Companies looking for computerized maintenance management software, or “CMMS,” can face some significant decisions — this type of enterprise software resource can be tremendously valuable and save enormous amounts of time, effort and money. At the same time, there are a lot of options to choose from, and not all of them provide the same results.
Many managers understand that buying an ill-fitting enterprise software can have a huge negative impact on a business, so companies put significant work into researching their options.
One of the choices in considering CMMS software is whether to go with proprietary licensed products, or an open-source CMMS package. Open-source software is different — it typically doesn’t require corporate licensing. As a result, companies skip the high costs of paying for some company’s research and design.
Instead of ordering software out of the box, or even through a vendor’s web portal, they’ll often access a public software repository to get the open-source products, and set them up themselves with little or no support. However, any support that does exist, often comes in the form of an online community that helps to develop and work with a particular open-source CMMS solution.
Some Basics on Open-Source CMMS Decisions
First, it’s important to understand the CMMS landscape. Yes, vendor options are popular, especially with larger firms. But they aren’t the only choice – open-source software also exists, and it exists in many forms.
Someone who hasn’t had much experience with CMMS may be very surprised to read articles like this from Efficient Plant in which one survey (albeit from a few years ago), shows that only 20%, out of hundreds of respondents, said they were happy with their CMMS system. It’s telling that many of these people reported that they didn’t get the return on investment that they wanted for a CMMS package.
That brings up the issue of cost. It all depends on how large a company is, and what it’s doing (and whether the CMMS is part of open-source ERP systems). Many large, established corporations love the bells and whistles of advanced proprietary CMMS systems, and are even willing to pay for the training and support that they get from a vendor.
On the other hand, smaller businesses often shy away from these expensive options, supporting some open-source products or some stripped-down, affordable vendor packages. A business with five employees generally won’t want to pay tens of thousand dollars in licensing fees. It also makes a difference what the pricing packages look like, and whether subscription-based pricing is available. Buyers have to understand whether the company charges per user, or provides a blanket license. In an open-source situation, you skip a lot of these costs, although some other costs may still apply.
Supporting Company Goals
It’s also important for a company to do its due diligence and research possible CMMS implementations with a view toward what the business wants to do. Maintenance solutions are supposed to support assets and equipment. But companies don’t do this in a vacuum — they’re producing products and serving customers.
For example, a company may go on the market looking for a particular CMMS that helps them achieve Safe Quality Food (SQF) certification. That company may be primarily in the business of manufacturing, transporting foods, or operating support systems for a set of restaurants. Its role in the process matters — and so does the CMMS choice that it makes. Whether or not company leaders made a list of equipment and assets, researched certifications, and found the most affordable options will often determine whether they get the return on investment they wanted.
Build Your Own CMMS
With some open-source CMMS products, you can essentially start with an open framework and build out from there. Some companies appreciate the flexibility to start with a rough framework before building in specific functionality that works for a particular inventory management method and/or a specific set of business processes.
For example, one open-source option is a CMMS package called openMAINT. OpenMAINT provides open-source software solutions for space and asset inventory; facility maintenance; logistics management; economic management; energy and environment; and GIS and BIM support (support for geolocational tools and building information modeling extensions). All of this supports a versatile, modular approach to using CMMS software.
A video on the site provides more detail about how to use this package, which has a somewhat Windows-like user experience that allows company leaders to build their own functionality in the generic environment. Is this something the company wants? Some of that may have to do with in-house talent pools. For example, companies with more tech-savvy employees may want to venture out into the build-your-own territory.
Even if you narrow down your software choices to open-source CMMS, there are still a host of options to choose from. Making accurate and detailed comparisons is part of the work that shoppers have to do to find the right fit for their business.
Part of that involves, again, looking at the user interface along with the available modules and functionality that the software package provides for preventive maintenance and other routine work. What kinds of ticketing and tracking are built into the interface? How easy will it be to train your maintenance workers, whether they’re field service technicians or individuals with more planning-based roles? What types of software are targeted towards the specific types of work order documentation that the company needs to excel in its field, whether that’s transportation, chemical production, food manufacturing or anything else?
Using available comparison resources online, companies can get closer to making a final decision on either vendor-supported or open-source CMMS for equipment maintenance, project management or whatever needs software support. As mentioned above, there are many factors in this decision. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s much more of a process of determining factors and goals, and moving on from there in order to get the right software. When done right, you’ll reap the rewards of a high return on investment and more efficiency in your maintenance processes.