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CMMS and EAM: What’s the difference?


September 23, 2020


Steve Richmond, Founder/CEO, Projetech

“Technology is moving so fast that our assets are now talking to us, updating us on their status from thousands of miles away. Companies that are slow to keep pace with technology will be gone.”

I have been in the maintenance and reliability profession for over thirty-five years, I started out with my hands on equipment, making repairs and upgrades, and managing service jobs with nothing more technologically sophisticated than a landline telephone. 

Early on, I discovered the power of technology to improve maintenance and reliability, and I have seen how the constant technological improvement of Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) has made it possible to boost operational efficiency, reduce downtime, and save companies money in ways that were not even imaginable twenty years ago.

I believe firmly that by knowing history, we can understand the present and gain a reasonable sense of where the future is headed. In my opinion, the more you know about the evolution of CMMS to Enterprise Asset Management (EAM), the better plugged in you will be to its continued evolution.

When I think of EAM, I often think of the airline industry. The airlines are one of the most complex, challenging industries from a maintenance point of view. The industry is tightly regulated, so compliance is a major factor in an EAM; the equipment is always moving, downtime is enormously costly, which requires precise, sophisticated logistics for rapid response to maintenance issues. Think about it, if you’re an airline, a powerful EAM can run your maintenance everywhere in the world, sharing storerooms, even maintenance staff, virtually. 

Now, let’s move on to the Computerized Maintenance Management System and what it is exactly. 

The earliest systems amounted effectively to electronic file folders. The term Computerized Maintenance Management System was coined in order to describe any kind of software tool that tracked assets, maintenance, and reliability. These systems were developed out of necessity to track the performance of a business’ assets and to organize maintenance activity to improve operational performance. 

Essentially, CMMS products began as an imitation of the paper processes they were replacing. CMMS software quickly evolved along with improvements in computing technology.

The guiding philosophy has always been “I want to know everything about my assets.” For example, let’s say I own a strip mall, and there are twenty packaged air conditioning systems on the roof. I want to know which systems over the years have been the most reliable, which systems have had the most service calls, and which of my service personnel worked on them. 

By tracking data associated with my equipment, the parts that make up the equipment, and the work being done by my maintenance crew, a rudimentary CMMS system could tell me all kinds of important information. It could tell me that every 90 days, somebody needs to climb a ladder and change a filter, and every 180 days someone needs to go up there and check the refrigerant level. These kinds of data can help me make decisions to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and limit equipment downtime. 

As developers began to see the advantage of having CMMS offered, they continued to build these systems with more and more intelligence, providing more useful and sophisticated metrics for the end-user. Along the way, a new term was coined for computer-based asset management systems that attempted to describe how CMMS had matured: Enterprise Asset Management. 

In many ways, the terms CMMS and EAM are interchangeable when you’re talking about having a software solution for maintenance and reliability. While there is a distinction in the industry, there isn’t exactly consensus on the exact differences between the two terms. 

The term EAM was intended to suggest that the software system was robust enough to handle enterprise-level implementation, including integration into enterprise-level financial systems, human resource systems, et cetera. No longer would one department within a company adopt its own CMMS system, instead the company could adopt the software and manage its assets across the enterprise. In short, the basic distinction is:

  • CMMS: Primarily for the purpose of tracking maintenance activities, scheduling, and cost associated with a company’s assets.
  • EAM: Provides the same kind of information as a CMMS, but is robust enough to track all assets of the enterprise and the workflows associated with them, including financial, HR, and compliance systems.

With enterprise asset management in place, flying in the USA is safer now than ever before because we do a great job managing aircraft maintenance. 

It’s only possible because EAM systems are able to track all the assets in the enterprise, knowing at all times where parts and skilled staff are. EAM can develop workflows, giving the capability to move them strategically within the enterprise.      

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