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CMMS Training Series Shifts to Online

By Jimmy Dean, CMRP, PE, Senior Maintenance Engineer, ABB at Mechanical Power Transmission Division

September 2020



It is widely accepted that a large percentage of computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) fail to reach their full potential as cost reduction and reliability improvement tools, and we so often wonder why that is.

In football, we quickly learn that blocking is not a necessary evil for running or passing the football, nor are the understanding and application of basic maintenance tools such as FMEA, operator PM content, maintenance PM content, predictive maintenance, inventory management, planning, scheduling, and root cause failure analysis (RCFA) necessary evils for getting product out the door (production). As manufacturing gets more and more automated, maintenance becomes inextricably linked to the uptime of machinery. Unfortunately, even with good fundamentals, poor direction of a team yields unacceptable results.

With that said, the management of a maintenance organization is essential to its success and, in turn, the success of the manufacturing organization. The better we collect data, understand metrics and make wise adjustments to the inputs of the maintenance process, the better we can improve the performance of the maintenance team (the outputs). This article details an ABB – MOPT internal training program to increase the benefits of a CMMS and how the training program was adapted to an online format during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.


Each year, for the past 12 years, the ABB Advanced Manufacturing Engineering Group (AME) has conducted maintenance assessments at 15 plants to benchmark maintenance practices and identify strengths and weaknesses. The AME group reviews the results each year and in 2019, we felt that a significant weakness was not using the CMMS system to its fullest potential. A few of our maintenance leaders lacked the basic maintenance management skills to make use of the information collected and, in some plants, we had data integrity issues. After much discussion, we identified lack of CMMS and basic maintenance management training as the root causes of this weakness.

Training Series Development

The next step was closing the gap on CMMS and maintenance management training via a comprehensive CMMS training program tailored to our practices. Such a training program would give the existing maintenance leaders a clear understanding of the functions and benefits of the CMMS, as well as provide training material for future maintenance leaders. We thought it would be a great tool to improve CMMS data integrity, train new maintenance leaders and increase the effective use of data to improve maintenance service.

As we discussed the content of this program, we realized that we had failed to cover many key areas of maintenance management in our previous training. Since there was so much to cover, we decided it would be best to create the series in modules like our Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma, and PM Master training material. In the end, we named our new, 12-module series “Using a CMMS.”

  • Module 1 is simply an overview of the series giving a summary of each of the 12 modules, the dates of the classes and the benefits of each module.
  • Module 2 covers the functions of a custom Z screen created to simplify access to SAP functions using Graphical User Interfaces (buttons) instead of transaction codes.
  • Module 3, Entering and Processing Work Orders, provides training material to all system users with the hope of improving data integrity.
  • Module 4, Preventive Maintenance System, explains how to create task lists and maintenance plans in SAP so that PM work orders are automatically generated.
  • Module 5, PM Compliance Reporting, explains our parameters for PM work order on time delivery and how to run the PM Compliance Report.
  • Module 6, Maintenance Key Performance Indicators, gives a list of frequently used maintenance KPIs and defines 11 key KPIs used by the two product groups.
  • Module 7, CMMS Data Export, explains, in detail, how to export work order data from SAP to excel and how to construct pivot tables and charts of various metrics using the exported data.
  • Module 8, Maintenance RELEX Boards, explains the sections of ABBs standard metrics and communication boards and gives some examples.
  • Module 9, Lean Maintenance Practices, explains and gives examples of how Lean principles may be applied to eliminate the eight deadly wastes (Muda) identified as over-production, inventory, motion, defects, over-processing, waiting, transportation and underutilization of human potential.
  • Module 10, Six Sigma Maintenance Applications, explains the Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control (DMAIC) methodology of Six Sigma and gives examples of how that logic may be applied via projects to improve maintenance service.
  • Module 11 explains the paragraphs of ISO 9001 that apply to our maintenance service.
  • Module 12 explains the work instruction created and stored in our quality system that addresses the paragraphs of ISO 9001 that apply to maintenance.

Upon completing creation of the 12 modules in October 2019, we formed a focus group of 11 key maintenance leaders from 10 sites to attend a pilot session and offer feedback for our series outline, content and presentation. The people that were to be in our focus group are very busy, so it was not practical to get all 11 of them in the same location for two solid days of training. The training, along with a day of travel, out and back, would mean four days for some of them, and it would also be expensive, as travel expenses would include air travel, hotel rooms, rental cars, meals, parking and all the other expenses that go along with business travel. It was decided that it would be more practical, albeit not ideal, to do the pilot series via SKYPE in a series of four, 4-hour sessions beginning on October 9, 2019 and ending October 22, 2019.

At the time of the pilot series launch, we did not foresee online training becoming the norm for our group within 6 months due to COVID-19. We did, however, experience the many obstacles of online training such as attendee engagement, attention span, computer hardware issues, software issues, SKYPE training issues, connectivity issues, audio issues and the lack of live personal interaction. We were able to overcome most of these obstacles and complete this initial pilot series with our focus group on target, all the while, learning things about online training that would pay off in a few short months.

After our pilot series with the focus group was completed, we set about revising the training material based on their feedback, otherwise known as the “voice of the customer.” It took a while to fill in the gaps and remove the non-value-added material so that we could efficiently deliver the training in a two-day program that would cover everything from entering and processing work orders to the ISO requirements for maintenance. That was a lofty goal for the amount of material we were to cover and soon we discovered that, in fact, it was too much.

To cut down on the amount of material to be presented, we decided to target the “Using a CMMS” series solely to maintenance leadership positions such as maintenance engineer, maintenance supervisor, and maintenance planner. The “Using a CMMS” series would focus on the outputs of the maintenance process and managerial topics such as setting up PMs, understanding KPIs, PM compliance, CMMS data export, maintenance metrics, communication boards (RELEX Boards), lean maintenance practices, Six Sigma applications for maintenance and the ISO 9001 requirements for maintenance. Conversely, the managerial components of PM Master that the usual attendees of the PM Master Series, maintenance engineers and maintenance technicians, were less than enthusiastic about what would be stripped from the PM Master Training Series. The detailed key inputs to the maintenance process such as FMEA, operator PM content, maintenance PM content, predictive maintenance, inventory management, planning, scheduling, and root cause failure analysis (RCFA) would be left in our PM Master series.

In summary, we separated the topics into two categories: topics in which the maintenance technicians and engineers, the players of the game who provide the inputs were interested and topics like the outputs or statistics (maintenance metrics) in which the coaches and mentors (maintenance supervisors and management) were interested. We had effectively separated and narrowed the focus of both training series by the addition of the “Using a CMMS” series. This created an ideal situation as we try to promote from within and for the most part the maintenance leaders have completed the PM Master series (the maintenance process input training series) before rising to a leadership position.

Champions Training was held on January 27, 2020 to give our managers an introduction to the series and sell them on the benefits of more detailed CMMS training. There is no surplus of maintenance people at our plants and time for training is scarce. Buy-in from the plant managers was critical to get them to allow their maintenance leaders time to attend.

Once the Champions Training was completed, we set about selecting a location for the training, sending the candidates information about the area, creating the agenda, printing the training books, reserving a conference room and everything that goes into conducting a two-day workshop. COVID-19 was rapidly gaining momentum and just before we were to have the first class, on February 3, 2020, the United States declared COVID-19 a public health emergency. Unnecessary travel was eliminated and we waited in hopes that COVID-19 would magically disappear so we could move forward with our first live class. That was not going to happen.

As it became apparent that a live class was not feasible, we began to look at alternatives to live instruction. What had we learned with the pilot class? What could we do to make the classes better? What could we do to minimize the cost of training? What could we do to cut down on the training hours per week to minimize the in-class time for the student per week? During the pilot training series, we learned that four hours was too long to hold the students’ attention and a half-day for training each week was hard to find in our attendees’ calendars. To remedy this situation, we reduced the classes to 1.5 hours each and arranged the agenda for five training sessions to be conducted every Monday. In hindsight, every Tuesday would be a much better day to hold the classes, as Mondays can be hectic in the maintenance arena. In the pilot training, we also found it difficult to engage the students. We had been using an app called Kahoot!, which works like a trivia game, to engage the students in the Lean and Six Sigma classes for some time. The way we apply Kahoot! is to present a training module and play a Kahoot! game based on the training material afterwards. If you have a group of competitive students, they will pay attention to the training just so they can win the Kahoot! game. It works beautifully.

 The new format achieved several things:

  • It allows us to hold the student’s attention with shorter classes (1.5 hours each).
  • It minimized the training time required each week, so the students could perform other essential duties (one 1.5-hour class per week for four weeks).
  • It eliminated any scheduled breaks in training, as we’d run through an hour and a half class without interruption.
  • We had found a way to engage our students via the Kahoot! app.
  • We could record sessions for absent students to increase the graduation rate.

We conducted the second round of Champions Training on March 9, 2020 to unveil the new format and create interest for the series, which was now much more cost effective and demanded fewer training hours per week. Then, one week later, on March 16, 2020, we were told we would be working from home until further notice.

There would be no flood of attendees for the first online series. Our maintenance personnel were busy building guards, painting lines and installing all the equipment to keep COVID-19 out of the plants and offices or at least not allow it to spread. Everyone was very, very busy. We finally got seven volunteers from four plants for the first class and the first session was scheduled for April 6, 2020. So, now we had our class and were prepared to deliver the training via SKYPE. Then, we were told to do all our online classes using Microsoft Teams, so we learned how to use Microsoft Teams. We still had more obstacles to overcome:

  • We would create 15 Kahoot! quizzes, one for each of the modules, plus three fun, simple quizzes that we could use for training with the app.
  • We would to do Kahoot! training to get all the students up to speed with the app so that the classes could run smoothly.
  • We would do SKYPE training and make sure everyone had audio and a working microphone.
  • We would do one-on-one training when necessary.
  • We had to identify any issues that the students may have so they could get problems corrected locally.

The first class was a success, and everyone learned from the training material, as well as learning new online training skills with Microsoft Teams and Kahoot!. We learned even more about training in an online environment as we progressed through waves two and three. Wave four is scheduled to begin in January of 2021 and our class numbers are still low, as our maintenance personnel continue to support plants as well as COVID-19 precautionary measures.

The maintenance leaders who have completed the series have learned a lot:

  • Data integrity should improve.
  • Task list and maintenance plan entry in SAP is not difficult.
  • PM compliance is at a high level and we have created a report that is easy to use.
  • There is a better understanding of maintenance key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • All the attendees can now export WO data from SAP to Excel to create metrics charts.
  • Relex boards are better understood.
  • Lean maintenance practices, while already excellent at some plants, are being shared with plants that struggle with applying the concepts.
  • Six Sigma projects are at least understood and while we have only one complete maintenance Six Sigma project, I think we will begin to apply that methodology to the maintenance service soon.
  • The requirements of ISO 9001 fifth edition are understood as they are spelled out, paragraph by paragraph, in module 11 of “Using a CMMS.”
  • The requirements of our work instruction that address the requirements of the ISO 9001 standard are understood better as they are explained by module 12.
  • Lastly, the attendees better understand what the numbers are telling them and how to use that data to improve the maintenance service.

To wrap it up, I do not think we will ever go back to the way it was, even when the pandemic is over. Online training is a promising, new frontier for us and we can deliver our internal training services safer, at a fraction of the cost, and with greater flexibility. Our Six-Sigma, Lean Master, Using a CMMS and PM Master training series have all been modified so they can be, at least partially, delivered online. Project presentations in all three certification programs are now delivered online via Microsoft teams, as well.

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