Reap the benefits of CMMS with your ERP system

CMMS is essential when running enterprise resource planning (ERP) for a company's operations because it controls quality and operating costs

07/23/2013



Most corporate departments think of maintenance when they need the thermostat adjusted in the conference room. But maintenance management and CMMS are an integral part of enterprise resource planning (ERP), which runs 80% of Fortune 1000 companies. CMMS is an essential tool for managing operations and maintaining assets across the enterprise. CMMS drives quality production, ensures regulatory compliance and controls operating costs.

So how do you run a smooth maintenance operation, keep assets humming and integrate with the company’s ERP system? Before you start coding a new ERP interface, weigh the issues. Is the CMMS integration a desire for the maintenance department or a directive from the COO? How can CMMS and ERP integration reduce operating costs and contribute to business performance?

Once you answer the big picture questions and decide to move forward, consider these guidelines from someone who’s been there and done that:

1. First, make sure you think through your points of integration. Synchronize part quantities vs. share a completed purchase order (PO) – this is an important debate. Some ERP systems make it difficult to share a whole purchase order, so perhaps synchronizing spare parts in your CMMS with the ERP POs is a better approach. 

2. Do you have internal expertise, or at least affordable consulting on the ERP side?
These costs can add up. It is likely your ERP system will need configuration support to make this interface work. 

3. Don’t rush into the integration. Get to know your CMMS first, for a few weeks or even several months before finalizing your integration plans. Product experience will influence interface approach/design, and is a safer, less expensive endeavor than building the interface in advance. 

4. Assess your CMMS needs. Understand that although a CMMS vendor may have interface capabilities off-the-shelf, the interface will always need to be configured for the organization’s environment – either on the CMMS or ERP side, or both. Configuration depends on the IT environment, ERP system and version, desired integration points, in-house ERP expertise, etc. Automated interfaces should be considered semi-configured (in some cases total custom) projects.

In theory, a quality CMMS vendor should have the technological capabilities to allow any information to be passed to and from an ERP system. Most common interfaces I have developed are related to spare parts. Others include sharing “finished” purchase orders/requisitions, asset information (status, location, costs, etc.), and employee data, typically labor rates or department information.

Most importantly, have the discussion with your maintenance team. Define the business goals. Identify the integration points. Your CMMS vendor won’t be able to discuss development costs unless you have thought through the project. Do your homework upfront so CMMS and ERP can make the connection a lasting one.

Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group, producer of Bigfoot CMMS. Contact Paul at paul.lachance@bigfootcmms.com.



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