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By Kevin Clark, Vice President of Industrial Strategy, Accruent

If you’re a maintenance professional, you’re likely very familiar with the terms CMMS and EAM – and you’ve probably reviewed a ton of blogs, product pages and demos (including our own) that discuss the most important functionalities of these tools and delve into topics like “What is CMMS software?” “Does your business need a CMMS or an EAM?” or “What are the most important features of a CMMS?”

But with all this comparison, discussion and talk about finding and selecting the right tool for your business, it’s easy to get confused and frustrated. Most CMMS’ today have EAM functionality, after all, and most EAM tools are necessarily also CMMS.

As a result, I often catch myself referring to these systems as “EAM/CMMS” in daily conversation – which is why I now ask the question Do the terms CMMS or EAM work anymore? and, more broadly, does it even matter what the tool you choose calls itself? Because it all seems to be missing the point.

The short answer? No, it arguably doesn’t matter. And getting hung up on the distinction can prevent you from delving into the details that do matter like what functionality you truly need and whether or not you overbought when you chose your asset management system.

Understanding Technology in the Industrial Industry Today

Industrially speaking, as in all industries, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic forced many companies to fast-forward their digital transformations as they attempted to work remotely, move to the cloud and keep their assets running.

For some, it was a smooth transition – for most, it wasn’t. In all cases, this sped along what was already in motion: a widespread consideration of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platforms, machine learning, AI and other Industry 4.0 technologies— not only to be able to operate during COVID but also, from a strategic standpoint, to optimize operations, cut costs, reduce inefficiencies and move ever closer toward a more reliable and predictable environment.

It’s an important and necessary shift (though many companies have been dragging their feet for years). It’s a well-established fact that reactive maintenance practices lead to higher downtime, increased employee inefficiencies, lower revenue...the list goes on.

It’s also well-established that having the right technological ecosystem in place can facilitate a move toward a predictable environment and associated improvements in revenue, uptime and ROI. Plus, legacy systems and pen and paper just don’t cut it in a remote or socially distanced environment – and those aren’t likely to go away anytime soon.

But getting this transition right is no small feat. If you're going to use things like AI and IIoT properly (and not have a slew of failed implementations on your hands) you need flawless integrations, high user adoption, reliable asset data – and, among other tools, the right SaaS asset management tool for your business. It’s a key piece to the overall asset management puzzle.

CMMS vs EAM Doesn’t Matter Any More – Here's What Does

But does it really matter what we call it? Are we muddying the water by trying to squeeze your solution into “EAM” or “CMMS”? I’d argue that the answer is yes.

The CMMS vs EAM Distinction Makes No Sense

A CMMS today is supposedly defined as a tool that focuses on centralizing information to facilitate and automate maintenance during the operational part of an asset’s lifecycle. An EAM, on the other hand, is supposed to provide a wider range of features to track, manage, and analyze asset performance and costs throughout the whole asset lifecycle, from acquisition to disposal.

By definition, then, a CMMS is meant to have a more limited functionality, while an EAM can include many features and functionalities outside of preventive maintenance. But this distinction doesn’t hold water in practice.

You can even see this confusion play out on Wikipedia’s CMMS and EAM pages. They start on their EAM page with the standard distinction that, “Enterprise asset management (EAM) involves the management of the maintenance of physical assets of an organization throughout each asset's lifecycle,” while proclaiming on their CMMS page that a CMMS, “is a software package that maintains a computer database of information about an organization's maintenance operations” (note the “entire asset lifecycle” vs “operations” distinction - they’re following the script).

But they quickly lose the thread further down the CMMS page when they claim that a CMMS can also help with equipment data management, preventive maintenance, predictive maintenance, purchasing, budgeting, vendor management and more. None of that has to do with operations alone!

The point? All robust CMMS systems today, including our own, also include many of these “EAM” functionalities like mobile capabilities and multi-site management tools. EAM systems from less established vendors, conversely, may not have these tools as built out as their robust CMMS counterparts. And the more you try to keep the distinction, the more unfocused you’ll become.

The distinction then, doesn’t seem to matter anymore.

Here’s What You Should Focus on in Asset Management Today

What does matter is that you choose a tool that meets your needs as a business, whether you’re striving toward maintainability, sustainability, predictability, remote operations, or another focus entirely. When it comes to asset management and your maintenance tool, that means you should:

1. Never Lose Sight of the Big Picture

Don’t lose sight of the basics. Ultimately, an asset management software is supposed to help you reduce unplanned downtime, extend asset longevity and produce more widgets— that’s the bottom line you’re looking for on your P&L statements and balance sheets. You need the functionalities, which generally includes:

  • Effective asset lifecycle information management, including standardization, historical insight and breakdown information so you can anticipate service needs for each of your assets.
  • Intuitive work order management, including mobile capabilities for multi-site operations. If your technicians can’t get all the documentation they need or work order updates are delayed or inconsistent, it’s a huge problem that your EAM should resolve.
  • MRO inventory management. Difficulty locating spare parts and high inventory costs are huge pain points and something that asset-heavy organizations need to get under control.
  • Labor management. You need insight into technician efficiency, work order completion and what’s in motion at any given time.
  • Service contract management so you can easily manage your contracts –with customers, vendors, employees and partners – and control your compliance and spending.
  • Financial management so you can allocate funds and understand work order costs and bigger-picture accounting and project cost information.
  • Analytics and reporting because you can’t make informed business decisions without comprehensive data to back it up.

These are the functionalities that matter today. And you can find many of them in an EAM or a CMMS.

2. Prepare for the Future

The world of asset management is moving to adopt the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), AI and analytics for more predictable and sustainable operations. It’s a necessary and largely inescapable progression.

The right asset management tool will be an important part of this process, helping you to monitor your asset health with actionable insights before you experience downtime or an emergency. For this to work, though, your tool must be scalable and play well with broader technological ecosystems.

3. Have the Strategies and Practices to Back It Up

You could have the best plan and tools in the world and it’ll mean nothing if your technology isn’t widely adopted or if you don’t have the best practices to back them up. Translation:

  • Your team must widely adopt your tools to maintain data integrity and ensure a successful implementation. That means communication, buy-in and ongoing upskilling for your entire team.
  • Your organization needs healthy basic maintenance practices and strategies – things like good condition monitoring, process standardization and meaningful insights based on clear KPIs.

A stable house is all about the foundation.

Final Thoughts

The world of asset maintenance is complex, ever-changing and moving toward an exciting new future. And it doesn’t seem like focusing on whether a maintenance tool is a CMMS or an EAM has a place in this “new normal.” Who knew that, in the fierce battle between CMMS and EAM, the answer could be “who cares?”

About the Author

Kevin Clark joined Accruent as the Vice President of Industrial strategy in 2020. Prior to joining Accruent, Mr. Clark served as Vice President Accelix IoT at Fluke Corporation, another division of Fortive. Previously, Kevin led the Asset Management Division of Perficient as the Sr. Director. Mr. Clark has 30+ years of industrial experience working with Fortune 500 companies, including Johnson & Johnson and Caterpillar, and smaller start up manufacturing/technology companies, serving in various technology leadership capacities. Kevin has maintained his Certified Maintenance & Reliability Professional (CMRP) status since 2004. He also holds Conference Board positions with the Society of Maintenance & Reliability Professionals, Advisory Board with Pumps & Systems, Industrial Advisory Board at Purdue University, and past roles with ISA – Machinery Safety Director, and ANSI-RIA 15.06 Robotic Safety Standards Advisor. While Kevin spent the first 10 years of his career as a Maintenance Technician, he also holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer-Integration in Manufacturing from Purdue University and an MBA from Colorado State University.

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