CMMS in the urban transport industry

"We are offered to work with various tools on different interfaces, and services don’t always use the same software. Companies first have to clearly identify their needs to be able to make the right choice!"

Jean-Luc Bruno, who has been working at RATP (Autonomous Operator of Parisian Transport, France) for more than 40 years, is now part of the expertise unit. He agreed to tell us more about the needs of this large company that gathers 2,000 maintenance collaborators throughout 15 different services, in charge of ensuring the optimal functioning of the 300 stations that the French capital and its suburbs count.

Mobility Work: Can you tell us more about your professional experience within the RATP group?

I joined the group in August 1977, first as an electrical maintenance technician in the department in charge of it. I have worked on these installations’ maintenance during 17 years, in electromechanics as well as on high voltage equipment. At that time, my manager then wanted me to help deploying a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) software within our service: I basically benchmarked them during a whole year, in order to compare the existing solutions.

In 1995, the RATP group was looking forward to equip the various departments with a CMMS software. We deployed a first external solution and used it for our machine pool, our work orders and everything related to economic and logistical matters. At first, technicians were very reluctant and didn’t really want to use this new CMMS solution because they found that the product wasn’t the one they needed. But when they realized that it would only took them half a day to enter a type of equipment and to associate maintenance plans while they used to need an entire year to do that before, they felt quite discountenanced.

In 1998, we finally deployed the CMMS in order to manage almost all electromechanical equipment: escalators, elevators, ventilation systems, automatic closing gates… While doing so, we progressively discovered how bad the stores of the maintenance units were managed, because no inventory was ever made. We had to solve this and to do so, the CMMS software we had chosen was going to be truly useful. This step lasted until 2003.

Our third project implied all the people in charge of maintaining all of a station’s equipment as well as the administrative and technical buildings. This field gathers electronic equipment, automatic passages for passengers, surveillance cameras on platforms and telephones (in a word, all IT equipment available in a station). It represents four different kind of jobs: electromechanics, management of automatic passages, tertiary installations (telephones/networks) and civil engineering (tiles, fixed staircases, paintings, grounds, etc.). Each one of them is different from the others so it led us to working with a hard-to-maintain software and to witnessing our hierarchy asking for things that weren’t really essential nor needed on the field.

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Back in 2013, we wanted things to change: it is no secret that after 10 years, software are becoming obsolete compared to new tools. We therefore analyzed different solutions but they were almost all the same, even if the features weren’t covering all of our needs because of our numerous activities. That’s why we decided to keep working with the same software company, as we thought the evolutions were interesting enough.  

A few years later, in 2017, we tried a new version of our software in order to benefit from all the evolutions our different professions require. Currently, everything works correctly, the software is meeting our expectations. We have many projects about it.

You deployed the CMMS within various teams which have very different methods, have you noticed any major differences regarding the integration of the tool?

The electromechanics teams are pretty rigid in their maintenance processes. When it comes to the ones in charge of automatic passages, they work in a very different way and have an opposite conception of their tasks. Such automatic passages are composed with many modules, and each one of them has to be maintained differently: it sometimes happens that a function stops working while the rest works really well. It’s exactly the same with civil engineering teams: they have various techniques according to the circumstances and also have their own methods. Human relationships are quite contentious so we have to adapt according to each technician, to each teams’ maintenance routines...

No maintenance technician likes to be “watched” all the time. When it comes to computers, the first thing technicians think is: “Our managers are just going to watch us, to want to know what time we spend on our tasks…”. In fact, the reports aren’t based on the time that has been spent on an activity but on the estimated amount of time needed to perform a task. As a consequence, technicians stopped worrying and quickly understood that system. What really counts is that a piece of equipment has to be maintained as quickly as possible in order to work properly. Our objective is to be as effective as we can, which means a team has to intervene in less than 2 hours when an problem has been detected.

Based on your experience, what would you say a CMMS software brings to a maintenance service and, by extension, to a whole company?

I would say it helps us have a better knowledge of our equipment pool as well as to enhance the interventions follow-up, the logistics parc also is cleaner: stores are runned more efficiently, the restocking has been optimized… Regarding maintenance plans, we are more reactive on repairing equipment. We are now able to manage teams on the field; technicians receive instructions directly on tablets and know exactly where to go. Our final objective is of course to enhance our productivity, especially as competition will soon be introduced.

We still have a recurring issue: each service tends to keep the information for itself and to not communicate enough about it, so we sometimes miss crucial information that is essential for future maintenance interventions. As a consequence, teams too often think that the CMMS software has already been filled out with all the needed information. They tend to forget that the biggest amount of data available in the tool has been manually entered, so that’s a recurring issue.

In your opinion, are there any limits to these CMMS software?

In fact, I would say that the more information you enter, the more you’ll be able to use it. If too few information has been given in, there are going to be gaps for sure. When it comes to the RATP group, the software has a very wide range of features and is quite powerful. I would say that we are using 50 to 60% of all the available features.

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What are the expectations of large groups and of the industrial market in general when it comes to CMMS software?

I think one always expects too much of these software. We, at the RATP for instance, proceed to annual, monthly etc. maintenance operations according to the piece of equipment concerned as well as to planned renovations. When it comes to major renovations, we have to work accordingly with the manufacturer and its availability. We still have to plan the following year’s maintenance work in order to anticipate stocks by generating lists to help us make everything clear.

Regarding our activity, I would say the most important aspects are troubleshooting, intervention and preventive stocks management.

You have been confronted to different interfaces and features: do you think the software you have worked on meet today’s market’s needs?

We are offered to work with various tools on different interfaces, and services don’t always use the same software. Each unit has its own needs and preferences, but the IT department will make the final decision. To sum up, companies first have to clearly identify their needs to be able to make the right choice!