Wean Your Site from Spreadsheets
— by Heather Wilkerson, Marketing Coordinator, Mapcon Technologies, Inc.
Digital transformation, which is the application of digital technology to impact aspects of a business, has become an integral part of plant maintenance.
A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) can be a great first step towards digital transformation. Many companies are still using spreadsheets to track their maintenance management information, perhaps because they do not realize how much easier and more efficient it is to use a CMMS. Going from a spreadsheet to a standalone CMMS brings huge benefits.
Spreadsheet: Anyone that has ever tried to share a spreadsheet with a coworker or two, so you can both edit it, knows what a difficult task this can be. Often times, the sheet somehow gets locked by a user which prevents others from making any edits. Instead of being able to enter necessary information right away, users are forced to memorize it until the spreadsheet becomes available again. When the data is finally entered, important details can often be lost.
Since information within a spreadsheet can easily be overwritten, keeping historical data intact can be difficult. Historical data can be very useful when it comes to business intelligence reporting and decision making, so having accurate information is crucial. For example, having repair history on a machine can be valuable when it comes to comparing the maintenance and repairs costs to the cost of a new machine. If no historical data exists, this comparison is impossible, which could cost the plant money.
In addition, time stamps within a spreadsheet must be set up manually, so unless a worker writes the date along with the information or creates a function to do it, it’s difficult to know when that data was entered. The ability to see when a machine breaks down is useful for scheduling preventive maintenance tasks which will reduce downtime.
CMMS: A lot of the usability issues that occur with a spreadsheet are eliminated by using a CMMS. While there are security controls which can prevent people from using a CMMS, it cannot be accidentally locked, like a spreadsheet. As long as the correct number of licenses are purchased, a CMMS will be available to use at any time, no matter who else is logged into the system at the time. Since it’s always available, workers can enter information right away, which helps eliminate human error.
A CMMS is also a great way to track historical data. Many systems, such as MAPCON, do this automatically. Not only is history easily stored, but reports can be run using historical data which can be helpful when it comes to preventing downtime.
Timestamps are also a huge advantage of using a CMMS. Not only is the date and time automatically recorded, but the user is as well. That means if there are any questions on repairs, workers know exactly which person to speak with. There’s no easy way to get this information in a spreadsheet, so people would need to take extra time to find out who made the repairs instead of having that information right in front of them.
Spreadsheet: Inventory control is difficult with a spreadsheet. Locating inventory within it can be quite time consuming. Workers will either have to rely on the ‘control find’ feature, which only yields results that match the search term exactly, or they will need to scroll through seemingly endless rows of items.
Since inventory is difficult to locate within a spreadsheet, it can easily be duplicated by mistake. A worker might try and find something and easily overlook it, assume it has been used and unnecessarily purchase another, thus resulting in duplicates and wasted money.
Conversely, since tracking items is difficult within a spreadsheet, a worker might assume an item is in stock when it actually isn’t, and not purchase a new one when they really should.
CMMS: When using a CMMS, inventory control becomes markedly easier. MAPCON allows users to search inventory items via a keyword search or by using various filters. In addition, a wildcard can be used if the exact spelling of the item name isn’t known. Users can simply enter the first few letters, then search. The results will bring up items that start with those few letters so the exact item can be easily located, making it less likely that items will be duplicated or out of stock.
Another feature that helps prevent inventory items from being out of stock is automatic reorder. MAPCON’s automatic reorder feature allows users to set up a minimum amount for each inventory item. Once that number is reached, a purchase requisition is automatically created and sent to the correct person for approval, helping to ensure inventory items will always be available when needed.
Work Orders and PMs
Spreadsheet: Creating work orders and preventive maintenance (PM) tasks in a spreadsheet is an arduous task. There really isn’t a good way to do it, so every plant most likely does it a bit differently. Generally, each worker has a tab on a spreadsheet, and their work orders and scheduled PMs would appear on that sheet. A supervisor is in charge of entering all of the requests, which can be quite time-consuming. At the end of the day, the supervisors would then have to go through the spreadsheet and make sure every work order was completed. If work was not completed, the row is moved to another sheet to be worked on the next day.
CMMS: The work order and PM process is much more streamlined when using a CMMS. Any authorized user can send in a work request. Once received, a supervisor just has to click a few buttons to turn it into a work order and get it assigned to the proper technician. Once the tech receives it, they can make any necessary notes and close the work order or PM themselves, which frees up their supervisor’s time to complete other important tasks they wouldn’t have time for if they were using a spreadsheet.
Spreadsheet: Anyone that has ever tried to use a spreadsheet on their phone knows it can be a disaster. Not only is it usually not responsive but trying to maneuver between rows and worksheets can be quite difficult. This means spreadsheets can really only be used on a desktop, which really limits their usefulness. Sometimes workers on the plant floor need to note something quickly and accurately but can’t because they have to trek back to the PC to enter information. By the time they get to the desktop, they could forget vital information.
CMMS: Many CMMS’, such as MAPCON, offer a mobile version of their software, giving users access to their system virtually anywhere. Workers can enter information, including photos, right from the floor, which helps ensure accurate data is entered into the system.
More and more plants are jumping on the digital transformation bandwagon and converting from a spreadsheet to a robust CMMS for maintenance planning and control is a great way to do it. There are many other CMMS features, such as checklists, scheduling, and project management which can also be huge advantages over spreadsheets.
Wean Your Site from Spreadsheets © was also published in Efficient Plant Magazine, under the same title, in January, 2019 with the author's permission without remuneration of any kind.
For more information about MAPCON CMMS Software, please review the following links.