The Importance of a CMMS as a Knowledge Management Tool

Lind Hutton, CEO, Mintek
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Lind Hutton, CEO, Mintek

AtulGawande states in Checklist Manifesto, “Good checklists are precise. They are efficient, to the point, and easy to use even in the most difficult situations. They do not try to spell out everything—a checklist cannot fly a plane. Instead, they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps—the ones that even the highly skilled professional using them could miss. Good checklists are, above all, practical.”

“Knowledge management is evolving as an important factor in operations and maintenance practices”

Businesses can falter when employees miss the simple steps in tasks due to a lack of communication, relying on repetition, or the simple fact of human error. As the baby boomers retire and the younger generation has a better understanding of technology, companies should look to take knowledge from the older generation and integrate it into software processes and use that knowledge as a transfer tool.

According to KM World, knowledge management is a “discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, capturing, evaluating, retrieving, and sharing all of an enterprise’s information assets.” These assets may include databases, documents procedures, and previously un-captured expertise and experience in individual workers.

Knowledge management is evolving as an important factor in operations and maintenance practices due to the complexity of equipment, processes and solutions, and the fact that employees with 20-30 years of experience are now retiring. The U.S. Department of Labor also stated, “When an employee leaves a company 70 percent of his knowledge walks out the door with him” which makes it harder to fill that gap with new hires. It becomes imperative to record and update the existing knowledge of personnel close to retirement while also managing the knowledge transfer to new employees through procedures, training, or mentoring.

In a 2006 study published by the Hudson Institute on the U.S. workforce, they found that “30 to 40 percent of maintenance personnel would be retiring in the next five years.” We are now five years passed that said date and a recent study in 2015 by Gallup showed “50 percent of 60 year old baby boomers are retired and only a third of people between 67 and 68 are still working.” New hires are now responsible for capturing, understanding, and implementing data without the benefit of experience.

As such, efforts to successfully integrate this un-captured expertise in CMMSare vital to prevent that stored knowledge from walking out of the building. Documenting work tasks in the appropriate manner will help prevent errors from occurring.

A CMMS has the capability to provide maintenance management and staff with an automated tool capable of scheduling inspections, preventive maintenance, managing inventory, work orders, and retrieval of recorded asset history. This tool helps employees get up to speed withaccurate company processes when the tasks lists are fully integrated. Maintenance solutions should extend to mobile devices to increase adoption and task compliance.

Technicians can perform actual work with instructions on handhelds, enter how long it takes to complete work orders, filter through past work orders, and close out of the system. All the information is recorded in real-time, so managers can access the information instantaneously.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “18 minutes is the average search time for a document,” so mobility allows technicians to retrieve information instantaneously and spend more time fixing the asset instead of searching for the correct asset information.

Knowledge management within a CMMS will allow an organization to accelerate the rate at which new engineers learn asset and company information. Implementing a CMMS offers several other benefits, including:

  • Reducing the dependency on tacit knowledge
  • Minimizing the loss of intellectual capital
  • Improving management quality and efficiency
  • Reducing risks/mistakes and minimizing liability
  • Increasing communication between staff and managers
  • Corporate standards increase the portability of employees between sites

These are just some of the results of a properly implemented plan that could increase overall cost savings, increase staff participation and productivity levels within an infrastructure.

In Checklist Manifesto, AtulGawande shows how eight hospitals implemented a bedside aide to navigate through complex procedures and the results showed the average number of complications and deaths dipped by 35 percent. Part of the list asked staff to introduce themselves before a procedure began, and in turn nurses were more comfortable speaking up when they saw a problem which increased patient care, communication, and decreased mortality. The medical industry implemented a checklist to create solutions to existing problems, so it’s time for maintenance professionals to take their checklists to a whole new level. Besides, AtulGawande highlights, “One essential characteristic of modern life is that we all depend on systems—on assemblages of people or technologies or both—and among our most profound difficulties is making them work.”

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