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CMMS Upgrades: Lessons Learned

I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, maintenance software upgrades.

The process of specifying, installing and taking control of a new computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) is never without its challenges. But when the maintenance and engineering department in question is a 402-person operation that is responsible for more than 3.4 million square feet of space in a campus full of health care facilities, the many challenges involved in the project are greatly magnified.

The facilities operations department at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston undertook such a project in 2009, and the new system went into operation in June 2010.

The department's successful implementation of its CMMS occurred in large part because the team had a clear idea of the process going in, but it also reinforced several key lessons, says Bert Gumeringer, the hospital's director of facilities operations and security services. The lessons include:

• Ensure the project's scope of work is clear for both the vendor and the hospital's procurement executives.

• Define all reports the system must provide, and include these requirements in the scope of work.

• Clearly define work flows and test procedures for verification of the software’s functionality.

• Require the vendor to use only one project manager during the implementation. Do not allow the vendor to change managers.

Finally, Gumeringer advises managers to avoid implementing a CMMS because of an arbitrary project date set early in the process. Instead, implement the system when all milestones are complete, and delay the implementation if necessary. He advises managers to view this phase of the process as a collaboration between facilities management and the information systems department, or IS.

Says Gumeringer, "IS often is moving toward a project completion date, and plant maintenance wants the implementation to be 100 percent complete when it's turned over," In Gumeringer's case, the department had to push back against pressure to accept the new CMMS because it was not fully implemented.

"We ended up being in conflict," he says. "We had to have the courage to push back, to not accept the system until it was complete. It required courage and effort on our part."


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