139. Idea – Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) Transcript


Sandy: 00:00 

We live in super-competitive world. Competitive landscape. Resources are scarce. Labor is expensive. Materials are expensive. And ultimately the winners are going to be the ones that figure out how to utilize all of the resources, all the tools at their disposal to gain that advantage over the competition. And I believe. That the right combination of people, processes, and technology will ultimately enable the winners in the category. So CMMS, certainly an integral component. There are other components that go into it as well, but I think ultimately, the people, the process, the technology really is what’s going to drive that separation between the winners and losers.

Chris: 00:37 

Welcome to EECO Asks Why a podcast that dives into industrial manufacturing topics, spotlights the heroes that keep America running. I’m your host, Chris Grainger. And on this podcast, we do not cover the latest features and benefits on products that come to market, instead, we focus on advice and insight from the top minds of industry because people and ideas will be how America remains number one in manufacturing in the world. 

Welcome to EECO Asks Why. Today we have an idea episode. We’re going to be talking about the evolution of CMMS and to have us walk through this conversation, I’m very excited to have with me, Sandy D’Souza, who is the director of channel partnerships at Fiix Software. So welcome Sandy. 

Sandy: 01:25

Yeah. Thanks so much, Chris. Really glad to be here. Appreciate you having me on.

Chris: 01:28 

For sure. Just been looking forward to this conversation. We have not talked about CMMS at all on EECO Asks Why so this is well over, right? Super excited to have you come in. I know you’re an expert in this field. I’m ready to learn. So maybe lay a base for our listeners out there, Sandy, if you don’t mind, just explain what that CMMS is, maybe what it stands for and how it’s used in the industry.

Sandy: 01:50 

Yeah. Great question. So CMMS, is a computerized maintenance management system, in short, used in the industry to track manage plan, schedule, organize all of the maintenance against equipment typically. So you know, If you think about your car, if you go out and maintain your car, change the oil, every five, 10,000 miles the same principles really apply to industrial equipment. So really helps you organize those activities across, not just one piece of equipment, but across many pieces of equipment. 

Chris: 02:20 

Okay. Very cool, man. I mean, and we’re calling this, the evolution of CMMS I’m assuming here that this, has really evolved over time. So maybe the last five, 10 years what does that look like? 

Sandy: 02:32 

It’s super interesting, right? Like CMMS as a category, first of all, I’m pretty new to it as of four and a half years ago, but what I did know is the category has been around for 30 years. People have been doing this for a very long time. And what’s super cool is, as systems and IT technologies have evolved it seems first consumer products evolve and then, business systems and, you think about CRM when you think about, companies like Salesforce, right?

Like a great model in software as a service, they really, you know, organized and built their software around the end-user. And if you think about what’s happened in CMMS in the last three to five years, the power of the cloud and the power of mobile and the focus on end-user experience has really taken the category by storm.

So tons of evolution, right? The category has been around a long time. People have been doing it for a long time, but it’s really gotten exciting in the last number of years, I would say. 

Chris: 03:23 

Very good. I mean, it sounds, I can hear the passion in your voice about it, man. That sounds like for 30 years, I can imagine things really have evolved. And you’ve mentioned that user experience being a big piece of that as well. So break that down for us. What, from a user experience standpoint, what’s the big difference there?

Sandy: 03:40 

I think like any other software, right? And years gone by if you’re using business software, you had to be an expert in how to use that software. You have to really understand, you know, “Hey, how does this database function?” It would take months of training to really get used to using the software. 

Nowadays, you know, everybody expects, like you pick up your phone, log into Netflix, log into Amazon and you get going, and everything’s really easy and we’ve been spoiled, right? Like, gosh, you can go buy a phone. You can get used to using an app. I remember growing up, I had to learn how to use like MS-DOS and then Windows. And, you really had to spend the time to figure out what you’re doing. And of course over time, business software, you don’t necessarily need to train somebody on how to use Salesforce. You can log in. You can look at your customer records, you can process orders. 

And I think, in the industrial space, maybe that evolution has happened a little bit more slowly, but what I’ve seen in the last couple of years, people are expecting kind of that same experience where, “Hey, you know what, why can’t I have a simple mobile app that has my work orders, my asset information. And by the way, why can’t it tell me when I need to do my monthly preventative nature and it’s against the equipment.”

 So people expect that. And as a result, the industry, in my opinion, has really evolved right, like focused on the end-user, you know, a lot less time to set up, a lot less effort involved in the part of IT and as a result, I think everybody’s benefited, right? Like we’re all a whole lot more efficient. And I’m sure we’re going to get to this, but of course, CMMS is only as good as the underlying maintenance process that folks have in place. And I think, there’s lots of great companies, lots of people doing some great things there. And of course the software helps amplify, augment some of the great efforts that people put in place. 

Chris: 05:14 

For sure. When you were walking through that user experience answer Sandy, and thank you first of all, that was a wonderful walk-through that you gave for us, one thing came to mind. We interviewed an OEM a while back, and he was talking about the same exact thing you just went through about that user experience. He used the iPhone as a, as his example, you know, we, expect to be able to go open up an app, and do whatever function is that we’re trying to get done.

Whether it’s, checking in, at your local YMCAs to see what classes they got, or, entering your budget, whatever that may be. And he’s trying to think through the next evolution of OEMs of, “Hey, we need to make that user experience, that swipe, scroll-type functionality into our machines and our equipment.” That’s been a lot of the goal for CMMS as well to really make that just what we’re used to from that smartphone device that’s in our pockets have that experience on the floor, tie back to our maintenance.  

Sandy: 06:06 

You’re spot on. Like I think of it in the terms of, you know, “Hey, why can’t the technology get out of the way,” right? Like it’s hard enough to keep the equipment up and running. It’s hard enough to slot maintenance in alongside production. You’ve got staff. Everybody’s pressed for time and resources and budget. The last thing you want to do is now, bring a piece of technology into your business.

You make things more complicated, right? Hey, paper and pen. And while, maybe not as nice to look at it and maybe, you know, cumbersome in some ways, everybody knows, “Hey, let’s write down what I did and let’s move on and I can save some time, I can leave my gloves on,” that sort of thing.

And, you know, I think, folks like myself, we have a software and technology background, we like, kinda nice software and doing cool things, but ultimately what I’ve learned in industry is how do you make the technology basically simplify people’s lives and serve the people rather than, people being, burdened with software and tech it’s such an interesting problem.

And, uh, you know, again, kind of, getting a chance to witness it for the last few years has been super, super interesting. And I think you’re spot on, really. Like the technology needs to get out of the way and let people do their work and do what they do best. 

Chris: 07:10 

No doubt. I love how you said, let’s serve the people, let’s get the technology out of the way and make it happen. And, you know, Sandy, one thing we hear a lot about, we have had several episodes about this topic around digital transformation and what that actually is and how companies and industry can start really working towards that. So you look at a CMMS solution for instance, is that an entry point and it’s and if so, what does that look like?

Sandy: 07:36 

Yeah. It’s, you know, it’s a good point. Digital transformation, right? Great buzzword. Everybody’s talking about it. Everybody’s using the term. Admittedly, I probably overuse the term myself. So, uh, Yeah, it does sound cool, but like I think what a CMMS does. And, we see this a lot with organizations that I work with and, Fiix works with is, “Hey, if they’re using paper, pen, Excel, some kind of older system to track and manage equipment maintenance and they may be doing a great job, but I think it was you all know at scale, it’s really hard to measure performance.

It’s really hard to track. You know, hey where are the areas I can find, those incremental improvements? Unless you’ve got the data in a digital format. So then you can slice and dice it, pull reports, review the analytics and that sort of thing. As we think about the digital transformation I like seeing CMMS a lot as an entry point and of course, you know, hey, I’m biased. So you know, all viewers out there are going to be like, “Hey, you worked for a CMMS company. Of course, you’re going to say that.” It is kind of interesting because you’re not really forcing a major change in the business process, per se.

I think the technology is augmenting it and it’s giving you the ability then automate things that maybe you couldn’t automate before. So maybe, you know, a monthly PM automatically goes to the right technician. It’s a way to take your existing process and automate it. And then of course it’s a way to measure what’s happening in your business and in the operations department a little bit more easily. So as a starting point, I think, I’m a fan of simplicity, right? Like I think we’ve all read lots of different analysts reports and they’ve got lots of great data in there and lots of great information. A lot of pie in the sky thinking. I kind of like, “Hey, start small, move fast, find those improvements.” and I think over time that’ll help inform, you know, the future strategy as well. So, I think, you know, many of the organizations we work with would agree. 

Chris: 09:19 

Yeah. And I love your point, you know, focus on the areas to automate and then measure, get some of those wins underneath your belt. Find some of those ways to make immediate improvements because they do exist in every facility there are opportunities to improve. So, you know, one thing I am curious about from a connectivity standpoint, when I think about CMMS, cause we, we talked to a lot of people and we know technology is moving so fast. So what get down to the device level for us and maybe help paint a picture for us on some of those devices or systems that are now being used in these CMMS.

Sandy: 09:53 

Yeah, it’s a great question. So of course, you know what we’ve talked about so far, I think there’s so much value and CMMS just in and of itself. What we’ve seen, you know, and again, I’ve been with Fiix now since early 2017, and there’s always this promise, right? What if you could connect the equipment and the plant floor to your CMMS? And what would the value be? And I think for, the last couple of years, or the first couple of years of the journey, at least my journey personally, you know, organizations by and large, we weren’t quite ready to make that step. It was like, “Hey, can I digitize? Can I get my data in a system?” And that’s a great starting point.

And in fact, we still see that today, right? Not everybody’s ready to connect systems right out of the gate, but the organizations that are connecting the systems, and again, it’s like a microcosm of, you know, “Hey, start small and move quickly and find the gains.” And I think you can apply that in that connected environment as well. If you think about, running your PM’s, I’ll use the car example, I love the car example where, you can change the oil every couple of months, but it doesn’t necessarily account for, you know, how much you’ve used the car, right? If you used a lot or a little, and there’s a wealth of great data at the equipment level, whether it be vehicle telemetry, whether it be the PLC, how many units have I produced?

How many hours has my equipment. That sort of thing. And what if you could implement or utilize that data to drive your maintenance strategy? Could you find efficiencies around reducing the number of PMs in a given month or in a given quarter because maybe your utilization wasn’t as much on that particular piece of equipment? And again, you do it on a handful of equipment, and then you scale that out and, the savings and the efficiencies gained could, we could be quite substantial. Certainly an opportunity to drive improvement. And to me, that’s like the tip of the iceberg.

And so many organizations we talked to, automated, vibration analysis, condition monitoring, oil analysis, you name it. Well, what if you could take those insights and convert them into actions without any human intervention. So without somebody having to read the report and then go in and create a work order, what if the work orders could go to the technician with the specialization in that category automatically based on the data coming from the equipment and all of this is possible. All this is being done today and it doesn’t have to be expensive, burdensome, time-consuming. I’m just super encouraged by, what can the technology unlock and how can the technology serve the greater needs of the organization?

Chris: 12:17 

Yeah, sure. I mean, it sounds like really putting that focus on the conditional operational type of data to make better decisions and the moment that make the big impact for the end-users themselves. For sure. So, I mean, it just, I wrote it down. You said cause I think you said two or three times start small move quickly and the scale. What great advice, cause I mean, you don’t wanna, try to eat the elephant all at once, but find those areas, at least that’s what I think I’m hearing you say that you know you can make an impact, but figure it out there and then take it to the next level. 

Sandy: 12:53 

Yeah. I, agree. Like I think, you know, who wants to place an expensive bet if you’re gonna do something at scale, across an organization, across many facilities and thousands of pieces of equipment when you haven’t proven it out, but you can prove it out, relatively inexpensively in a subset, prove the value and then grow and tweak, and you’re going to learn some things. And I think, part of that is, philosophical part of that, my opinion is enabled by technology that’s got a simple entry point where, you don’t have to invest in a multimillion-dollar project to find results, right? Like you can do it in an incubated sort of environment. 

And, you know, the organizations we talk to tend to agree with that, by and large, they shared that advice with us. So it’s not, this isn’t me coming with new, interesting industry thoughts. There’s a whole bunch of people, heck of a lot smarter than me who seated the thoughts and hey, I happen to like it. So I’m here talking to you about it.

Chris: 13:44 

And it’s great advice. We used to have reliability programs. We work with customers on and we would focus on, we call them just control groups, but it’s the same thing, a small subset, right? Prove yourself, prove the worth, figuring out the kinks and then scale it from there. So I love it. You know, I think your approach is spot on. You’re going to help so many people with, and I’ve thought about. Scenario here. I want to just roll that to you, Sandy. Cause I am curious on this because we have a lot of people that work inside manufacturing themselves who listen to EECO Asks Why, and we try to help them figure things out.

So let’s play out a couple of scenarios where headwinds may exist. Talk to the listener who has a system right now. And it does what they need for it to do, so answer to the questions to that person. Why should they start evaluating a new system? What would you say to them? 

Sandy: 14:32 

Yeah. You know, it’s maybe I’ll be a bit provocative, right? Maybe you don’t want to evaluate a new system quite frankly. I think it depends on your scenario and what your objectives are. Of course. Where, we’ve seen organizations have success in evaluating a new system, to me, centers around, two themes. Again, it’s going to vary you know, depending on every single, organization and, your objectives and where you’re at and so forth, where we’ve seen kind of success in that area. 

You know, Number one it’s quite simply is I’ll kind of, craft it into two buckets here. It’s really adoption and efficiency. So when I think about adoption, kind of, hey, are people using your system and are they using it efficiently? What do I mean by that? Are the folks who are actually working on the equipment, able to capture data properly, accurately at the end of the day if you’re looking to measure performance and then improve performance, if you’re not getting the right data and people aren’t putting data in the first place, then you’re really not going to, you know, understand, current state and then understand the roadmap to getting to your feature objectives.

When we think about modern systems and systems that are mobile optimized and systems that are, cloud-based systems that are user-centric where people can log in and figure out how to use it relatively quickly and easily. I think, those two little buckets, make it make a huge impact and, organizations that we’ve spoken to seem to have a lot of success in modern systems as a result.

The other piece that I like to think about is connectivity. Connectivity has a couple of facets. So you can think about connecting your maintenance application to other best-of-breed systems in your environment. So best of breed systems could be your ERP, right? Like I think, many organizations, they invest lots of money in the ERP.

It only makes sense that you want things like your inventory, your items, your purchasing processes, all to live inside that system. Now that being said. The maintenance department, they likely want a system that’s really geared around, what is my maintenance day-to-day use case look like, if I’m a maintenance user, I don’t necessarily want to also have to log into SAP and fill out purchase orders and check the stock and check out parts and so forth. So what if, the right system for maintenance also on the backend behind the scenes fully integrated very easily to systems like SAP or NetSuite or Oracle, you name it. And I think, you know, so the conductivity piece is huge. The other facet to conductivity is really around what we talked about a little bit earlier.

Can I connect to my plant equipment? And can I start to really take advantage of the data and the insights, whether it be on a historian on a PLC from vehicle telemetry, can I take advantage of that data and really action that data in a way so that you can drive results? It’s great to generate and analyze data and have lots of insights. Lots of organizations do that. There are lots of great tools that do that, but ultimately if you don’t convert the insights into some kind of meaningful action, then you’re not quite completed a loop. And I would argue you’re not necessarily gonna going to drive the results that you hope to drive from that data.

So, you know, to me, it’s, can you adopt the system and can you use it and can you save time inside your organization? Number one. I think modern systems do a great job in helping companies achieve those objectives. And then number two, can you really connect to all of the other systems that may be in place so you can really drive kind of the maximum amount of value from the software?

Chris: 17:54 

That’s two great points. I love how you went there with the adopt efficiency to connectivity, tying it all back together. Now let’s play another scenario. I recognize the industrial end-user. I recognize I have a gap and my system could be better, but I’m having trouble winning support with management, whatever that may be, how would you help that person? Where should they start spending time or studying, or building their case up to really support doing that next level of evolution of CMMS. 

Sandy: 18:28 

Yeah, I think there’s a few different angles you could take. And, at the risk of stating the obvious for everybody, who’s watching this, where I’ve seen success personally, and in talking to, champions across the country, the first thing that, where they had success with the first area was, measure where we currently are and demonstrate, what is the value of changing the current state? It could be something simple, right? 

The metric could be, hey, you know what, 30% of our maintenance activities are proactive. 70% are reactive and unplanned failures, unplanned downtime, has X, Y, and Z consequences. And, you know, there’s lots of data out there, both, from our organization and the industry that shows, planned downtime versus unplanned, is far more efficient, far less disruptive to the business and it has a substantial impact downstream and all kinds of avenues, right? Whether it be production capacity, costs, you name it, safety. There’s a lot of different ways you can approach it, but you know, to me, I think always start with, measuring the current state. If you don’t know where you are, hard to know where you’re going to go. And then building a road map. 

What I will say is this, the software is not going to be a silver bullet. And again, I’m a software guy, time and time again, we see it. The software is not going to be a silver bullet. I think, the number is 70% of all CMMS implementations fail across the industry. There’s a bunch of reasons for it. And we’ve got studies that, kind of go into detail on it, but, you know, change management, but ultimately I think that people expect software to be the silver bullet. I think, you’re not going to see the results that you need. 

I think, as I said earlier, where we see companies having the most success is, “Hey, we’ve got a great process and we know how to run maintenance. Now we need a great tool that’s going to, kind of get out of the way and help us implement this process.” And that’s really where you’re going to see the results. Before you have a CMMS, I think having a great maintenance program or a great idea of a maintenance program is ultimately going to drive the results, maybe a little bit unorthodox coming from a software guy, but I can tell ya, the software itself is not going to, it’s not going to be the change agent per se. I think it’s going to support all of the great ideas. All of the organizations out there already have. 

Chris: 20:30 

I can certainly appreciate the fact that you own that and that you recognize it and that you went there because that’s, you’re right. It’s not the silver bullet, it’s one of those things who’s garbage in, garbage out. If you don’t make the best use of the system itself. And if you’re not ready, why I go there? 

So, I mean, I guess one question that comes to mind then, so if you’re working in an industry right now, who’s leading the effort in some of this, evaluating the systems, and then who are they coordinating with? I’m just curious is this IT, as well as your, operational type people? Do you have the IT/OT convergence there at some point where these systems are tapping in both levels from networking just curious on who’s the owner? 

Sandy: 21:10 

Yeah, I think it’s, there’s always a partnership of course, across multiple stakeholders in an organization. But, you know, if I had to loop back to maybe the first, one of the first questions we talked about, which was, how does systems change and how they evolve? I think what’s really cool about the cloud and modern systems. You don’t need to, bring in kind of an army from IT and, rearchitect all of your systems to, get started and test some things and move quickly. And what we’ve seen is, it’s decisions are made really at the operational level, which is great for all kinds of reasons, right? But I think the folks that know the process and the operations best they’re best equipped to make decisions around, “Hey, what software do I need to really support what I’m trying to accomplish?”

And of course, as you go through that journey and as you know, you get started and you put a system in place, there’s going to be a time and place where, IT is going to be involved. As we talked about earlier, you want to integrate your ERP, there’s definitely that partnership with IT. We want to integrate to the control layer. There’s that partnership with IT where, we’re working through things like, how do you securely move data between systems on the plant floor to the cloud and so forth. So there’s always that partnership, but I think again, you know, as we think about, the benefit of modern systems as now, decisions can really be made at the plant level with the people who know the business better than anybody. And as a result, in my opinion, they’re best equipped to really make decisions around, “Hey, what software is going to help us achieve what we’re trying to achieve.” 

Chris: 22:36 

Perfect. I love it. Thank you, Sam. That really answered it. It painted such a clear picture for me. I know it did for our listeners too. So, I mean, I’ve learned a ton about CMMS just by talking to you. I love your passion first and foremost.  You share so much knowledge for us here today. We always wrap up EECO Asks Why with the why. So give that why to the leaders out there who may be listening. Why should they care about their CMMS system and start really embracing the future? Because as you mentioned, technology is changing so fast. And if we need to get these manufacturing and these industries to the next level, from a business standpoint, in future,  embracing this type of technology and seeing the mess is so important. So what would the why be? 

Sandy: 23:16 

Yeah well, you know, hey, I’m a Canadian living in Pittsburgh, so I can’t let you rap without bringing in a hockey analogy. So who is it- Wayne Gretzky, said, “Skate to where the puck is going, not to where the puck is.” I think I got that right, but, you know, and I’m maybe broadening kind of the talk track a bit. It could be, it could apply to CMMS, but it can really apply, I think, to how we think about the impact of tech in the industrial space and the why is this right? Like we live in super-competitive world. Competitive landscape. Resources are scarce. Labor’s expensive. Materials are expensive. So you know, the winners, there are going to be winners. There are going to be losers. And ultimately the winners are going to be the ones that figure out how to utilize all of the resources, all the tools at their disposal to gain that advantage over the competition. And I believe. That the right combination of people processes and technology will ultimately enable the winners in the category. So CMMS, certainly an integral component. There’s other components that go into it as well, but I think ultimately, the people, the process, the technology really is what’s going to drive that separation between the winners and losers.

Chris: 24:24 

No doubt for sure. Anyway, Sandy, this has been wonderful for the listeners out there that want to learn more. Want to learn more about Fiix and the wonderful things that Sandy’s doing check out the show notes. We’ll have links right there to go straight to the company, connect directly with Sandy so you can learn more, get that demo and understand what that this solution could do for you.

But Sandy, thank you so much for taking the time with us. And may you really, you brought it today. That was a wonderful eye-opener for me on CMMS and where it’s going and with the evolution. 

Sandy: 24:55 

Yeah, thanks so much, Chris, really appreciate you having me. Appreciate everybody listening to hope to do this again sometime. Thank you. 

Chris: 25:01 

Absolutely. You have a wonderful day. 

Sandy: 25:03 

You too.