Cloud software is on the rise in the manufacturing industry. Here are some numbers from IndustryWeek to back up that claim:
There’s a reason for this rapid adoption of cloud-based software—it has a huge advantage over traditional, on-premise systems. From cost to security, flexibility, and even sustainability, cloud software is quickly overtaking on-premise technology.
Maintenance teams are also recognizing the advantages of cloud-based equipment maintenance software. More and more, they’re replacing old systems with cloud-based solutions that allow them to plan maintenance, track work, and measure performance.
But after decades of being tied to computer terminals and using Excel, whiteboards, and Post-it notes to manage maintenance, it can be tough to justify the cost of a cloud-based computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). Luckily, many equipment maintenance software vendors offer free versions of their systems.
This guide will help you determine what equipment maintenance software is best for your team right now and into the future, including:
- The pros and cons of free CMMS software and paid CMMS software
- When you should use free CMMS software vs. investing in a paid solution
- When to make the jump from a free CMMS to a paid version
- How to justify the change from free to paid to your manager
Pros and cons of free vs. paid equipment maintenance software
The three key elements that separate free and paid CMMS software are functionality, implementation, and support. Looking deeper into each category will uncover where the strengths and weaknesses lie in both types of equipment maintenance software.
The functionality of equipment maintenance software is the features available to you and the way you can use them. For example, setting up scheduled maintenance in your CMMS is a functionality. There are two ways functionality differs between free equipment maintenance software and paid software.
The first is that a free CMMS often has less functionality. You’re able to do basic actions, like create maintenance schedules, dashboards, and asset logs. But you miss out on more sophisticated features, like building reports, creating e-signatures on closed work orders, and generating failure codes.
The second difference is that free software often has limits on its functionality that paid software doesn’t. For example, you may be able to only create 30 scheduled maintenance tasks a month on a free CMMS. These limits are usually not in place when you pay for a full subscription, although this can differ by feature and tier.
2. Implementation support
Implementing equipment maintenance software involves more than just creating a password and adding some information to the system. It includes:
- Uploading scheduled maintenance tasks and triggers
- Adding asset information and organizing assets into hierarchies
- Creating user profiles and setting user permissions
- Setting up parts and minimum quantities, and attaching bills of materials to work orders
- Connecting your CMMS to other software
- Training staff on how to use the system
- Downloading the mobile app on all user devices
- Building and scheduling reports
Implementing free CMMS software is usually a DIY effort. You likely have access to resources like help articles, training videos, and basic vendor support. But you’re doing the legwork to set up and launch the system and the processes around it.
Paid equipment maintenance software, on the other hand, often comes with implementation support. A trained implementation rep or team will often help you implement the system. The level of implementation support can differ depending on tier. Implementation services might also be an extra cost, regardless of what you pay for the system.
3. Ongoing support
Ongoing support is the help you receive from your CMMS vendor for daily troubleshooting or improvements on the system. For example, you might require ongoing support if:
- You want to make a field on your work order request form mandatory, but don’t know how
- If you want to change user permissions, but can’t figure out how
- If you want to build a new report that tells you the impact of maintenance on your company’s energy usage
There are usually different levels of ongoing support depending on if you use free equipment maintenance software or paid software. A cloud-based CMMS will always have a baseline level of service, regardless of tier. For example, security measures will always be automatically updated by the vendor, no matter what. Free services also often include support over phone, email, or online chat (although it might not be 24/7), through a free community of users, and an online hub for FAQs.
If you have a paid version of equipment maintenance software, you usually get access to more support services. This can include a dedicated customer support rep and priority access when requesting help. Your subscription might come with a set number of hours of premium support. If you go over that amount, you may need to pay extra.
When to use paid or free equipment maintenance software
There are a few key factors that go into choosing between free equipment maintenance software and paying for a CMMS. While it’ll depend on your specific circumstances, here’s a quick rundown of what software is best for certain maintenance teams:
There is one other consideration when deciding between the two types of cloud-based CMMS software—you can always upgrade from free to paid, and you can often move from one paid tier to a lower or higher one.
When to move from free equipment maintenance software to paid
If you’re already using free software to its limits, it might be time to switch to a paid version. Here’s how you know you’re at that point:
1. You need to do more
Hitting the limits of your free plan is the first indication that you should move to a paid tier. If you’re exceeding the capacity of your free CMMS, you’re probably managing maintenance in another way outside your software, like Excel or a whiteboard. This increases the risk of missing work, duplicating data, and reducing CMMS adoption rates. In this scenario, paying for equipment maintenance software provides a higher return on investment and saves you time.
2. You need more out of your data
Free equipment maintenance software is a great way to collect maintenance data. But it doesn’t usually have the tools you need to analyze that data. While there are basic reports you can create yourself on programs like Excel, there are three issues this creates. First, it’s time-consuming. Second, it means you’re handling data in two different places, leading to errors and inaccurate data. Lastly, this isn’t effective for more complex reporting, and analysis.
If you find yourself running up against inaccurate data, time-consuming reporting cycles, and (worst of all) data you can’t use to make decisions, it’s time to move from a free CMMS to a paid one. Making this investment allows you to collect data and use it to create reports in your CMMS. Some CMMS software even includes predictive analytics to take your maintenance program to the next level.
3. You need to connect with other software
Odds are, your maintenance software isn’t the only piece of technology your business runs on. There’s an alphabet soup of manufacturing and preventive maintenance software out there, from SCADA and PLCs to ERPs and MES software. When these systems aren’t connected and sharing information, it could create some of the same problems as managing maintenance in two different places—inaccurate data, duplicate work, and unaddressed equipment failure.
Integrating your business systems with a CMMS clears up these problems and helps you make upgrades to your maintenance program, like automatically triggering scheduled maintenance based on equipment usage. Unfortunately, this feature is not available in most free equipment maintenance software. If this is something you want or need, it’s time to invest in a paid version of a CMMS.
4. You need to manage more people or multiple sites
Most free equipment maintenance software caps the number of users on the system. If you have more than three or four people on your maintenance team, they won’t all be able to use the CMMS. If you have a larger team or are growing, it’s a good idea to invest in a paid version of your CMMS.
Similarly, if your company’s maintenance team stretches across multiple sites, you’ll need a paid CMMS. Using the same system at different locations creates standardization. It also allows you to look at maintenance metrics across your entire organization and share information and resources. For example, if your site needs a part, you can check your shared CMMS to see if another site has that part. This saves you from spending budget on new or emergency parts.
How to justify the cost of upgrading your CMMS to your boss
There are two key stories you need to tell to get your boss on board with investing in equipment maintenance software: What you’ve accomplished with the free system and what you could accomplish with the paid version.
This pitch deck template is a great way to create this story. But here are some of the key elements you’ll need to convince your boss: