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Know the Difference: CMMS vs. EAM

January 11, 2022

There are hundreds of software products crowding the market nowadays and each of these applications is trying to position itself as the best maintenance and asset management system on the market. However, all these applications cannot be the same. Knowing the difference between a CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management System) and an EAM (Enterprise Asset Management System) can help you stay ahead of the crowd by identifying the best software system for your business.  

Are CMMS and EAM the Same?

In the maintenance and asset management software market, there are basically two types of applications that dominate the market; computerized maintenance management systems and enterprise asset management system. Some people talk about the two systems interchangeably, thinking they are one and the same, but they are not. What makes things much more challenging is the fact that some CMMS products are being advertised as EAM systems. Other firms market CMMS applications as EAM/CMMS hybrids.

It’s important to note that the two systems appear similar on the surface, in that they perform similar functions, offer cloud-based subscriptions, and come with asset tracking and inventory management features. In fact, some CMMS applications are normally used for functions reserved for EAM systems, like multisite management tools and purchasing modules. This has raised two important concerns especially now that we have a market where mobile apps and multisite support architecture are at par. First, is there any significant difference between a CMMS and EAM system? Secondly, have we gotten to that point where lines are blurred that two distinct systems are seen as one and the same thing?

Well, the simple answer is yes. There is a difference between the two systems. The answer to the second question is we have not gotten to the point where two distinct asset management systems can be seen as one and the same. While it’s true that EAM and CMMS are not as distinct as they used to be two decades ago, they have big differences especially when it comes to functionality and approach.

What is a CMMS? 

As the name suggests, a CMMS is a computerized maintenance management system. The origin of this system can be traced as far back as the 1960’s when a technology for managing workloads using punch cards was developed to replace filing cabinets and paper. In the 1980’s, the system emerged as computer software. As CMMS continued to evolve with time, more features were added on to support the needs of different types of businesses. Today, most CMMS have some form of work order management, asset and inventory management, preventive maintenance and mobile functionality. Many of these applications come with additional features, such as multisite support, project management and the ability to procure MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) parts without having to leave the CMMS.

While the range of capabilities of CMMS applications has been growing, the heart still remains maintenance management. There are smaller CMMS products that focus exclusively on equipment records and work orders. However, even the largest CMMS products are not designed to provide more functionality outside MRO materials management and maintenance. The limited focus makes sense because of their history. Besides, the limited focus can come as an advantage. CMMS applications are dedicated and streamlined tools for managing maintenance operations. They are designed to meet the asset management requirements of the whole organization. While this can leave some gaps, businesses can fill these gaps by integrating CMMS applications with other software application that offer accounting, purchasing and scheduling services among other things.

A computerized maintenance management system is the perfect solution for small maintenance operations that require a simple way of managing work orders, spare parts and equipment records. It’s important to note that CMMS applications cannot do everything, but they usually come with a smaller price tag than their larger cousins – EAM systems – which are also more powerful.

What is an EAM System?

EAM stands for enterprise asset management system. EAM software were initially developed to offer a unified solution for managing the life cycle of an organization’s physical assets across the enterprise. They were introduced to the market after computerized maintenance management systems were developed; once computer networking technology had already been used to interconnect multiple computers located in different sites. EAM systems have maintenance management features, but they consider the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of all the assets owned by the company and provide additional features for tracking, managing and analyzing asset performance and costs from the date of acquisition to decommissioning.

Since these systems are designed for the enterprise, they can handle every facet of an organization that deals with asset management. This includes not only MRO inventory and maintenance, but also engineering and project management, operations, accounting, reliability management, business intelligence and compliance among others.

The end result is a system that contains every piece of information about all of the physical assets of an organization. This includes; purchase orders, warranty records, energy usage, repair histories, lifecycle costs, parts catalogs and audit trails among others. All this information is accessible to all the departments within an organization. The maintenance department can utilize the EAM system for managing equipment records and work orders. MRO materials management can utilize EAM to manage inventory and storerooms. MRO procurement, on the other hand, can use the system to manage requests for proposals, purchase orders and contracts. The accounting department can use EAM to manage invoices and budgets. That said, EAM is a single system that combines different sources and allows the organization to access the same data in real time.

Since they were released to the market in the 1990’s, EAM systems have been the go-to solution for asset-intensive organizations that manage many assets across many different locations. Over the last decade, however, these systems have become increasingly popular with small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that are able to benefit from the cost management and performance optimization features that EAM offer. With the rise of SaaS (Software as a Service) deployment models, the cost of deploying EAM systems has gotten closer to the cost of deploying CMMS. Since EAM have additional features, they’re considered the most cost-effective option for all kinds of businesses.

EAM vs CMMS: Different Approaches for Managing Assets

As noted above, EAM and CMMS systems have many similarities in terms of applications and functionality, but EAM systems have a wider range of features. What really sets them apart is scope and philosophy. While a CMMS focuses on maintenance, EAM systems take a comprehensive approach to asset management and have multiple business functions. A CMMS system begins tracking an asset after it’s procured and installed, while EAM systems track an asset throughout its life starting from design and installation to disposal when decommissioned. While a CMMS tracks assets at a single or limited locations, EAM tracks all the assets in multiple locations.

However, EAM is more than just a boosted CMMS. It’s a comprehensive system for managing physical assets and optimizing their performance levels. It’s a CMMS with a purchasing management system, accounting system, document management system, inventory management system, multisite management tools, project management system and a business intelligence tool. Organizations that take asset management seriously use EAM systems in their day-to-day operations because they offer features that make it easy for asset-intensive enterprises to get the most out of their assets and lower their costs. It’s misleading to look at a CMMS as an EAM system because the difference between the two system is in more than just their features. These are asset management systems that take two different approaches to how organizations manage their assets.

Which One is Best for Your Business?

An EAM system would be the obvious choice for organizations with many assets spread out across multiple sites. Currently, this is the only tool on the market that combines asset management and maintenance features with enterprise grade support for multiple sites, lifecycle cost-tracking and non-MRO functions like engineering and accounting. EAM also offers a broader range of integration options than CMMS. It can integrate the organization from Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems to BAS (Building Automation Systems) to business intelligence systems.

The choice between EAM and CMMS is never clear for SMBs. Most modern CMMS systems are more advanced and can handle much more than just maintenance management. If you only want a system to help you with preventive maintenance, then a CMMS is the right choice for your business. However, there are reasons why you may want to consider an EAM, even for your small business.

If your business has been growing fast and you anticipate further rapid growth, then a CMMS may not be able to accommodate your growing needs. Eventually, you might decide to implement a reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) program, so the failure analysis tools provided by an EAM system will certainly be needed. A CMMS may meet your short-term needs, but an EAM system will give you the tools to continue improving the performance of your assets over the long term.

If you’d like to take a comprehensive approach to managing your assets, one that tracks your asset from installation to decommissioning, then an EAM system is the best option for you. With this system, you can easily and effectively manage assets throughout the organization.

The Asset Guardian is a flexible and scalable asset management software. Whether you need a CMMS or an EAM, or if you don’t know which one would suit your needs best – contact us and we’ll be happy to chat and guide you towards the perfect solution.

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