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The Maintenance Management Blog

July 10, 2024

How a CMMS Reduces Unplanned Downtime

Image: a maintenance technician performing a jobIn this article, we'll discuss how a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) helps reduce unplanned downtime. We'll focus on eleven methods of how the system accomplishes this.

Businesses have assets. Those assets need maintenance. Assets also fail or break down unexpectedly. Part of the list of goals companies have includes a reduction of those incidents.

To help with this discussion, let's use an analogy. 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? What happened, and what do you do?

Take this scenario and associate it with your workplace. Business proceeds as normal. Processors processing, conveyors conveying, when suddenly…silence, maybe preceded by a kerthunk.

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

When making the repair, you can't just fix it and move on. You should ask—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?

In our workplace, again, there you have numerous factors involved in why the equipment went kerthunk.

  • An older machine that had its last gasp.
  • Jammed. A foreign object worked its way into the works. Even "friendly" materials interfere 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 into 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. Did you run that equipment too long, and it overheated, or it couldn't keep up with the speed you're asking of it?
  • Used too little. Sometimes running a machine too slowly gums up the works.
  • The human factor. In fact, you could lay most problems at the feet of a human. Review the above. Each one has a human involved.

Even if the machine has a defective part, you can trace the problem back to the manufacturer. A machine there might produce a defective part for many reasons. However, at some point, you can spot the human flaw.

So, what's the solution? Preventive maintenance (PM). Take a proactive approach to keeping your assets operating at a baseline functionality. Move away from the reactive mindset where you pay attention to problems only when they occur.

Do this for your personal assets and your workplace equipment. You can draw out the chain of events. Equipment breaks down>production delayed/halted>upset customers>increased costs for parts and labor.

You should also move away from antiquated methods such as spreadsheets. While these worked for a while, business evolves. By using the same system as your company grows, you risk errors, clutter, and confusion.

Instead, use a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) to reduce unplanned downtime. Let's look at eleven ways this software helps you.

  1. Preventive Maintenance (PM) creation
    • Since we understand the importance of preventive maintenance, we can use the CMMS to list your assets and assign them PMs.
  2. Checklists/job steps/safety precautions
    • Some jobs require a certain order for completion. With CMMS software, you have a field for detailed instructions. Beyond that, you create checklists to add to work orders.
    • These checklists come in two varieties. The simple, where you click to check a box after completing each step. The advanced, where you have data to input. This might include adding a current reading or measurement.
    • Keep your workers safe and efficient. Attach documentation for safety regulations. Those, too, might have a step-by-step guide for repairs.
  3. Tools/parts
    • 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
    • The CMMS can also assist in assigning locations for each stock item. This adds more efficiency and saves "search time." The technician starts repairs sooner, reducing delays.
  4. Routes
    • Why have a worker go to one location to conduct a PM on one asset and come back to the office, only to immediately go to another building for the same PM on another asset?
    • Create routes in your CMMS. That way, you generate one work order instead of half a dozen. Send the worker to various zones on the property to inspect/maintain several assets in a 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) to assign particular jobs. With this feature, you send out skilled workers who understand the assets and who all work toward a common goal.
  6. Attachments
    • I mentioned part of this above with having documentation for safety protocols. However, attachments include more than documents. You can attach images or a URL for video guidance.
  7. Scheduling PMs
    • Every 5000 miles for that oil change. Every other oil change, rotate the tires. Seasonal tune-ups. You might put these on a calendar so you know how soon to make the appointment.
    • After you create a work order in the CMMS, "drag and drop" it onto a scheduling calendar. This makes it easier for you to see the upcoming jobs in a specific date range.
  8. Cycles
    • Use the 5000-mile example in the last point as an example of a cycle. You do them in your personal life. Even if the assets need no other maintenance, you'll schedule a PM every month/quarter/year/etc.
    • Even inspections can catch irregularities that could turn into more serious issues. Check meters and gauges on the equipment and your CMMS keeps a record. Use this and other information to shape and refine your PM program.
  9. 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 purchase accordingly to avoid shortages.
    • With a CMMS, you can input the quantity on hand. Set a minimum amount allowed before the system generates a purchase request. It will also let you know you don't have enough parts available for PMs when you create the work orders. That way, you'll know ahead of time rather than the worker discovering the empty bin when he wants to retrieve stock.
  10. Work requests
    • How do those who don't use the CMMS submit a work request? Say an employee out in the field or away from the supervisor's office notices a problem. With a quality CMMS, you could send him an HTML link to fill out a form that would go into the system. Quicker turnaround time, and reduced downtime.
  11. Prioritizing
  • What comes first? What repairs and other maintenance do you consider important and/or urgent? 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 you have an emergency.
  • When creating PMs, work requests, or work orders, look for the priority setting. Judge accordingly what priority each PM/repair has.


Equipment fails. In every industry. In every company. 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 reduces unplanned downtime and 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.

Don't rely on spreadsheets. They fall short of a quality CMMS. A CMMS has the versatility to exhibit its value to numerous industries. From hospitals to oil refineries to universities.

Visit CMMS Software for more information.

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: CMMS, maintenance, downtime, preventive maintenance — Stephen Brayton on July 10, 2024