While many companies are still feeling the pinch of the economy, manufacturing costs and spending on new equipment, employees and technology can be daunting. These companies are still required to stay competitive in the market and do more with less, and companies worry about the cost of software, hardware and IT support needed to own and operate CMMS and EAM applications.
The solution? Cloud computing for maintenance.
Cloud computing, or SaaS (software-as-a-service), isn’t a new concept.
Software companies have been providing cloud computing to customers for
more than 15 years. In a nutshell, cloud computing means accessing
programs over the Internet rather than a company’s own on-site network
of hardware, applications and storage.
Cloud computing takes the risk out of implementing new software by
eliminating large up-front investments and the need for major IT
resources. Instead of buying software licenses and the hardware to run
it on, customers simply pay a monthly fee that covers use of the
software from a secure online environment with technical support,
upgrades and data storage. The vendor performs maintenance
automatically, and if the software doesn’t fit a company’s needs, they
can simply discontinue its use and end the monthly contract.
SaaS is especially valuable for small-to-medium-sized organizations
that have to calculate their moves and take fewer risks in capital
investments. A monthly fee is easier to justify than a $100,000 system,
and they’re up and running in days instead of weeks or months. (SaaS
can also be budgeted as a monthly operating expense versus a capital
World-class maintenance organizations understand the importance of
using CMMS/EAM to properly maintain their equipment, which results in
less downtime, a safer work environment and better cost tracking.
When researching cloud computing for maintenance, here are a few things to keep in mind:
• CMMS/EAM providers should offer a similar product whether you
choose the cloud-computing route or move in house and host the system
on your servers. Some vendors sacrifice options or limit
functionality and number of allowable users to make the cost seem
lower. However, a best-in-class vendor will offer the same
functionality and allow a company to adjust the number of users and
move them from one plant to another as your company grows and changes.
Just as with traditional solutions, cloud computing should enable you
to export your data in many formats, including Microsoft Excel.
• The pricing structure should be clear and easy to understand, explaining what services you’ll have access to. Some
vendors won’t be up front about what’s included, so be sure to have a
detailed understanding so you aren’t shocked by lack of functionality
down the road.
• A vendor will have experience and investment in their offering. A
best-in-class vendor should offer a redundant, highly secure data
centre, and will have passed and maintained their SAS70 Type II audits.
The vendor should guarantee 24/7/365 availability for your users with
at least 99-percent uptime.
n A cloud computing solution should be easy to use and easy to own. A
best-in-class vendor will offer you the flexibility to pay for the
modules and functionality you need, with the ability to add
functionality when you need it. Many programs still require
service-intensive implementations. A vendor can provide either on-site
or remote training over the web, e-learning classes, and can even offer
a pre-configured CMMS/EAM solution to help transfer knowledge and
product ownership to the customer and allow a customer to start using
the solution within days.
• Don’t get fooled into paying for extra “bells and whistles.”
Stick with a solution your company needs and which provides the proper
tools to maximize the performance of your assets but also provides an
expansion to additional functionality when and if you need it. Some
add-ons sound great in a demo but aren’t included in the standard
pricing model and/or won’t be used once implemented because they are
difficult to use or slow down the maintenance process.
Cloud-computing solutions are secure and trustworthy, just as companies
are moving their accounting and email systems to cloud-computing
platforms. The top solutions will have a history of providing at least
99-percent uptime with only occasional scheduled maintenance and
upgrades during non-peak hours.
By eliminating the overhead of large up-front software purchases, as
well as providing installation and upgrades that nearly eliminate the
burden on the IT staff, cloud computing can help maintenance
organizations move toward world-class operational effectiveness and
maximize assets performance without breaking the budget.
Jeromy Risner, CMRP is a reliability consultant with AssetPoint. For more information, visit www.assetpoint.com.