Most companies start their calibration and management programs with paper-based scheduling because when the company is very small, it is relatively easy to track calibration and maintenance. Then, most growing companies change to a spreadsheet based system as their inventory and complexity of equipment grow. Eventually, as companies continue to grow, they face the prospect of either validating their spreadsheet and formalizing their scheduling system, or moving up to a validated CMMS (Calibration and Maintenance Management Software) system.
Historically, the jump to a validated CMMS system has been difficult because it involved finding the right software, installing it on a validated server, putting all of the procedures and protocols in place, and executing and reporting the validation results. Even with off-the-shelf (OTS) software, this has been a daunting task that, in many cases, was put off as long as possible due to lack of resources and the impact that this effort has on a small, but growing, department. When the transition to a validated CMMS system finally occurs, it is often a rushed and painful process which may be triggered by audit observations or a late realization that the current CMMS system is insufficient for the needs of the company. This is, of course, not the best time to start a formal software selection process, and can lead to a hurried effort that is inefficient, expensive, and does not allow you time to select the best software for your needs.
With the advent of SaaS (Software as a Service) based systems, there is an opportunity to solve these problems of timing. SaaS software allows the user many opportunities that don’t exist with locally installed software. Users can see the software in action before they buy it to see if it meets their needs. If it appears to meet the requirements, there are free trials that can be easily arranged, and many providers allow you to terminate the contract with minimal notice if you should determine your needs are not met by the software. Finally, most software providers can help you to import and export the data, which really reduces your risk in choosing the “wrong” SaaS software package. Adding to all of those benefits, validated calibration management or maintenance management software is much more affordable and has less impact on your resources (staff and financial) if accessed as a service.
Given the ease with which you can upgrade to a validated CMMS system these days and the low risk/investment required, there can be advantages to upgrading as soon as you start developing a formal calibration or maintenance management program. Getting a system early allows you to build your program around the software, so you can skip the inefficient paper and spreadsheet-based scheduling systems and have a system that is ready to grow with you from the start. Since it is a pay-as-you-go system, the up front costs are minimized and you don’t have to worry about all the IT support with conventional systems.
Then you can take all of the money and resources you save and put them toward new equipment or other resources your department needs for their core functions. Or, you can wait, install an off-the-shelf or custom system on your company’s validated system, and hopefully that will work out and you don’t have to switch any time soon! Either way can work, but the potential risk/benefit profile seems these days to be tilting heavily toward SaaS based systems.