guy working on equipment

Developing a Work Culture that Embraces its CMMS and Values Data Accuracy

Sept. 5, 2017
First, establish new behaviors by creating a set of CMMS guiding principles.

Most of the organizations I have worked with, as both a consultant and a maintenance and reliability practitioner, had a strategy and a program plan for acquiring and implementing a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) or an enterprise system that included maintenance and storeroom modules.

IT typically leads the software project, with varied levels of success. System implementations usually involve representatives from maintenance in configuring the software. Individual maintenance organizations then participate in the scrubbing and pre-loading of data, receive access to the software, and are trained by the project team.

In my experience, the typical maintenance organization prepares its people, to some degree, for the change in CMMS, but not necessarily for a change in culture. And that can be problematic because, as stated in a popular quote attributed to Peter Drucker, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Culture is defined by the written and unwritten rules an organization follows, based upon experience and consequence. In many cases, the unwritten rules carry more weight, with lasting impacts. As leaders of Operations and Maintenance (O&M), what are your written and unwritten rules for creating a culture that embraces and sustains a CMMS?

Guiding Principles

Creating a culture that embraces CMMS and values data integrity begins with leaders changing their behavior. If they expect their organization to change, O&M leaders, including materials, procurement, and engineering functions, should jointly develop a set of CMMS guiding principles. The development process creates ownership and alignment within the cross-functional group around new leadership behaviors. After completion and approval, leaders should post the CMMS principles, which will allow them to hold each other, as well as the organization, accountable. It will also enable the organization to begin adjusting to the new behaviors they observe.

When leaders consistently behave differently, the organization will adapt and follow.

The following set of guiding principles, which I have used at various locations, can be used as examples of CMMS topics that can be included when you develop your own unique list. 

No work order – no work All work requests must be documented on a work order. In the case of emergency work, respond to the crisis first, then document afterwards.
400 percent rule 100% of internal labor, 100% of materials, 100% of contractor cost, documented on a work order, 100% of the time
Completed field work documented There should be a set of mandatory minimum pieces of data provided by the tradespeople when a job is finished. Suggested elements include number of people on the work order, hours spent, materials used, unused materials returned to the storeroom, summary of work completed, and feedback on the job plan quality.
All equipment failures receive a Root Cause Analysis (RCA) Equipment failures are like safety incidents, thus all incidents are preventable. A 5-Why analysis by a tradesperson should be documented on a work order.
All spare parts have a stores item number  All stocked and non-stocked parts have a stores item number with information to order a replacement. (In many systems, non-stocked spares are ordered without a stores item number. In either case, the required ordering information must be documented in the CMMS.) 
All lowest maintainable equipment is identified by unique number, title, hierarchy, and criticality rank Reliability engineering owns asset identification, hierarchy, and criticality ranking. 
Measure the process as well as end results Identify and measure critical processes such as backlog, schedule compliance, percent of PM and PdM work, as well spending and production volume.
Weekly work order audits Weekly, pull a cross-functional group to audit a completed work order to drive continual improvement. Involve the people who are closest to the work such as trades, operators, and supervisors.
Periodic communication  Employees want to know what is going on, how they are performing, and when they are succeeding. Periodic face-to-face updates are the most powerful method of communication and provide a chance to recognize success.
Periodically audit the CMMS   It is valuable to audit how your CMMS is set up, especially the assets, hierarchy, Equipment Bill of Materials (EBOM), PMs, standard job plans, and the quality of data driving metrics. 

Business Rules for CMMS Use

A site-level O&M organization may have received O&M business processes for work management (including planning, materials management, and asset management), oriented around how to utilize the basics of the CMMS provided. These business processes may not be sufficient to achieve a high-performing O&M organization. So it’s important to form a small, cross-functional group to review and modify existing processes to create a future-state set that the organization can work towards and follow. The site-specific O&M business processes should not counter CMMS functionality, but strive to utilize CMMS functionality to support meeting future-state goals.

Once a set of defined processes is approved, the next step is to develop a set of business rules for their use, based on the set of guiding principles developed by leadership. Business rules at the tactical level are the training guides that employees use and follow. When requested improvements to the process or software are approved, document them by updating the appropriate processes and business rules. Communicate and train as required to ensure everyone has the knowledge and ability to implement the improvements.

What Gets Measured Gets Done

What is important to leadership sustains and drives culture, especially what leaders recognize and reward. They do that through observation, listening, and by published metrics. It is important to select the correct measures for the organization, which leaders and process owners should incorporate in a dashboard of lagging and leading measures. Typical lagging measures are spending and production volume, or in the case of facilities, number of service calls. These are vital – they pay the bills and thus have their place. The dashboard should also include a few critical process metrics for each level in the organization, such as backlog in crew weeks, schedule compliance, or percent of critical assets with a maintenance plan. Selecting the right measures, and performance recognition by leadership, will strongly influence how a culture changes.

In my humble opinion, when it comes to generating metric results from a CMMS’ databases, they are dumb as a brick! If you have configured a measure, the CMMS will report results for that metric, whether it is an effective measure for the organization or not. Likewise, a CMMS will pull data from selected fields, run the configured calculation, and produce a result but it has no way of determining the quality of the data entered into selected fields.

Beware of two problems inherent with any CMMS. One problem is the system’s ability to generate a nearly unlimited set of measures based on custom report-writing tools. An organization can unwittingly drown in metrics, especially if variations of the same basic measure are used to counter each other. This results in a “my data is better than your data” argument.

The second problem is the risk of producing compromised analytics and measures due to poor data quality. At one work site I was asked “how much time did the plant spend on PM versus repair?” Based on a file of completed work orders generated from the CMMS database, I ran several basic calculations and reported the results. What I did not know at the time was that the site chose not to set up all their PMs in the CMMS. They did not want the system to auto-generate them, for fear of receiving a negative PM compliance result when they did not complete them. They manually generated work orders with the work type Repair versus PM. In addition, I was not aware of the code word ‘service’ in the short text field in these manually generated work orders that indicated, to those in the know, that it was a preventive service.

I reported my results based on the data provided, which indicated the vast majority of their work order labor hours were on repair and related activities, with less than 20% of hours spent on PM. Of course I was then corrected when it was explained to me that the CMMS data was not accurate because not all PMs were coded as PM.

To add to the data quality issue, I discovered that almost 80% of completed work orders reflected that actual hours recorded equaled the estimated hours. In other words, 80% of the work orders had zero percent variance between actual and estimated, which was highly unlikely. This example highlights the importance of auditing the CMMS. A good audit would uncover manually generated PMs with incorrect work type and a practice of recording actual hours equal to the estimate. Had I not evaluated the historical data, these practices might never have surfaced as problems that undermine best practices.


Developing a culture that embraces utilization of a CMMS and values data integrity starts with leadership vision and behavior. Establish new behaviors by developing a set of CMMS guiding principles. Next, document a set of business rules the organization can follow based on business processes that adhere to the guiding principles. Business rules establish a baseline stake in the ground. This baseline yardstick is the measure by which all future improvements are judged. Business rules allows employees to learn and follow a set of guidelines that drive consistency and data integrity. Third, select the right critical measures that highlight what is important to the organization. This enables leaders to recognize and reward the right behaviors. Lastly, to maintain the integrity of both the CMMS and the business processes, make sure that regular audits are performed.

John Cray, CMRP, is a principal consultant with Life Cycle Engineering. John has more than 35 years of experience with demonstrated results delivered in maintenance management, reliability engineering, small capital projects, manufacturing leadership, corporate reliability leadership, and consulting roles. He also has extensive technical, safety, CMMS (MAXIMO, SAP) and organizational change management knowledge. You can contact him at [email protected].

About the Author

John Cray | Principal Consultant, Life Cycle Engineering

John Cray, CMRP, is a principal consultant with Life Cycle Engineering (LCE). He has more than 30 years’ experience in maintenance management, reliability engineering, small capital projects, manufacturing leadership, corporate reliability leadership, and consulting roles. You can reach John at [email protected].

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