The Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) seems to make even seasoned electrical contractors shudder because it puts the power of scheduled maintenance in the hands of end-users. Contractors are concerned, especially those who love the maintenance contract’s steady stream of revenue.

Most people are comfortable using software-driven solutions for a variety of purposes because we are now deeply into the computer age. It was only a matter of time before software-driven maintenance became mainstream. Over the last three years, interest in Web-based CMMS offerings has caused a slew of them to become readily available, creating a strong competitor for the EC who also conducts maintenance.

Benefits

Web-based CMMS allows users to go to a Web site and start using the program. This translates into lower upfront and ongoing costs. The software is always up-to-date, and thus, information technology departments are taxed less with ongoing software maintenance. The CMMS development has led many to adopt Web-based maintenance, and the price now justifies its usefulness.

One primary benefit of the newer Web-based CMMSs is that they are extremely user-friendly, something both end-users and contractors find welcoming. Simple drop-down menus and online help functions coupled with the ability to be tailored add to the overall appeal.

Does a contractor fit in?

On first glance, CMMS may seem like it poses a threat to contractors actively engaged in aspects of maintenance. But, considering the ways CMMS can be used, there is room for both the contractor and the CMMS at the same location.

The CMMS may make scheduling and monitoring easier for the user, but it does not replace the role of the contractor, since actual work still needs to be done.

In fact, end-users can add contractors to their systems and allow contractors to have access—even limited access—to monitor systems remotely. In the right situation, this actually could be beneficial to contractors, as it alleviates the need to send technicians to the site on a regular basis.

Traditional CMMSs were installed on the client’s network, allowing contractors (or anyone, for that matter) access to the system. However, this opened up the end-user’s network to potential security problems, which is why contractors were not always given access. With the new Web-based versions, any contractor with Internet access can tap in and become an integral part of the process.

What this potentially means, especially for proactive contractors who discuss joint usage of Web-based CMMS, is the contractor could log in to the system itself and get its own to-do lists. Systems can be set up so that when a contractor logs in, it has access to work orders that have been issued in its name. This essentially allows contractors to adopt a larger role in maintenance, making them active participants. They will be aware when something goes wrong, rather than waiting for an angry phone call.

For those contractors interested in further maintenace involvement, a Web-based CMMS is a good entry point. It can be the necessary vehicle to organize such an endeavor.

It is unlikely that a contractor would be able to dissuade a customer from using a Web-based CMMS, especially as it becomes easier to use, less expensive and better understood by end-users. Therefore, contractors must learn to work within the system and do so in a way that brings the business to them. While it might be outside a traditional contractor’s comfort zone, as times and technologies change, so do the roles that contractors play.    EC

STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached at JenLeahS@msn.com.