CMMS software vs. maintenance excel spreadsheets

Companies taking their first steps toward preventive maintenance often start with homemade maintenance spreadsheets. A maintenance spreadsheet lets you log work orders, document upcoming maintenance cycles, and use filters to manipulate the data and produce lists of work completed. The issue is, spreadsheets don’t talk to each other and can’t send notifications to technicians in the field. This means that maintenance managers and technicians must rely on other systems like email, phone, pagers, offline trackers, or even sticky notes to get a full picture of the work that needs to be done.

While they add more value than just pen and paper, spreadsheets have obvious limitations.

On the other hand, maintenance software like computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) lets facility managers, technicians, and customers track the maintenance status of their assets and the associated costs of that work in one system.

CMMS vs. maintenance Excel spreadsheets

A CMMS and maintenance excel spreadsheets share some basic similarities but are used differently. Below is a table that illustrates some of the differences:

DefinitionA CMMS automates the collection and analysis of data to optimize maintenance operationsMaintenance spreadsheets log work orders and document upcoming maintenance
Used toManage preventive maintenance activitiesManipulate data and produce lists of completed work
DisadvantagesIt may be more difficult to customizeIt may be susceptible to cyber attacksLimited access that lives on personal drivesUsually leads to a physical paper trail

Nine advantages of a CMMS over a maintenance spreadsheet

1. Automated preventive maintenance triggers.

Preventive maintenance software helps reduce human error by ensuring PMs are triggered when they are due in compliance with regulatory or manufacturer requirements. A good CMMS system can also activate PMs based on a number of maintenance triggers including time, meter, and event.

2. Auditing and compliance.

A CMMS digitizes your paper trail. Work orders are documented electronically as you go, even if you are working offline. This simplifies things in case of an audit.

3. Analysis and reporting.

A CMMS will report on maintenance key performance indicators (KPIs) such as MTBFMTTF, and availability with little effort. KPIs are used to evaluate current operations’ effectiveness, make organizational and personnel decisions, and determine whether assets need to be repaired or replaced. Built-in reports enable you to refine maintenance processes and improve asset availability, ultimately improving your bottom line.

4. Access.

Maintenance spreadsheets live on a personal drive on a desktop computer, with limited access. With a cloud-based CMMS, the data is stored on a remote server and can be accessed from anywhere over the internet. Most modern CMMS software also comes with a mobile app so you can access your CMMS via your phone or tablet in the field.

5. Centralization.

Plan, control, forecast, measure performance, evaluate, and report all from one system.

6. Real-time information.

See your organization’s maintenance activities in real-time. Managers can see which assets are offline, who is working on what, and what still needs to be done.

7. Communication.

Work requests submitted into the system can instantly be sent to the correct people. Technicians receive notifications automatically so they know what work is due.

8. Centralized database.

Your CMMS is a database of all equipment information, documents, manuals, schematics and images, and materials. No need for your technicians to carry around bulky schematics or manuals. Over time, this becomes a repository for historical data on your assets, giving you a fuller picture of an asset’s performance.

9. Supply chain management.

A CMMS will automatically track parts inventory, manage suppliers and vendors effortlessly and help you keep inventory costs optimized. When parts are consumed during work orders, the CMMS depletes stock levels in real-time. There’s no need to go back to the desk and update those stock cards. If the stock falls below minimum levels, the system will notify the required users or suppliers to start the reordering process.

Spreadsheets might be cheaper in the short term, but a CMMS will save you costs in the long run

While a maintenance spreadsheet is the cheaper option in the short term, it’s inflexible and doesn’t react to what is going on in your facility. Its ability to minimize the costs associated with downtime, stocking parts, and management reporting time is low, at best.

A CMMS streamlines and automates all of this, and many solutions can be customized to suit your maintenance processes, no matter the size of your organization. Any business can effectively deploy a CMMS in any market sector for efficient asset management.


Four Barriers to Adopting Maintenance Software

Switching to new maintenance management software can be a daunting task for so many reasons. There’s always a learning curve, it can be expensive, and there’s no guarantee that everyone in your organization will be on board.

But making the switch doesn’t have to be painful as long as you have the right software provider. At Fiix, we spend a lot of time talking to maintenance managers about why they do and don’t want maintenance software. From those conversations, we’ve collected the four biggest concerns for anyone adopting a CMMS, and paired each concern with solutions and resources to help navigate the transition.

Four barriers to adopting a CMMS and how to overcome them

1. Cost

Budget and cost are the number-one barriers for anyone considering switching to maintenance management software. It’s an investment, no matter which way you cut it. But modern, cloud-based software is far less expensive than on-premise software.

On top of the relatively low cost of the software itself, a CMMS can have a huge impact on your bottom line. It can help turn your maintenance department from a cost center into a value center since the software helps you gather data on assets, and make more educated decisions about where and when to use maintenance resources.

Here are eight ways a CMMS helps you save money:

  1. Fewer equipment breakdowns and product scrap
  2. Fewer overtime costs
  3. Longer asset life
  4. Better inventory management
  5. Better compliance with international standards
  6. Better energy use
  7. Streamlined budget
  8. Helps identify problem areas

2. Getting buy-in

Outlining the financial benefits of maintenance management software helps get buy-in from senior executives. But oftentimes, the people who really see the benefit of maintenance software—the maintenance managers and technicians who use it on a day-to-day basis—don’t have the time to build a really compelling business case.

First and foremost, do your research. You know your company and your maintenance team, so you’re in the best position to choose maintenance management software that will help, not hinder daily operations. Resources like Capterra and G2 are great for comparing different vendors and will help you ensure you get a solution appropriate for your company size and technical know-how.

Luckily, this is an easy problem to solve. We went ahead and created a resource to help you sell maintenance management software to the higher-ups at your organization.

3. Installation and setup

In terms of installation, cloud-based software is relatively straightforward because there’s no on-site installation. Once you buy your software, it’s just a matter of logging in and you’re good to go.

But how easy it is to import assets really depends on your specific maintenance management software. There are a lot of CMMS vendors, and their products run the gamut from very simple to requiring dedicated IT help to set up.

With Fiix, you can easily import existing assets and data from CSV or Excel, which makes setup really straightforward. We also have a huge number of resources to help you navigate the first few days and weeks with your CMMS, including an amazing team of customer success specialists who are here to support you along the way.

Getting the maintenance team on board

You can’t just drop new software on your maintenance team and expect them to adapt. Bad change management can lead to resistance, which can delay or even halt software implementation.

We’ve addressed this particular challenge before. Basically, there are three simple ways to help manage resistance to change which are detailed below:

  • Keep your people informed throughout the process. No one likes being told things are changing once the ball is already rolling. Get input from your maintenance team right from the start, so you can get a CMMS with features that bolster your team’s productivity. Be sure to stress that it’s mostly business as usual, and be clear about what parts of the routine will change to help people adjust to the transition.
  • Be specific about the benefits of maintenance management software. A CMMS can have a huge, positive impact on the day-to-day job of maintenance technicians and on how your facility runs as a whole.
  • Never skip training. There is nothing as good as hands-on experience to help a new system seem a lot less daunting. Check out our training page and support center to see what kind of support we offer both during and after implementation.

Although there are barriers to adopting maintenance software, they’re well worth facing for the long-term value the software adds to your team

Although there may be a bit of a learning curve when it comes to implementing maintenance software, the long-term value for your organization is unmatched. Purchasing a CMMS for example can result in fewer equipment breakdownslonger asset life, better compliance standards, and much more.


Setting the right maintenance benchmarks for your team

You’ve probably heard the term benchmark in relation to stock prices, but it’s also a great way to evaluate and improve your business. In this article, we’ll break down what maintenance benchmarks are and how they can help you make your maintenance department more efficient.

What is a benchmark?

A benchmark is a standard of comparison. A benchmark can be used as a reference point for measuring progress and comparing performance with other organizations. Benchmarking is a way to get an objective measure of your organization’s performance so you can see how well it stacks up against other companies in the same industry or sector.

In business, there are many types of benchmarks:

  • Financial measures such as profit margins or return on investment (ROI)
  • Non-financial measures such as customer satisfaction surveys
  • Process benchmarks such as total quality management (TQM)

How do you know what’s suitable as a maintenance benchmark?

In maintenance, a good benchmark should have the following qualities:

  1. Relevant: You’re measuring something that will help you improve your business. For example, measuring how long it takes someone in your company to perform maintenance on an asset would be relevant if you want to improve downtime. If, on the other hand, you were trying to increase sales by selling more products (a common goal), then measuring how much time your assets spend creating the product would be important to measure.
  2. Accurate: The measurements must accurately reflect what they’re supposed to (e.g. if we’re measuring downtime on an asset but only tracking one asset at our company instead of all the assets that may be down within 24 hours).

What are some examples of maintenance benchmarks?

Below are a few examples of maintenance activities that can be benchmarked:

  • Frequency of preventive maintenance
  • Frequency of corrective maintenance
  • Equipment downtime (annual or monthly), mean time between failures (MTBF), time to failure after installation
  • Average repair time (annual), mean time to repair (MTTR)

Ramesh Gulati, the author of Maintenance and Reliability: Best Practices, examines key performance indicators that can be easily measured and compared across businesses and industries. His book Maintenance and Reliability: Best Practices provides the metrics of well-performing companies. Most importantly, he outlines the performance of world-class companies so that you can compare it.

Here are some common maintenance KPIs and both average and world-class benchmarks according to Gulati:

Performance MeasureBest PracticeWorld Class
Maintenance cost
as percent of Replacement Asset Value
Maintenance material cost
as percent of Replacement Asset Value
Schedule Compliance40-90%>90%
Percent (%) Planned Work30-90%>85%
Production Breakdown Losses2-12%1-2%
Parts Stock-out Rate2-10%1-2%

There are two things to consider in the table:

  1. First, the performance is always measured as a percent. This means that the numbers are normalized to account for the size of the machine, total work orders being completed, or total production cost. In this case, taking the percentage is a way of normalizing your maintenance performance. Your data is more likely to tell you your actual performance status.
  2. Second, even world-class companies aren’t perfect. They make mistakes. Unplanned breakdowns happen despite the best intentions, equipment, and training of a top company. While you should aim to achieve zero breakdowns, you should always have a preventive maintenance plan to help you cope when something goes wrong.

What are the steps to benchmark maintenance activities?

  1. Define the problem before starting on the solution. For example, perhaps your team is doing too much reactive maintenance and, as a result, isn’t hitting production targets due to unplanned downtime.
  2. Set goals that are ambitious but realistic. If your team is doing too much reactive maintenance, create a process for the team to work through preventive maintenance strategies together for each asset. From there, you can set up new production targets for the team to achieve now that this new process is in place.
  3. Have a plan step for when things go wrong. Let’s say your asset breaks down completely, and it’s not a simple fix with a part replacement. Having a backup plan for when the worst-case scenario might happen is always a good idea.
  4. Be patient and give yourself time to achieve your goal. Set up a meeting with your team to check on your progress. Some teams set these up at 30, 60, and 90-day intervals and cross-compare the previous 30 days to the current.

Holding your team accountable to the benchmark

To hold your maintenance team accountable, you must set goals for them (see step 2 listed above). You can do this by assessing your current performance against the benchmark and then setting goals that are slightly higher than what you’re currently doing. For example, suppose your organization has been performing an average of 10 preventive maintenance activities per month on machines A and B over the last six months. In that case, one goal could be 11 PMs per month for these two machines. We can also convert benchmarks to PM percentage, so for example, out of all maintenance activities on asset A, the goal is for 80% of it to be planned and scheduled.

Benchmarking works because it allows you to understand where you are relative to others

Benchmarking is a great way to improve your maintenance activities. It allows you to understand where you are relative to others and helps identify areas where you need improvement. Benchmarking works because it gives everyone on the team a common goal they can work towards, increasing motivation and productivity in the long run.


4 questions to ask for an effective technical postmortem

A technical postmortem is a retrospective of a failure. It’s a preventative step that can help you quickly identify and address issues with your assets, systems, or other technology platforms so they don’t happen again. They are commonly used in maintenance but also have applications in software development and design as well.

What is a technical postmortem?

A technical postmortem is a retrospective analysis of events that resulted in a technical failure.

The purpose of a technical postmortem is to:

  • Find out what went wrong and why
  • Identify trouble areas
  • Determine what can be done to prevent future failures
  • Create best practices for your business
  • Inform process improvements, mitigate future risks, and promote iterative best practices

4 questions to ask during a technical postmortem

This postmortem outline is not meant to be comprehensive but to serve as a starting point for your technical postmortem. These questions generate discussion about what went well, what the team struggled with during the failure, and what the team would do differently moving forward.

Here’s what you and your team should be asking during a technical postmortem:

1. What happened?

You can’t analyze what you don’t understand, so establishing a clear understanding of what went wrong is crucial.

2. Why did it happen?

Identify the major events that led to the failure and try isolating the root causes for the failure. Determine if the events are the underlying causes of the failure, or if they initiate a process that leads to the technical failure. Some underlying causes can include defects in design, process, or poor maintenance practices.

Look strictly at the technical causes of the failure and examine the underlying management and team environment. Sometimes team members ignore warning signs of impending failure due to the organizational culture, time crunches, and budget pressure.

3. How did we respond and recover?

How your team responds to failure can determine how quickly you identify the root cause and fix it. A major technical failure can have a direct impact on shareholder value, revenues, market share, and brand equity, so a quick recovery is paramount.

A useful technical postmortem requires a reasonable level of honesty, insight, and cooperation from the organization. The outcome of the postmortem should be to recognize what worked and fix the processes that didn’t. Remember, the idea is to learn from your successes and failures, not just to document them.

4. How can we prevent similar unexpected issues from occurring again?

Unexpected technical issues do arise in mission-critical or complex hardware systems. However, the key to prevention is technical planning to prevent problems from affecting the entire system. Each of the failures uncovered in step two represents a risk going forward, so schedule regular inspections or system checks in your maintenance management software.

When a risk is detected, certain actions should be triggered immediately to prevent similar failures. Planning must also consider the business process and management responses the team initiates when a failure occurs. A complete postmortem addresses both technical and management issues.

Don’t turn your postmortem into a blame game. Instead, management has to develop a reputation for listening openly to input and not punishing people for being honest. A well-run postmortem can help a maintenance team create a culture of continuous improvement.

The benefits of conducting a technical postmortem

As we can see from our example, a technical postmortem has a series of positive benefits including a detailed analysis of why an asset failed. It can help you avoid future problems by identifying issues that are present before any kind of launch.

A technical postmortem can also benefit you by:

  • Identifying potential problems with an asset
  • Improving the way your team approaches new projects
  • Learning from mistakes so they don’t happen again
  • Gaining insights into how other teams have handled similar situations

Some next steps after your technical postmortem is completed

After a technical postmortem is conducted and the project is concluded there is a postmortem meeting. This meeting is intended to understand the project from start to finish and determine what can be optimized and improved for the next postmortem. Generally, the project manager and team attend these meetings, but it’s open for anyone part of the project to join.

Tips and tricks to keep in mind during and after your technical postmortem

  • A postmortem can help you become more effective by learning from mistakes and focusing on what worked best, but it’s up to you to structure the meeting to get the most out of it. A way to structure your meeting is by setting a clear agenda, beginning with a recap of the project objectives, reviewing the results and whether or not the project met the set objectives, and lastly, analyzing the successes and failures and why they occurred.
  • You can ensure that your technical postmortem is successful by carefully preparing in advance, analyzing the failure systematically, producing actionable findings, and actively sharing the results.
  • Don’t let the momentum fade with your team. Schedule the postmortem right after the end of the project. A technical postmortem should occur within one to two weeks of the technical failure.
  • Make sure to store your postmortems in the asset record in a CMMS so they can be easily found in the future to prevent similar failures going forward.

A technical postmortem is an important tool for maintaining and improving your systems

A technical postmortem is a tool that allows you to learn from mistakes, identify the root cause of a problem, and improve your systems. It may sound like an abstract concept, but it’s actually quite simple: you document what went wrong and use that information to prevent the same issue from happening again.


What is a Fishbone Diagram?

A fishbone diagram, also known as an Ishikawa diagram or a cause-and-effect diagram, was developed by Kaoru Ishikawa in the 1960s. It is a visual representation of the causes of a problem or failure. The diagram is structured as a fish skeleton, with the problem or event being represented by the head of the fish, and the causes of the problem branching off the bones of the fish.

Fishbone diagrams are used in maintenance to identify the root cause of a problem. They can also be used to identify patterns and trends, which can help prevent similar problems from occurring in the future. In this article, we will define what a fishbone diagram is and share a use-case example of how a fishbone diagram can be used.

What is a fishbone diagram?

Fishbone diagrams are a visual tool that shows all the possible reasons a problem or event may have occurred, as well as their source. It can be useful if the maintenance team is coming up short when troubleshooting an issue. Every possible cause is categorized by its source. Causes are then reduced again and again until you can isolate the root cause of a problem or outcome.

fishbone diagram

How do fishbone diagrams work?

A fishbone diagram helps maintenance teamstrace the steps that could have led up to a problem, like a piece of equipment breaking down. Take an aircraft, for example. Let’s say the ground crew engineer discovers that a compressor is malfunctioning. There are many possible causes of the malfunction, but by using a fishbone diagram, the crew can break the problem down into main categories. In this instance, you could isolate the issue in the following steps:

  1. Personal: List out anyone who may have been performing maintenance or repairs on the aircraft
  2. Machinery: Define and outline the technology
  3. Materials: List the raw parts used to construct the aircraft
  4. Measurements: Detail the inspection and steps taken
  5. Environment: Detail the climate, geographical, and other factors relating to the environment
  6. Methods: List the processes

In steps 1 and 2, you could break it down even further and into more detail. You know that some compressor parts were just replaced, and some new staff were working on the plane recently. You can now expand on the primary categories and see if you can identify the factor that caused the overall effect. For example:


  • New parts may have been installed improperly
  • A part is malfunctioning or was not inspected properly


  • A technician installed the compressor incorrectly
  • Some tools may be left inside the compressor housing
  • There was something jamming the rotation of the compressors that the mechanic missed
  • The pilot pushed the compressor too far and may have damaged it during the flight


  • Bird or drone strike


  • The turbine was inspected and compressor wear was noted
  • The inventory for the aircraft parts and labor lists all of the pieces and staff who were active around the aircraft in a 48-hour span

The information that you have linked off of the first stem of ideas brings you closer to discovering the root cause of the problem. You have identified the main possibilities and now you can expand each possible cause by choosing the most probable outcome. This is what that might look like in our example:

The mechanic installed a part incorrectly which caused a malfunction. This caused the turbine to become damaged during a flight. This is the primary cause (also known as the main cause) of the failure.

Now that this hypothesis has been created, inspections can focus on certain traits, which means less time searching for a problem and less overall downtime for the aircraft. Even better, if this sort of problem is documented, there can be preventive and predictive maintenance making sure similar malfunctions are avoided in the future.

Other tools in your arsenal along with fishbone diagrams

There are also methods of troubleshooting, like root cause analysis (RCA) and the 5 whys methodology, which helps increase the chances of isolating the root cause of an issue. A fishbone diagram is a handy tool for troubleshooting any mechanical, electrical, or operational issue. As demonstrated in the example above, allow yourself to isolate and categorize the potential problems into subcategories making the troubleshooting fluent and efficient.

In the case of the aircraft example, knowing certain mechanical failures could possibly reoccur, you could store the part on-site or you could introduce more regular inspections to prevent further failures and minimize downtime. A fishbone diagram allows a simple but logical process of elimination which leads to faster problem resolution, ensuring your business reduces downtime and increases productivity.


CMMS vs. EAM software: The key differences and why they matter

Maybe you’re at a stressful point in your business and the maintenance team is struggling to keep up. Your team suggests purchasing maintenance management software. But what type is best for your company?

There’s a lot of different software available—from computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) to enterprise asset management (EAM)—and it can be hard to choose which one is right for you. In this article, we’ll break down the differences between CMMS and EAM software so that you can decide which will benefit your business most.

What is a CMMS?

A CMMS is a software solution that can help you manage maintenance and asset. It’s useful for many industries, including manufacturing, construction, utilities, and transportation. A CMMS can be used to track maintenance requirements and work orders.

A CMMS will also allow you to create an inventory of assets such as tools or machinery that need to be maintained or repaired. This allows you to keep track of each item’s condition so that when it comes time for them to be serviced or replaced, they will have a history regarding the cost-effectiveness of doing so, versus simply buying new ones at a full retail price every time one breaks down.

What is EAM software?

Enterprise asset management (EAM) software is a tool that can be used to track the maintenance of all types of assets, from small equipment to large industrial machines. It allows you to keep track of what your assets are, where they are located, how much they cost, and when they need maintenance. EAM software allows you to easily generate reports on this information so that you can see at-a-glance which assets need repair or replacement.

What is the difference between CMMS and EAM?

The CMMS originated as a punch-card system used to manage work orders in the 1960s. But despite its relatively low-tech beginnings, the technology has come a long way. Today, it allows maintenance teams to easily keep a centralized record of all assets and equipment they are responsible for, as well as schedule and track maintenance activities and keep a detailed record of the work they’ve performed. Generally speaking, the purpose of a CMMS is to manage all maintenance activities during the operational part of an asset’s life—all the time that it’s working as a productive part of a facility.

In contrast with a CMMS, EAM software provides a view of an organization’s assets and infrastructure throughout the entire lifecycle, from creation or procurement to disposal. So while an EAM can technically provide the same capabilities that a CMMS does, there are additional features available through an EAM that may overlap with an organization’s ERP, or may not be a requirement at all for the team purchasing maintenance management software.


A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) and enterprise asset management (EAM) software share some similarities but are used in different ways and for different purposes. Below is a table that illustrates some of the differences:

DefinitionA CMMS automates the collection and analysis of data to optimize maintenance operations. It can also be used to manage preventive maintenance activities.An EAM software automates and analyzes data to help optimize maintenance operations as well as provide visibility into all crucial assets across an organization.
AdvantagesProvides a single source of truth for all assetsReduces the risk of equipment failureImproves productivity and employee moraleProvides clear asset identification and managementImproves business processes through automation
FeaturesMonitors and optimizes scheduling work orders, purchasing inventory, and asset maintenanceMonitors, tracks and locates all critical assets, as well as monitors facility conditions

When it comes to technology it’s important to know what your options are

One of the difficulties of delineating a CMMS from an EAM software is that the gap between the two categories is more narrow than ever. Thanks to its start as a punch-card system, CMMS software is often seen as more rudimentary and less feature-rich than its EAM cousin. But when it comes to the capabilities shared between a CMMS and EAM, their quality and depth are more or less equal. The primary difference lies in scope.

Many CMMS solutions integrate with software like ERP systems in ways that allow them to perform similarly to EAM software, while still offering a user-friendly experience. The best course of action is to learn all you can about the solutions available to your team and determine which features are most important to help you hit your maintenance KPIs.