Table of Contents

Future of Maintenance and CMMS

Industry 4.0 technologies are revolutionizing the Manufacturing plants. Shop floors were relatively untouched by the earlier technology revolutions, with their scope largely restricted to business applications (ERP, Production Control, Materials Management etc.) or Internet redefining how enterprises communicate and interact with their customers.

Current State of Maintenance & CMMS

Usage of IT systems for maintenance is not new. Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS or CMMS Software) has been existing for few decades now and has been aiding the plant maintenance. For large part, CMMS has been task specific data tracking tool, focusing on breakdown and preventive maintenance.

The final decade of the last millennium saw the emergence of Enterprise Asset Management (EAM or EAM Software), with its focus on the assets, encompassing more features. Though EAM enlarged the scope, it too remained focused on individual asset and thus acting as another System of Record. System of Records in itself are good data repositories and can support rudimentary MIS and lacks radical innovations.

Innovations in Industry 4.0 technologies are directly impacting the underbelly of the Shop Floor and thus changing the face of entire plant operations and maintenance. Industry 4.0 provides a robust digital foundation to track the industrial assets and process assets, integrates with various control systems and Internet of Things, processes information to generate business analytics and enable a smart workforce.

Shop Floor Transformation

Miniaturization of electronics made embedded hardware and controllers possible, altering the hitherto electro-mechanical nature of industrial assets. Embedded electronics, PLCs and Control Systems started driving digitalization and automation, al be it slowly and steadily. Emergence of new technologies accelerated the transformation and led to long-lasting changes.

Shop floor today is filled with intelligent machines. Internet provides the ubiquitous connectivity. Newer applications are getting built more than ever. Cloud technologies are lowering the entry barriers. Mobile enables accessing information on the go. Rich internet applications have redefined the interface and user expectations.

Future of Maintenance

This emergence of Industry 4.0 Technologies represents the most transformative phase of the Industrial Assets that we have seen and has far-reaching impacts on the traditional Plant Maintenance function, processes and practices. Broad areas of impact include

1. Asset Management Strategy:
Changing technology is also disrupting business, forcing them to retool every operational aspect to improve agility, efficiency and productivity. In addition to the traditional factors of production (man, machine, capital and entrepreneurship), modern enterprises need to have a strategy that includes process, technology, data and people empowerment. Maintenance as a function is transforming rapidly.

2. Business Process:
Scope of Maintenance as a business process is changing. Scope of asset performance is getting redefined from individual machine or equipment to orchestration of the of a whole production system, line or plant. Equipment Maintenance is transforming from break-fix and repairs to become an integral part of Capital Projects / Asset Management strategy. Focus is shifting from breakdown maintenance to having cohesive maintenance strategy that encompasses more of preventive and predictive maintenance nd Asset Integrity Management programs that covers the entire asset life cycle. Effectiveness is clearly defined with goals and measures around Availability, Reliability, Maintainability, Safety, Sustainability and Engineering Economics.

3. Regulations and Standard Compliance:

Regulations are increasingly playing a role on safety and sustainability. Scope regulations cover asset management and maintenance in industries like Aviation (FAA 14 CFR Part 53),  Food and Pharmaceuticals (FDA CFR Title 21) etc. and in emission control norms and effluent treatment norms for green manufacturing. Compliance to Good Manufacturing Practices and ISO standards are also increasingly becoming necessary.

4.  Convergence of Functions

The thin line between operations, maintenance and engineering is getting blurred. Operational Technology and Enterprise Technology can no longer be disparate and there is an immediate need to bridge the chasm effectively and provide a unified Enterprise view. Organizations need a holistic view and expect the systems, processes and technologies to work together seamlessly and feed relevant information across these functions.

5.  Business Model Transformation:

With increasing sophistication, functionality and smartness industrial assets are becoming more capital intensive. Changing business conditions, shorter product cycles, green regulations and faster technology obsolescence force the organizations to sweat the assets more quickly and efficiently for better return on investment. OEMs are also evolving from capital equipment sales and annual maintenance contracts to adopt newer business models like performance incentives and service level contracts and more radically to become as-a-service providers. (eg.Boiler manufacturer supplementing AMC with longer term performance contracts and to become Steam-as-a-Service providers)

6.  Capability & Performance:

Asset Management and Maintenance is getting outsourced to specialists, OEMs and third party service providers. Be it in-house or external vendors, the function is getting governed more with Service level frameworks and KPIs. Cost pressures and expectation to do more with less resources are becoming the new norm. Data is becoming the new tool to drive efficiencies in a standardized, scalable and sustainable operations.

7.  Digital Nervous System:

CMMS or the Asset Management Systems are becoming the digital nervous system of the Industrial Assets. Cannot operate in a silo mode and has to become a platform that connects the physical and digital components of the assets by integrating with disparate devices, systems and applications and aggregating all asset data. It should provide not merely information and transactional metrics but strive to provide more inferences and insights for decision support.
Apply advanced big data technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine language to construct Digital Twins and Factory Twins.

8.  Smart Workforce:

Maintenance team composition is changing. From numbers game, it is shifting to smart people. Smart maintenance requires information on-demand and on the move, comprehensive asset intelligence from multiple perspectives, ability to connect central experts to remote plant technicians, newer immersive technologies like Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, Contextual Intelligent assistants and working with robots and cobots.
Digitalization and Industry 4.0 are here to stay. People planning a career in maintenance or asset management have to be conversant with the industry 4.0 landscape and applying current and emerging technologies to meet strategic business goals.

Future of CMMS

Scope of technology products is constantly evolving.  Niche and specialized product solutions catering to specific industries and scenarios emerge around successful products.  Competitive landscape White spaces in the product-market  get addressed.   As the products grow in size and broaden their scope,  they tend to converge with products from other adjacent areas.

With industry 4.0 technologies we are witnessing the convergence of the following product areas in the Industrial asset Management / Maintenance space.

  1. Evolution of CMMS providers:

Traditional CMMS providers are increasing their asset management functionalities, business intelligence capabilities and providing more APIs and web services for Internet of Things integration

  1. Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) Products:

EAM providers are strengthening their maintenance modules and improving their interfaces to other systems.  Niche providers in EAM space like Asset Tracking are also playing from their position of strength in connected products and movable assets


  1. ERP Plant Maintenance Modules:

Traditional ERPs have long addressed the Enterprise Assets and Maintenance aspects but due to the sheer size and scope of ERP, they have been lending lesser focus to these functions.  Emergence of Industry 4.0  and it’s growth potential is redefining their focus and they are eyeing a pie.

4.  Internet of Things Start-ups:

New age start ups focussing on Internet of Things are capturing more data from Shop Floors.  With large machine data on the cloud, their approach is towards processing them to generate asset intelligence and predictions. 

5.  Predictive Intelligence Start-ups:

Application of  Artificial Intelligence, Machine Language and other Predictive Models requires enormous data and they are approaching from the opposite end of the continuum – from AI / ML to machine data.

6. Adjacent Areas / Niche Services:

Niche areas like inspection, instrumentation, energy monitoring etc. are getting saturated and they are expanding their scope of operations by extending their expertise machine maintenance.

7.  Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM):

Large OEMs  are embedding more hardware and software to make the machines (eg. Boilers, CNC Machines) intelligent.  They are embracing Cloud and leveraging their domain expertise to drive better business outcomes.  Many organizations have such machinery from multiple vendors.  OEMs face a to-be or not-to-be dilemma in supporting  competing products.

8.  Platform Providers;

Control system providers have been in the automation space for long and  they have been offering stand-alone applications.  They are embracing cloud and exposing their large data sets to partner ecosystem to build value added applications.

Imperatives for the Organizations:

CMMS of the future should play the role akin to an Industrial Operating System. Ubiquitous presence, always available, communicate with other critical systems, has rich diagnostic and prognostic tools, provide intelligent decision support and support a power user interface to enable Maintenance 4.0.

Technology transformation, however painful is relatively easier to implement. The biggest challenge today before the maintenance organizations and O&M service providers is preparing the workforce for the future. It involves not only implementing a robust technology stack and broadening their skill sets, but also includes changing their mindsets and capabilities to excel in Factories of Future.