Lockout Tagout (LOTO) and CMMS: How do you bridge the gap? Part 2

In order to find the answer to our title question we have outlined 4 questions to consider. The previous post (here) discussed the first two: ‘What is the gap?’ and ‘Why is the gap created?’. Now we will analyze the final two questions: How does the gap affect you? What can you do to bridge the gap?

How does the gap affect you?

In our prior post we categorized gaps as either minor or major based on their impact to your work activities. However, even a minor gap can in functionality can become major. Consider the following example.

The scenario

An energy generation company uses a different vendor for their LOTO and CMMS solutions. They have integrated the two systems through the work order of the CMMS. When the operations team have isolated the work the LOTO software updates the work order in the CMMS. Additionally, the work order knows that it is linked to the LOTO application and uses rule-based security to prevent the work from certain changes.

This scenario is not uncommon. Can you see the gap? I encourage you to seriously analyze this question before moving to the next paragraph.

At first glance it seems like a simple integration. There are many questions that a brief description does not cover. For example: Does the LOTO solution refer only to the overall work package or does it link to each step? Does the CMMS know any of the boundaries defined in the LOTO application? Do both the LOTO system and CMMS know when workers are using those boundaries and who those workers are?

The major gap

These questions are good but might be considered minor gaps. The information is likely available in at least one of the systems. A little effort will provide the needed information. Looking again at the example, can you identify a potential major gap?

For brevity lets consider just one: asset ids. Both applications must identify assets, but because of their function they likely do so differently. For example, a CMMS might track an entire asset system as a single entity for cost roll up. However, the LOTO application may see many different assets. A LOTO system is required to track much smaller elements than a CMMS is designed to. Breakers, switches, valves, are some examples. Thus, while you might think a master equipment list is a straightforward solution the lines are blurred the closer you look. Therefore, the CMMS and LOTO application can easily end up with different ids.

This gap creates major data problems. Certain LOTO and CMMS performance metrics become difficult or impossible to report. Integrated work packages become a dream without the possibility of reality. When this problem scales to the fleet or enterprise level the problem feels overwhelming.

What can you do to bridge the gap?

A fully integrated CMMS and LOTO solution is obviously the best approach from the outset. This approach completely eliminates the gap. CHAMPS offers such a solution.

However, what can be done about a gap without completely replacing your LOTO application and CMMS and something must be done? Emphasis should be placed on the word must. Justification for this project should precede any work related to this gap. When that has been decided, the next step is to create a team of experienced professionals. They should be capable individuals with domain expertise and a deep understanding of CMMS and LOTO applications. That team should perform an evaluation, propose the scope of the project, and leverage the latest software tools to get the job done as efficiently as possible.

With the right team in place even a seemingly insurmountable gap between LOTO and CMMS can be crossed.

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