CMMS: A tech tool for the next generation

U.S. manufacturing has been making a comeback in the last 12 months, so the demand for qualified maintenance professionals is quickly surpassing supply.


America is in the midst of a major maintenance crisis. Millions of skilled boomers are retiring; more sophisticated equipment requires advanced training and skillsets, while maintenance budgets suffer cuts and fledgling workers seek sexier careers. Moreover, U.S. manufacturing has been making a comeback in the last 12 months, so the demand for qualified maintenance professionals is quickly surpassing supply.

But with or without sex appeal, maintenance is sure to grab the headlines and the attention of plant executives when machine capacity and production come to a grinding halt due to an anemic workforce of trained technicians. The question on everyone’s mind: how to backfill the great gap to be left by exiting baby boomers.

Consider the upside – and the appeal to younger generations. The aging maintenance workforce did not embrace technology as readily as millenials who’ve been raised on smartphones and computer games. The sun has set on beepers and clipboards but new mobile applications with barcode readers have become indispensable tools. CAD/CAM, ERP, CMMS, infrared, vibration analysis technologies have also had a positive impact on operations and profitability for manufacturing organizations. So enticing the gamer generation with sexier tech tools is one inroad.

CMMS has definitely progressed over generations of computer platforms from the days of big iron to data transmission in the cloud. It will remain be a pivotal tool as manufacturers entice, recruit and train the next generation of maintenance professionals. In fact CMMS courses are currently included in skills trade curriculums throughout U.S. community colleges and universities. (I would argue that basic maintenance technologies should be introduced at the high school level for students bound for education in technical trades.

As manufacturers bring on newer equipment and more intricate components it will be virtually impossible to ensure production capacity, energy efficiency, product safety, regulatory compliance, etc., without CMMS. Even at its most basic—running preventive maintenance calendars to routinely inspect production systems—CMMS will be a staple for maintenance process automation, and making sure the right technician is on the right machine at the right time.

Manufacturing and other industries have long recognized the value/return on investment of CMMS. Automation of preventive maintenance, work orders management, inventory control, and predictive analysis were considered a novelty for the aging generation. While I would never advocate cutting maintenance personnel, I strongly advocate for making technical staffers as efficient as possible.

Yesterday’s maintenance technicians have the knowledge to pass on to the next generation. Match that up with today’s automation tools and our maintenance progeny, although fewer in number, will just as effective.

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