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The Maintenance Management Blog

January 04, 2023

CMMS Questions

The old standard for newspaper reporters was for every story to answer the five Ws. What, when, where, why, and who? For example: What happened? Who was involved? Where did the incident take place? When did the incident happen? Why was there an incident? Often the sixth question of How is included.

Let's ask these questions about a computerized maintenance management system. CMMS software is designed with various modules and each customer purchases what is needed for its operation. For this discussion—coincidentally—on five modules.

Assets, Inventory, Maintenance, Vendors, and Purchasing. When considering a CMMS and speaking with the software company, ask these questions to the representatives.

Image: text bubble with the word whatAssets

What – Of course, this is an obvious question. What assets do you have that you want listed in the CMMS? Descriptions should include type (tool, fixed asset, etc.) and any model/serial/tag number. Does the CMMS let you make this part of a parent piece of equipment?

Other what questions include: What safety procedures, bill of materials, and meter/gauge readings are associated with the asset?

Where – In a large facility, maintenance workers don't want to be searching for specific equipment. In the asset listing, designate a location, broken down to the exact spot. An example might be: The printer is in Building A>Second Floor>Room 12.

Another part of the where question is designating if the asset is assigned to a cost center or individual department.

Who – Do you want information on the vendor who sold you the asset?

When – An argument could be made that preventive maintenance tasks could be one of the What questions. However, PMs are done in cycles, so the frequency of these cycles can be in the when category.

Why – Certain assets need a step-by-step procedure of maintenance. The reasons can be part of these steps. You should be able to add these job steps or checklists to an asset listing.

Regarding the bonus question of How: Does the CMMs have a track record of how much the asset cost and how fast the depreciation is reducing the asset's value year to year?


What – Again, pretty obvious. You want a description of each piece of inventory. Is it a critical spare? Is the part repairable? What are the inventory specs? What assets are associated with the piece of inventory? What is the stock classification? Your CMMS should give you the standard options of A, B, and C.

Where – This is a biggie for a maintenance department. Larger companies may have multiple stockrooms so that might be a first where.

The main aspect of the question is the actual location in the stockroom. Your CMMS should have a layout for you to designate the 'spot' for each part/tool/supply. Examples: Aisle>Shelf>Bin or Aisle>Cabinet>Drawer.

Who – The same question as asked of Assets in terms of vendor.

Why – Why do you have this part? Are these for a specific repair job or a PM?

When – I’ll throw in a bit of a How question here. When do you purchase more inventory? That depends on the quantity. How many do you have? Is your CMMS set up to generate a purchase order when a minimum threshold is reached?

Other How questions would include: How much does each part cost? How are they packaged (by case, a box of ten, a bundle of fifty, in six-foot length, etc.)? How are they used (one at a time, a gallon for each job, two feet sections, etc.)?


What – Your CMMS should let you specify what the job is for. Equipment? Non-equipment assets?

What are the job details?

What inventory is needed for the job?

Where – Self-explanatory.

When – I relate this to priority. Is this maintenance needed immediately or can it be tended to in the next few days? Your CMMS should have a priority setting.

Why – Is this preventive maintenance, a repair, or inspection? Are you conducting this maintenance because of regulatory requirements?

Who – To whom or what crew/craft/shift are you dispatching the job?

How much is this particular bit of maintenance costing? How much did you have to purchase for the job? If you want to track this information, make sure the CMMS you have has that capability.


Who – Contact information. Name, address, email, phone, fax, website, and representatives. If it's a service company, this Who includes the people who will be onsite.

Where – Part of the contact information. Are they located in a foreign country?

What – Is the company a vendor, manufacturer, or both? Your CMMS should let you designate the type of company you're buying from.

What are you purchasing from these vendors?

What products/services does the vendor provide? If you have a place to list these, you'll have a reference in case you need something other than the usual supplies.

When – This could relate to terms of payment and how many days after receiving the invoice payment is due.

Why – Why do you keep patronizing this vendor? This extends beyond the modules being discussed into a menu item of lead time and on-time compliance reports in the CMMS.

The How question is again, how much? Some companies want the CMMS to keep a record of expenditures for each vendor.


Who – Who's making a purchase request or purchase order? Who is required to authorize either? Who's the vendor?

What – What are you purchasing? Your CMMS should have a section to assist you with all of the line items and descriptions.

What are the shipping/payment terms?

Where – Some companies have one place for deliveries and another for the invoice. Let the vendor know each location.

Image: icon with the word whyWhy – This refers to the aforementioned 'because you were running low' reason and the CMMS generating a purchase order.

Why could also include 'because a cost center or department asks for it.' A lot of options should be included in your software.

When – When do you need it? Was there a promised or required date for delivery?

How, of course, refers to prices and quantities but also to the type of delivery. Same day? Express? The same question of 'how many days allowed for invoice payment' applies here.

Of course, all of the points in this discussion are only a handful of CMMS questions to ask. There are many more, and whether you ask them depends on the type of operation you have, its size, and your maintenance/purchasing needs. Some companies want only the essential basics. Others will require more details for reports. Keep in mind these five 'W' questions and that extra How inquiry when discussing investing in a CMMS.

Then, take the next step.

What – What you do is call…

Who – Mapcon Technologies.

Where – Des Moines, Iowa.

When – As soon as you plan your company's needs for maintenance.

Why – Because Mapcon has been developing a superb, powerful, and easy-to-use CMMS for over forty years.

How – Either visit Mapcon or call 800-922-4336.


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, CMMS — Stephen Brayton on January 04, 2023