For the commercial and institutional buildings industry, the products coming from the Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) market have long been well-known – and appreciated – tools. Now, however, the power of the Web and more robust technology are enabling facilities managers to maximize performance with fewer resources, both in terms of people and dollars, according to the professionals at Tulsa, OK-based TMA Systems LLC: LeAnn Leon, manager of Web-Based Solutions, and John Johnson, senior vice president.
Why go to a Web-based CMMS solution – and how effective is it?
Leon: “Professionals – both in facility and IT departments – need tools that will help them be very effective and efficient. They don’t have the money to buy new computers and networks or to maintain and support additional applications. Today, a Web-based product can give you all the functionality of a comprehensive desktop solution – with the speed you need, [but] with a lot less IT support [and] less hardware, which means less cost.
“That’s why we’ve rewritten our product in 100-percent Microsoft.NET®, [which gives the end-user] between a 300- and 500-percent increase in speed [over typical work order processing via the Internet]. Although there are many other benefits in TMA Systems moving to Microsoft.NET®, the time issue [is] a primary reason.”
Are there particular refinements in CMMS functionality or capability today?
Johnson: “Beyond the basic CMMS functionality, there are many extensions coming down the pike – a far greater breadth in product lines and support: wireless applications via handheld palms and pocket PCs, certain application modules, like custodial, CAFM, etc.”
Leon: “People expect a lot of information, and different jobs require different kinds and levels of information. One [set of data] or report doesn’t provide the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for all levels of responsibility. Now, users can customize their own ‘dashboard’ where they can set up all the KPIs critical to their level of management. For example, if you’re a supervisor, you might want information on work orders vs. staffing at a particular time. If you’re over an entire organization, your dashboard could show information on dollars spent against budget. Different results for different people: That’s critical to their job functionality and efficiency.”
But how user-friendly can customization be?
Leon: “User-friendly is key. If you don’t have things that people can get into within a couple of clicks – and have the system be very intuitive – you’re not going to last long. At the same time, however, if you can’t get information out of the solution, it’s useless. We’ve developed reports that meet customer needs for more than 16 years. Now, with our Web solution, we’ve enabled users to take any of our existing reports as a base; then add fields, filters, and more with an easy-to-use wizard. Without having to start from scratch, users can take an existing report and tweak it to fit their needs.”
Johnson: “Applications also have to respond to all levels of users – those who are very computer savvy and require sophisticated reports, as well as the people who are turning the wrenches who must interact with it. The easy part is to select a system; the tough part is to implement it. Because of the Web, we’re now able to provide continuous implementation training via a portal – a big plus. This convenience is clearly evident with facilities that run three shifts, seven days a week, or for employee change-over.”
Linda K. Monroe (firstname.lastname@example.org) is editorial director at Buildings magazine.