Using your CMMS to store, organize job-related documents

Consider using a system you already have in place - your computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) - to store training videos, websites, instructions, and other necessary documents.


Preventive maintenance (PMs) pile up, technicians call in sick and your dreams of outsourcing repairs? Quashed! Scarcity of time and resources are routine in the maintenance department. By contrast, documents are in ample supply. Pictures, user manuals, schematics, maintenance checklists, and spreadsheets for even one asset can bury a well-organized maintenance team. As paper goes the way of the dinosaur, maintenance needs to digitize asset documents, and view and manage them on an ever-shrinking computer screen.

But even if every document is in PDF format, that doesn’t guarantee structured access. We still sort through thousands of emails looking for a vendor’s contact information. We scour our desktops in search of instructions used to perform that filter change. Or we rack our brains trying to remember the proprietary website to repair a motor. So what do you do with all this dead weight, electronic or otherwise?

Instead of wasting time chasing down manuals, put your computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) in charge of asset document management. Scan all pertinent documents, websites, instructions, diagrams, spare parts, etc., into your CMMS and link that information to the appropriate asset. Give your staff ready access to detailed electronic information for both preventive maintenance and ad-hoc repairs. Use your CMMS to tell you what parts and tools are needed before you go to work on a machine, which is especially helpful for technicians who have never worked on a particular asset.

A good CMMS can provide ready access to electronic files for PMs, work orders (WOs), parts, employees, safety programs, etc. Some examples:

 - PM repairs with pictures and a video teach you how to perform a task
 - WOs have before and after pictures, and invoice information
 - Parts have images for easy identification
 - PMs link to a manufacturer’s recommended procedures, etc.
 - Assets/PMs/WOs can have lockout/tagout (LO/TO), material safety data sheets (MSDS), job safety analysis (JSA) and other safety information.

First do some planning. Make choices on how you plan to manage documents when associating them with assets. Today’s "cloud based" CMMS makes it convenient to pull up documents from any location, for reference only or to add updates. You also have the choice to upload documents for viewing or access them from a URL-based file-share program, like SharePoint or Dropbox. Your IT team may also want to weigh in for management, security, and encryption purposes. Once you nail down your document management needs, apply this regimen to every asset in your CMMS and each time you enter a new one.

The abilities and range in features will vary in how well documents are managed in a CMMS—be sure to verify the options you have available to search and sort by asset.

While the upfront work may take some effort, it is well worth it. Easy retrieval of asset information will come in handy if your dreams of increasing staff or outsourcing repairs remains firmly on your wish list. 

Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group, producer of Bigfoot CMMS.

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