Once the information is collected, computerized systems can generate a wide range of customized reports, histories and analytics that can be used to better manage the maintenance operation, as well as to forecast likely problems in time to prevent them.
FM: In general, how difficult is it to get computerized PM systems up and running or to expand their capabilities? Does a shop need a dedicated IT person for this?
JW: There are a lot of options which involve simple spreadsheet style programs to elaborate and highly specialized software. The more comprehensive and powerful the system is, the more technical knowledge needed in order to get the most out of its options.
Simpler programs require a simpler installation and less technical expertise, but because of that their capabilities are restricted and often don’t deliver what the shop truly needs to be successful.
FM: Typically, how much training is required for maintenance managers and technicians to be able to get the most out of any system?
JW: The complexity of the software, and how much it does for you, will determine how much training is required to get the value out of it. It is important to become trained and take the time necessary to understand all the features of the software in order to best insure a successful return on investment.
If the software is designed correctly, and if the supplying company has adequate support staff ready to assist, two to four days of professional training should be enough to get up and running.
FM: Are there key differences, advantages and benefits between off-the-shelf computerized PM systems versus ones that are customizable?
JW: There are hundreds of small programs that will help manage a small fleet, starting with a simple spreadsheet. Of course the simple programs will only give you a fraction of the benefits you need to really understand and operate your fleet effectively.
As technology continues to expand and fleets become more and more involved, many fleet managers are realizing the importance of having an expandable and evolving fleet operations software system to keep up with their growing demands.
FM: Aren’t there systems available that have added capabilities, such as creating and tracking work orders; recording detailed maintenance histories and tire usage; monitoring labor; invoicing; manage registration renewals and annual inspections; and so on?
JW: The extent of the capabilities depends entirely on the type of software. Collective Data systems, by way of example, are designed for fleet operations management. These are designed to handle PM scheduling, work orders, equipment histories, fuel management, warranty recapture, recall campaign management and tire management, as well as offer tools for fleet analysis. More aspects of the fleet operation, such as asset management, comprehensive maintenance management, risk management and employee management, are among other options.
FM: What should a vehicle maintenance manager look for when acquiring or upgrading a PM scheduling program?
JW: Obviously, as with any purchase, maintenance managers need to do their homework before looking at preventive maintenance software. Key considerations should include elements such as needs and requirements, functionality, scalability, training, implementation time and ease of use.
A good quality, well designed and highly configurable application is very important to insure that the investment will be recovered. But it is also very important to find a company that stands by the products and services they provide.
So, too, does understanding who will be directly utilizing the products and making sure they understand its importance and how it will play a vital role in the overall success of the maintenance operation.