. The CMMS helps by being a foundation for those needs and guides users through the process. Admins can plan on who and how many users there will be and what authorizations each person has.

2. Mitigate and monitor risk

These might be in the form of procedures or workplace rules that seek to reduce problems. Examples include dress codes (This is not necessarily what an employ shouldn't wear, but what one should wear in the way of safety accessories. However, restrictions on types of clothing may also be a safety measure, (Ahem, flip-flops and pajama bottoms are not allowed on the processing floor.), limited hours when employees can be onsite, personal items brought to the workplace, and others. The goal is to reduce the potential for inadvertent and intentional misbehavior resulting in later issues.

With a CMMS, these 'monitors' can come in the form of safety procedures and checklists that can be added to work orders. Like above, you're better reassuring the job is done completely. Following procedures and steps reduce costs and downtime, and like above, possible other problems.

3. Establish policies and procedures

This runs close on the heels of the previous point. These could be posted rules, verbal instructions during training, follow ups sessions, or reviews. One policy example to which some companies still adhere is no employee fraternization. Another is no admittance to certain areas of the facility without proper authorization. Login procedures, break-time polices (No, you cannot have an hour nap), privacy policies, etc.

The same aspects listed in the previous points for a CMMS are also true here. Creating safety procedures and checklists. Another area of consideration is, as an admin setting up system parameters in, you should have several options when creating user and group profiles. Check boxes give the users certain allowances. Examples adding/changing Lookup Filters, report configuration access, or what information might be hidden for certain sites.

Other example of what a CMMS should offer is the steps to Routes for when doing jobs in various locations and allowing you to create text for a footer on a purchase order form, establishing a policy when communicating with vendors.

4. Oversee allegations of misconduct

If an issue or incident does occur, how is it handled? By an HR representative? A committee? A company board? If an employee violates policy, then a business ethics system needs a way to resolve the problem. Admonishment, demerit, demotion, sanction, defenestration, suspension, employment termination, or restricting communications. Does the system include a chance for the accused to offer justification or any defense?

In regard to a CMMS, this point is trickier, because it is not designed to be this type of problem solver or a mechanism for policy enforcement.

However, the system can act as another type of monitor as discussed in Point 2. It can review actions to see if there are any issues. For example, a supplier sends the incorrect item. Do you have a menu item for returning goods? (Hopefully, this will be a mistake rather than purposeful.) There might be a change in the price of an item. Can you identify that issue to investigate further? (Could be increased costs on the vendor's end rather than price gouging.)

Another set of reports be for Vendor Lead Time/On Time Details and Performance Summary. (Are the suppliers shipping items on time?), PM On Time Compliance by Procedure or Reference. (Are workers completing jobs on time? Do you need further inquiries?)

5. Provide training and communications

Many companies have online seminars for employees to watch. These might be to reinforce existing policies with topics to strengthen employee relations. (Say please and thank you.)

Unlike the previous points, reference to CMMS, this one is easy. Supervisors show leadership skills by training workers for the jobs and system usage. Does the CMMS company offer training inhouse, onsite, or online?

Communications come in the form of clear instructions from supervisors and answering questions. With CMMS company, communications is quality support. Support personnel need to answer questions (rather than telling you'll they'll get back to you), even remoting into your system to provide solutions.

Another way a CMMS uses a sense of 'communications' is through interfacing with third party systems, providing whatever data is needed.

6. Reinforce behavioral expectations

As in Point 5, this could be follow-up seminars, maybe posted notifications on not being afraid to report something amiss, or a mild reminder if employees stray into gray areas. I think a prime example is positive reinforcement of safety measures through 'positive' warning signs. (Protect only the fingers you want to keep. *Sloganshub)

With a CMMS, this aspect could be seen in granting authorizations to users to request/initiate purchase/work orders or inventory issues/returns.

7. Manage the function of behavior ethics

I look at this as a general overview of the workplace. How are coworkers interacting? Does the workplace provide a comfortable atmosphere for productivity? Perhaps you provide company-wide activities/events that might improve morale and reenergize employees. (Yoga classes starting Tuesday at 6 a.m. on the patio.)

A quality CMMS can help with that 'comfortable atmosphere.' The core, of course is maintenance control, but it also should monitor worker accountability, offer better overall communications, help reduce costs and waste, and improves employee morale, all of which affects the bottom line.

Business ethics are important. MAPCON, in the right perspective, can be an element in those ethics. Call 800-922-4336 for further details.

Be sure to catch Part II of this discussion in two weeks!


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: ethics, business — Stephen Brayton on March 31, 2022