Product Profile: May 1999, Systematizing Equipment Care

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November 23, 1999

Each day, as Jim Haley at Terrascape Landscape Management, Phoenix, Ariz., sent out a five-man crew in the morning, he was uncertain whether or not his power equipment would break down.

Haley has been in the landscape maintenance business for 20 years. Satisfying customer expectations and getting the job done right the first time around was a critical concern, as was maintaining profitability. The problem of equipment downtime in the field was significant.

“If a blower broke down, the job just wouldn’t get done and we’d have to return to the job site later to finish,” Haley said. “That situation is ancient history now.”

Haley purchased a computer software program to organize equipment history and implement a preventive maintenance program for his 35 trucks and approximately 140 pieces of 2-cycle power equipment.

“We’ve created a structured routine using the MPulse program from SpecTech, Eugene, Ore.,” Haley said. “Equipment is always in for service. When a mower is being worked on, the crew takes a backup mower out in the field. Equipment downtime and lost productivity in the field has been practically eliminated.

“Before we got MPulse, we handled equipment maintenance off the cuff,” Haley continued. “The result was that the equipment life expectancy was cut in half. We were repeatedly blowing engines and clogging carburetors. The use of the computer program to schedule preventive maintenance has greatly reduced repair costs and has extended the usable life of the equipment.”

Many elements go into creating and implementing a thorough preventive maintenance program. While a computer is not always essential, it makes the organization of information, record keeping and work order generation easier. If you have a significant amount of equipment, vehicles or facilities to track, using a computer becomes a must.

There are a number of considerations to be aware of when deciding to organize an equipment fleet or maintenance vehicles. First, there are costs involved in implementing a Computerized Maintenance Management System that go beyond the purchase of a computer and a software program.

Contractors will need to budget for time required to learn to use the new system and to train the people in the company who will be involved with the system. Contractors will also need to allow time in the beginning to enter data. If there is a lot of equipment, it’s not necessary to set up everything at once. Plan to enter the most important pieces first and add additional pieces as the need arises.

Another pitfall of newly implemented CMMS systems that most people fail to anticipate is that performing routine maintenance and inspections on equipment that has not had this type of care can lead to higher repair and maintenance costs initially. Once preventive maintenance is being done regularly, however, these costs will drop significantly.

When a company decides it is committed to implementing a CMMS program to track maintenance history and schedule preventative maintenance, management needs to choose a program that lets it track the information that is important to the business and generates the reports it needs to make daily maintenance decisions.

Many CMMS software programs are available with prices ranging from a few hundred dollars to six figures for complex programs. A company’s needs and costs will depend upon the size of its operation and the system it wants.

The most important thing to consider when shopping for a program is ease of use. If the maintenance and administrative people can’t figure out how to use the software they won’t use it. CMMS requires daily use, generating and closing out work orders. If data isn’t regularly entered, the system will fail.

“We don’t fully use the MPulse program yet, although we expect to in the future,” he shared. “Tracking keys and locks is next on our list of areas to implement.”

While it has only been a number of months that Commercially Yours has had its CMMS program implemented, it has radically changed the way the company deals with maintenance and downtime.

“I can’t remember what it was like before we started using the system. It just became the way we do things,” Haley said.

Contractors shouldn’t underestimate what will be required to get up and running with a CMMS system, but it can result in enhanced profitability and improved ability to deliver customer satisfaction.

The author is a consultant with SpecTech, Eugene, Ore.

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