A CMMS is Barely 5 Percent of a Complete Holistic Enterprise Asset Management System


 A Computerised Maintenance Management System (CMMS) is only used during the operational phase of an enterprise. Whereas an Enterprise Asset Management System (EAM system) covers all life cycle phases of operating assets from project concept to asset disposal, and even embraces the organisation’s best future. A CMMS is just a tiny part of the hugely greater holistic EAM system. Trying to improve operating results with a CMMS acts so late in the life cycle that it can only bring limited success.

 Keywords: Enterprise Asset Management System, EAM system, Computerised Maintenance Management System, CMMS, physical asset life cycle management

 Organizational problems this article helps you to address:

      •  Understand that a CMMS acts on a small portion of the whole EAM life cycle system.
      • Realise that a CMMS imposes its own maintenance management processes onto an organisation, which very likely are not optimal for the enterprise.
      • Stop you trying to use a CMMS as a life cycle EAM system platform.

A CMMS is an information and transactional database of maintenance related requirements for the physical assets used in an operation. The modules required in a modern Computerised Maintenance Management System have not changed since CMMS software were first developed in the 1970’s and 1980’s. What has changed is the extent of the functionality now included and managed by the typical CMMS, along with incorporating Internet access for workforce mobility.

 Since the beginning, a CMMS database has always had modules covering Asset Hierarchy, Maintenance Work Planning and Costing, Maintenance Work Scheduling, Planned Preventive Maintenance (which includes Condition Monitoring), Resource Planning and Work Order Management, Purchasing Parts and Services, Materials Management, and Management Reporting. What has been added in modern CMMS include modules for Document Management, Data Analysis and Statistics, and a Web interface.

 Many CMMS software providers still make amazing claims about the wonder of their CMMS. They imply that their CMMS solution you will make such great savings, and increase productivity and equipment reliability so astronomically, that your operation will totally astound the world. Only if your operation is completely reactionary, does not carry spare parts, does not use preventive maintenance routines, and does repairs after breakdowns happen could a CMMS bring such dazing benefits in maintenance performance. But if you’ve already used a CMMS for the last 5 to 10 years, then you will have got much of the maintenance performance improvement that it can give you.

 The CMMS lives within the EAM system. It is a small part of the complete asset life cycle management system. Improving maintenance effectiveness via a CMMS brings useful but limited uplift in operational success. That’s because a CMMS only acts in the production portion of the plant and equipment physical asset life cycle, as shown in the following image, and nowhere else.


An operational asset life cycle management system covers everything impacting the use of an enterprise’s physical assets. It incorporates the first thoughts behind a capital project’s justification, all industrial, maintenance, and plant engineering decisions, all supply chains used during the life of the operation, all requirements for running the operation successfully, and includes the means to continually improve EAM system performance.

 The small proportion of the EAM System covered by a CMMS is further highlighted in the image below, which shows the functions of the EAM system allocated to the CMMS. To get massive operational performance improvement you need to work on bettering the front-end and mid phases of the Enterprise Asset Management System. If you work at the CMMS level, you only influence a fraction of the physical asset life cycle and miss the many opportunities available in the far bigger remaining portions of the EAM System.


Once you have been using a CMMS for a few years it becomes wasteful to keep trying to improve its database and functionality, as the remaining gains for the organisation will be small.

 Instead, turn your time and efforts to improving the effectiveness of the front-end and middle of the EAM system, because the gains you get by improving the life cycle asset management strategy, engineering choices, and operating asset reliability will be far greater, and they will constantly bring more value to the organisation for all its future, than what working on the CMMS can ever deliver.

 It is an easy trap to fall into—working on upgrading the maintenance management system because that is something that can be readily done, when you should instead be working on what will bring the enterprise the greatest benefits from its engineering assets and by reducing the need for maintenance. They are much harder tasks to implement if you don’t have the means to design and build a highly effective, integrated asset life cycle management system.

 For those who want to know how to design and build a holistic EAM life cycle system, you can learn about the Plant Wellness Way to do it in the Industrial and Manufacturing Wellness book.

Mike Sondalini
PWWEAM System-of-Reliability
19 May 2022