By K. Richard Douglas
Much has been made of big data and the usefulness of big data sets to make decisions and formulate strategies. This can be seen in market research and in the retail industry, where information can tailor the seller’s approach to customers and allow retailers to make product suggestions.
With application in research, government, industry and science, big data can harness useful data collections for refinement and application in process improvements.
For retailers and marketing researchers, data can be extracted from call logs, web visits or social media to gain insights into buying behavior and customer motivation.
Capturing and manipulating data sets can be useful for accomplishing tasks that may have been impossible without this capability.
Efficiency and information are the two bookends that support a computerized maintenance management system’s (CMMS) usefulness. Hospitals are dependent on efficiency more than ever. It takes the full capabilities of a computerized maintenance management system to keep managers fully appraised of a litany of ever-changing functions. These systems are taking on more robust capabilities and utilizing the newest trends in technology to harness available information and coax it into useful, actionable data.
HTM departments employ this information for inspections and preventative maintenance, measuring project time commitments, FDA alerts, parts procurement, cost of service figures, productivity tracking and other uses.
“In my career, I have used many iterations of CMMS programs, from DOS-based systems to Palm Pilot-based and Windows-based and even web-based. They all were designed to do the basic functions of an HTM department efficiently. They all had their pros and cons. Being a data nerd, I was always wanting tools to get the information out of the CMMS. In my mind, what is the sense of capturing all that work order history and not doing anything with it?” says Jim Fedele, CBET, senior program director of clinical engineering, BioTronics at UPMC in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
“However, what I found with many of the CMMS systems I have used, is in their effort to be flexible and adaptable to different workflows, their data was not clean and easily mined for analysis. What I have learned is there needs to be a balance between flexibility and constraint to keep the important data,” Fedele says.
Fedele says another issue he has encountered is that many times a new CMMS was built or improved from an old CMMS. It was often done to ensure records would transfer over and also to save money from building a system from scratch.
“However today, with AI and the other technologies that are available, I see real potential for a great CMMS product. One of the difficult aspects of most CMMS is the actual data input by technicians. Technicians are busy and get in a hurry and make mistakes when entering data. Given the amount of entries they make in a day it is hard to catch them all and correct them. AI and voice input could ensure entries are made correctly and consistently. Also, AI could be used to do predictive analysis on when equipment might break,” Fedele says.
“In the past five years or so, the traditional CMMS has evolved. There are new companies that have entered the market — sort of a new kid on the block — who are technology disruptors. They have been able to increase their market share very rapidly. These companies are focused on data analytics and how to make best use of data to drive operation,” says Salim Kai, MSPSL, CBET, ABET PEV, senior director of information services and biomedical engineering at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
CMMS Developers Explain New Features
Manufacturers are listening to customers and creating CMMS or EAM systems that are evolving with technology and the feedback from the field. Mobile capabilities allow for point of service input. EAM can track equipment throughout its lifecycle. Tracking service history, recalls or meeting compliance standards are all tasks that these software products can help manage.
In light of everchanging requirements, technological capabilities and customer feedback, companies that offer CMMS or EAM systems update their product offerings continuously.
“A few of our most recent product enhancements are our direct integration with PartsSource, our ‘Rounds’ functionality, and our AEM module. The PartsSource integration enables our clinical engineering customers to order parts from their mobile devices at the point of service, eliminating delays, paper notes, inefficiencies and, ultimately, errors,” says Ben Person, vice president of product marketing at Nuvolo, which is headquartered in Paramus, New Jersey.
Person says that the product Rounds allows clinical engineering teams to consolidate routine tasks like health and safety inspections into a single work order with multiple tasks, each with the same, basic checklist.
“So now, inspecting 100 patient rooms is administratively much less of a burden. Finally, yet importantly, our AEM module enables our customers to leverage historical data for a given asset model to modify the OEM PM schedule, and then track metrics like uptime and MTBF to gauge the model’s performance on the new PM schedule and compare it to the original OEM schedule. Crucially, every aspect of the AEM process is electronically documented and quickly reportable, so The Joint Commission and DNV scrutiny is met with hard data,” Person says.
EQ2 LLC, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, says that its Hospital Equipment Management System (HEMS) has added features.
“In the last year, we have added additional integrations and automated workflows. We have enhanced the workflow for dispatch management and the auto assignment process can be configured based on hospital, campus, building, floor, room along with type of problem and can be routed automatically to a technician or a team based on shift hours and vacation/leave, on call, etcetera,” says Vishal Malhotra, chief technology officer at EQ2.
He says that the call can also be configured to auto escalate based on priority to multiple levels. With this new functionality, an advanced workflow schedule can be created to support an automated workflow with accountability and an automated escalation process.
“We also have added advanced workflow for multilevel PO approval processes and two-way integration with Lawson and Peoplesoft,” Malhotra says.
“Our new web-based custom report writer is also very intuitive and powerful to quickly create any type of custom report on the fly and these reports can be scheduled to deliver automatically to recipients,” Malhotra adds.
“Integration with oneSource and Glassbeam are also some of the new additions to the product. HEMS Enterprise interfaces with oneSource for electronic manual gathering, provided the organization subscribes to the oneSource service. Also, our CMMS doesn’t just drop the user at the oneSource website, but we take you directly to the service manual, if it is in the library. Otherwise, a more detailed search can be performed or a request to add the manual to the library can be submitted,” says Rich Sable, CBET, product manager at EQ2.
He says that their mobile app, HEMS Remote, is new also. It works in a non-connected environment which empowers mobile engineers.
“Besides the offline mode of operation, this product provides more work order information on the home page to keep the technician informed of the work progress and it maintains most of the functionality of our other mobility product, Web Enterprise. Finally, this product employs a wizard-like interface using the device’s camera or linked scanner to facilitate the work order or equipment add processes,” Sable says.
Ben Mannisto, president and CEO at Phoenix Data Systems in Southfield, Michigan, says that his company has a new product in development.
“With AIMS.NET, our existing product, we are focusing on the seamless integration of numerous third-party applications. However, our primary focus is on the development of our new product, AIMS 3. AIMS 3 will include the features and functions users love about AIMS.NET, as well as hundreds of new features – optimizing 35 years of listening to those who use CMMS software every day,” Mannisto says.
He says that AIMS 3 users can look forward to complete screen redesigns, including split screen utilization, and “sticky-displays” that will always show pertinent information for PMs and CMs, such as equipment name, tag number, etc., regardless of the screen they are currently on.
“Users will also have customizable, user-specific home screens that show assigned work orders, charts and other useful tools to improve daily workflow,” Mannisto adds.
Hannelore Fineman, vice president of sales and special projects with Fluke explains that their eMaint CMMS product has several newer features.
“Integration between Fluke Connect and eMaint, allowing for Fluke sensor data about the condition of the asset (temperature, vibration, power quality, etcetera) to flow into eMaint in real time, automatically, and display the data directly on an asset record, display on a dashboard KPI, and to automatically trigger corrective work orders when the collected readings fall outside of appropriate levels for that asset,” Fineman says.
She says that this feature enables eMaint to help the customer identify failures on critical assets before they occur, and delivers on the promise of the benefits of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and connected reliability.
Another feature is interactive plans.
“This feature enables eMaint users to upload a map, floor plan or diagram, to associate ‘pins’ on the map with the assets that are being maintained, and then to see detailed information related to that asset, including its state (up or down), based on the color of the pin,” Fineman says.
“This feature also works in concert with the condition-based data collected by Fluke sensors so that you can ‘see’ on the map a ‘red pin’ that denotes an alarm condition has been recorded on that asset,” she adds.
She says that the mobile version of eMaint can be used offline. She also says that there is an ability for recording location data via the “Log Location” option.
“When this feature is used, the user clicks ‘Log Location’ button, which captures the user’s GPS location, date/time stamp, work order and asset at the time the ‘Log Location’ is activated,” Fineman adds.
What Do Customer’s Prize Most?
The developers of CMMS and EAM software solicit feedback from customers and know which features HTM departments find most useful.
“With stringent regulatory requirements, many of our customers prize the regulatory compliance report which can be used for regulators, the EOC (Environment of Care) committee meeting or for managing a preventive maintenance program. Similarly, our customers rave about the AEM (Alternative Equipment Management) dashboard which helps with both implementing and managing an AEM program. These two products provide powerful tools for the HTM leaders to manage their preventive maintenance program,” Sable says.
“The top five features in the AIMS system that we hear positive feedback about the most are: Valid Entry Safeguards, Global Changes, Export Data, Audit Trail and Morning News,” Mannisto says.
“Valid Entry Safeguards provide system-wide data consistency via user-defined drop-down lists, such as equipment types, and manufacturer/models. Global Changes allow users to update entire groups of information at once including PM schedules, location, risk and more. Easily export data to Excel, csv, and xml. Audit Trail is a user-defined tool that tracks related information that has been added, changed or deleted. Morning News allows users to schedule and automatically generate reports at recurring intervals. Reports are then delivered automatically to designated printers or emails,” Mannisto says.
Person says that enabling a mobile-first user experience for the clinical engineering department has been a major strength for the Nuvolo application, and there’s no question that customers have benefited greatly from the day-to-day productivity efficiencies Nuvolo’s solution has enabled.
“But even more important are the insights our customers derive from robust reporting and analytics that our users can generate easily without our intervention,” Person says.
He says that using readily available and consumable data to make intelligent decisions can yield significant results; for example, making sure the appropriately skilled engineer is assigned to the right task, generating reports for the latest The Joint Commission or DNV survey, or making a repair versus replace decision.
“Without question, the ability for our customers to easily extract actionable information from our system without the need for Nuvolo’s help is the element of our solution they prize the most,” Person adds.
“The features most prized by our customers are related to ‘Visual Management,’” Fineman says.
“Included under this umbrella of visual management are features like our interactive plans, our real-time dashboards and analytics that customers display on large screens on the plant floor, and predictive maintenance, where data from sensors feeds into eMaint in real time and the data from the sensors informs the technicians on the health of the assets,” she says.
The Future of Computerized Management Systems
With customer feedback and greater technological advances, the developers of CMMS software are able to bring even more enhancements to their products. The future will offer even more capabilities.
“What is on the horizon is the concept of ‘connected reliability’ and its related technologies: IoT, data analytics, predictive maintenance and data aggregation. What is great is that these ‘horizon’ items are all a focus for Fluke Digital Systems and inform the features we are building into our solutions for customers,” Fineman says.
“On the heels of our Series B funding, and in light of our continued market penetration and subsequent revenue growth, our investment in product innovation is accelerating generally, and in our clinical engineering offering in particular,” Person says.
He says that one enhancement is its cybersecurity solution as the number and sophistication of threats to connected health care devices escalate.
“Adding RTLS integration and combining that with our interactive floor mapping is also on our short-term roadmap, as are improvements to our capital planning and forecasting capability, and additional ERP integrations to connect clinical engineering teams with critical parts tracking and ordering capability,” Person says.
Mannisto says artificial intelligence will be used for various elements in the health care industry. One critical problem that will benefit from AI is the rate of technician retirement versus the entrance of new technicians.
“As of today, the industry is experiencing a disparity. More technicians are retiring than those who are just starting out, and the problem will continue to get worse. The development of AI ‘smart-troubleshooting’ will lessen the impact of a smaller technician workforce while strengthening the new technicians’ abilities,” he says.
“We will also see a rise in the usage of big data for HTM departments. Given the extensive data in a CMMS, there is and will continue to be a need for this data to be converted into useable information to manage labor productivity and effective parts purchasing – just to name a few,” Mannisto adds.
EQ2’s Sable expects more interfacing with HTM specific information systems.
“For example, MDS2 (Medical Device Security) and Zingbox improve security with all of the data they process and threats they identify, enabling devices to be flagged for potential issues. The CMMS can also use the data to populate IT fields,” he says.
“Our interface with Glassbeam is an example of machine learning and AI working within a product that then interfaces with our CMMS system so that device issues are identified before they become a problem. Similarly, the CMMS will ‘learn’ from information provided in many other ways also. Automated testers and medical devices will be providing more information that the CMMS can use for predictive maintenance,” Sable says.
The View from the Field
How do the newest features and future enhancements stack up in comparison to the wish lists and feedback of HTM leadership? Developers are listening and management has no shortage of ideas.
“As a previous supply chain analyst, a large focus of mine is on analytics and deriving actionable insight from a CMMS. With this in mind, there are two primary areas of focus with all CMMS: transparency and ease of use,” says Dustin Smith, MBA, director of central support, clinical engineering, Kem C. Gardner Supply Chain Center at Intermountain Healthcare in Midvale, Utah.
He says that what is meant by transparency is it is relatively easy to create your own reports to appropriately determine workload, report on compliance, and system generated reports once explicit criteria is met. Ease of use is essential to running a clean shop and being able to obtain actionable insights.
“We are predominately seeing ease of use improvement through the development of mobile ‘apps’ that are feeding the appropriate data into a CMMS,” Smith says.
“We are also seeing the development of more and more integrations between parts suppliers or manufacturers and CMMS providers. An excellent example of this is the integrations that PartsSource is making with a variety of CMMS providers to make parts procurement a simpler process that takes significantly less time and discourages engineers to price shop which can take up a lot of their time. As we move into the future it’ll be exciting to see CMMS providers continue to expand their reach and venture into the areas of remote monitoring, EMR-related utilization and new frontiers relating to cybersecurity,” Smith adds.
Kai has his own list of features he finds most useful.
“Cybersecurity module to catalog the medical device network attributes, and interface with other applications to automate some of the processes. Parts and accounting punch-outs to interface with companies such as PartsSource to automate parts ordering. This offers time savings for a technician to hunt for parts, on average saving about half an hour,” he says.
In the area of dashboards and analytics, he says; “You are able to display important data in real time as a dashboard. For example, work order completion, PM completion, productivity by tech. Dashboard for network connected medical devices that can show changing states of risk.”
“The ease of drilling down on data elements to get to the information and answer basic questions. No need to change screens or export data. You are able to visualize the data and make decisions right then and there without much clicking on the mouse. Ability to track and measure safety events involving equipment and report out to other committees and departments,” Kai adds.
“There are a lot of new features that we are looking forward to, such as better ways of tracking clinical alerts, such as FDA recalls, IT security notifications and the likes, as well as keeping track of time put into projects. I think this is something that is a very useful tool to tell the story about how much time our staff actually put against specific projects, on top of their daily PM/repair routines,” says Anthony “Tony” McCabe, MBOE, MBA, BS, LSSBB, associate director in the clinical engineering department at the Wexner Medical Center at The Ohio State University.
McCabe says that the mobile platforms look amazing.
“Workload levelling through real-time reporting/dashboards is huge, so it’s easy to see who may need help day-to-day. Integrations with ERPs, medical device security monitoring tools, and ECRI or FDA is extremely useful to help manage inventory, ordering parts, and to be able to tackle an ever-changing landscape with being able to report how we are doing to senior leadership,” McCabe adds.
“For me, the features I would like the most would be voice input, use of AI to predict failures, to anticipate part needs, to anticipate what the technician might need as they are working on equipment and finally real analytic products that help us understand all the things about my equipment and the resources it is taking to service it,” Fedele says.
There are exciting developments ahead for CMMS and the end result can only mean more efficiency, awareness and capabilities. The providers are listening and refining their products. HTM continues to provide a wealth of ideas and feedback.
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