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Few responsibilities challenge maintenance and engineering departments more than inventory management. Now, a new generation of computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) aims to bring inventory under control.
"Modern CMMS have come a long way in terms of inventory management, says Pat Conroy, president of MicroMain Corp. "Even though most organizations utilize accounting systems to issue purchase orders and track inventory for balance-sheet purposes, many CMMS can integrate directly with an accounting-inventory module. This allows the CMMS to do the difficult work of keeping track of which part belongs with which asset, while automatically providing the accounting system with what it needs to prepare financial reports."
CMMS, which are largely web-based and increasingly mobile, improve the accuracy of inventory data and make it easier to maintain this data, says Jim Wilton of The Planon Group.
"Inventory management is expanded with abilities to define and standardize maintenance-activity libraries," Wilton says, adding, "life-cycle mechanisms have been introduced to monitor and analyze inventory from a timeline perspective."
In short, he says, "inventory has become more intelligent and networked in the (information-technology) infrastructure. Based on modern web services, this inventory can communicate real-time with CMMS regarding its status." For organizations that choose to outsource inventory management or other activities, new CMMS also can offer benefits.
"The software's security system enables the customer to wall off selected areas, allowing an outside party to view only the relevant modules or data," says Steve Brous, president of MPulse Maintenance Software. "This offers an entirely new level of flexibility."
Developers hope CMMS advances will change managers' attitudes about the role the software plays in their departments. Once, the common sentiment among managers was that large, enterprise-reporting programs were the most effective tool to cost-effectively manage inventory. Says Ric Reyna of CyberMetrics Corp., "CMMS now give managers just as much power to control inventory, and they can do it across multiple locations and wide geographic regions."
CMMS: Open Applications Fuel Department Integration
CMMS: Advanced Reporting, Condition-Based Maintenance
Web-Based, Mobile CMMS: Explore Initial and Long-Term Costs
CMMS: Mobile Applications Improve Inventory Management