CMMS: Part 2

WHY Greenhouse Owners and Operators benefit from cmms


Part 1 of this series addressed CMMS from a high-level perspective. This segment takes a closer look at the various benefits both users and owners can expect from integrating CMMS in their greenhouse.

Within a Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) facility, the main benefit to the organization implementing CMMS is Preventative Maintenance Management. However, there are four levels of operations which CMMS directly benefits:

  1. Maintenance Technicians
  2. Administrators (or Planners)
  3. Maintenance Management
  4. Owners

Benefits to Maintenance Technicians

Fast access to information is a necessity for Technicians in order to optimize uptime – a CMMS allows technicians to do this with ease. With a CMMS, Maintenance Technicians are able to generate reports on how many hours are booked towards reactive/proactive maintenance activities. This simplifies and expedites the creation and sending of management reports significantly, while also increasing impact through timeliness. The reduction in Technicians’ time spent on documentation directly translates to more time focused on their area of specialization, facilitating hours spent towards meaningful tasks – not paperwork.

When implemented by an expert like ALPS’ APIS Maintenance Group, Standardized Work Instructions (SWI) are structured into the system. SWI is a collection of the tools/manuals needed to ensure maintenance work is consistent and repeatable, allowing for maximum efficiency. Having this capability can turn a 5-hour job into a 1-hour job.

Benefits to Administrators/Planners

Facility Planners are likely to spend the most daily time actively engaging with the CMMS. The integration of a CMMS offers this class of user the ability to efficiently and easily track spare parts for inventory management, an integral part of an Administrator’s role. Resource planning is another key task that Planners will manage with a CMMS. Most importantly, approaching system control in a wholistic way is made possible with a CMMS. Having control over equipment systems with CMMS grants the user substantial control over what data is recorded and how planned Maintenance will be rolled out against that data.

Further, CMMS allows documentation of regular activities from both a compliance perspective, and to aid local staff on how to properly maintain equipment. CMMS can create bar codes for each piece of equipment, so that when maintenance is required, Planners merely need to scan a barcode to send a work order. This significantly reduces errors and saves time by reducing paper-based work.

 Benefits to Management

CMMS’s provide management the visibility of resource planning. This includes time spent on which jobs, and further establishes control over metrics and KPI identification. When the correct KPIs have been established, examining performance becomes greatly simplified – especially in complex systems. Key Performance Indicators are the metrics that management needs to measure, and then improve, in order to reach production, or other, targets. Examples include Productivity per Hour, Maintenance Time per Machine, and Percent Uptime. Having visibility and measurement over KPIs is required to prove the effectiveness of new strategies and processes as they are implemented. Additionally, communication around performance naturally becomes clear and defined at all operational levels.

Figures represent % Improvement with CMMS
Benefits to the Owner

One of the main advantages CEA facility owners will see from CMMS is a much quicker Return on Investment (ROI). Part 1 of the series briefly introduced these benefits, but with CMMS, equipment runs both better and longer. Extending the life of equipment, reducing unnecessary and costly replacement cycles, and eliminating unplanned outages all reduce capital investment for owners in sometimes substantial amounts – the larger the facility, the greater the savings. Alternatively, when equipment maintenance is not prioritized, the cost of ownership can often exceed the cost of a new piece of equipment.

Another point of savings to consider is the Inventory Management function of CMMS. Because inventory is effectively managed, the last-minute scramble to find a part, which often comes at a premium, can be entirely avoided. The part is simply available when required, and still in good condition. This all contributes to the continued function of a successful CEA facility. When a CEA facility is operating at maximum efficiency, another point of consideration is the savings potential found in Product Quality. When equipment is working the way it should, there is far less risk for crop failure and, in turn, more of the product can be sold. This is a direct result through the process of identifying each critical part in every piece of equipment. Just one example of this is the proper replacement of HVAC filters. As time goes on, filters accumulate pathogens, which in turn can be shed into a production zone. Timely filter replacement reduces risk of disease, ultimately increasing output and leading to greater sales volumes.

Case Study

David Riseborough, who we introduced in Part 1, recalls the following scenario that occurred at a greenhouse he previously managed.

Mid-way through the week, the facility’s control system suddenly stopped working. A diagnosis revealed that the circuit board had completely broken down. To my dismay, the part that they needed to complete the repair wasn’t available on-hand. I spent some time researching the manufacturer of the circuit board only to realize the supplier was in Germany, and they only had one unit of the part left. Major shipping companies could not deliver the part soon enough, even with expedited shipping. With no other options, I purchased a plane seat to get the part from Europe to the greenhouse as soon as possible. The supplier sent one of their service personnel to ensure the item didn’t get lost in transit and hand deliver the circuit board. The cost of the part, plane seat, and service person’s time reached $10,000.

With the entire control system unable to function, production had to shut down for three days while the Maintenance Management team waited for their part to arrive. Each day production was down, the greenhouse lost $25,000. In total, the facility lost nearly $100,000 and 3 days of production due to a missing part. So, although the greenhouse was operating with an inadequate maintenance program, this was a complete failure of the system.

To put it into perspective: With a CMMS, the part would have been identified and available on-hand well before it was needed. 3 days of downtime would have only been 1 hour of repair time, extending equipment life by potentially decades (in this particular instance). Total cost to repair would have capped at $500, saving the facility $95,000.

This same philosophy can be applied to any piece of equipment found in a greenhouse. With a CMMS, facility owners and operators can have peace of mind knowing that everything is in place and can be counted on to operate reliably – now, and tomorrow.