CMMS Systems: the Data Trap

Some validated CMMS systems require a lot of data entry to have full functionality.

Calibration and Maintenance Management Software (CMMS) Systems are intended primarily to keep your program on schedule and track your assets and documentation.  This requires entry of a minimal amount of data and perhaps the ability to attach a file for ease of retrieval in the event of an audit.

There are lots of enhancements that can be provided in your validated CMMS system  if you take the time additional data beyond what is required to stay on schedule and track your assets.  This data can include point by point results from calibrations on an instrument, use of integrated electronic forms to perform tasks, adding detailed specifications to the database for each equipment item and other quite labor intensive data entry requirements.  Some systems can use this data to adjust your intervals or otherwise identify opportunities for reducing the calibration and maintenance beyond what might normally be performed.

Often these appear to be time saving by using the data to reduce the frequency of maintenance or calibration based on system performance.  But there are many issues that arise if this approach is used in a validated CMMS system.  They include whether the benefits balance the significant extra time to enter the additional data, the ability to document how and why intervals may be extended and the justification, and the increased opportunity to have errors in the database when compared to the original data due to human data entry.

For small and mid-sized companies, the return on the investment for all the extra effort is not at all clear.  All of this is in addition to the fact that, generally speaking, software that allows the additional data entry is more complex, costly, and takes more time to validate the functionality.  It is typical in the case of small to mid-sized businesses that a clean workflow and minimized data entry, combined with a solid audit trail and the ability to retrieve document images from the CMMS system will help you meet your compliance goals and be able to demonstrate that you are meeting them with a clean interface, easy to understand workflow, and the ability to bring up documents quickly without having to track down the hard copy files in the heat of an audit.