Canadian Manufacturing

3 proven ways CMMS can help you gain the upper hand on labour shortage issues

by Bryan Christiansen, Founder and CEO of Limble CMMS   

Human Resources Manufacturing Operations Research & Development Sales & Marketing Supply Chain Technology / IIoT advanced manufacturing human resources labour shortage Manufacturing regulations Research Technology

A modern CMMS automates routine maintenance administration, allowing manufacturers to reduce or remove many back-office functions historically associated with managing a maintenance program.

Istock labour productivity Sept14

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has warned that the next 5 decades will significantly change the US population and labour demographics, largely due to an aging workforce. Labour force growth will slow, impacting the economy while slowing the creation of goods and services. 

It’s a critical problem not limited only to the US, with global manufacturers turning to technological solutions. Using the example of asset maintenance, here are three ways a modern computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) offers manufacturers a way to mitigate labour shortage issues.

#1: Automated job scheduling

A modern CMMS automates routine maintenance administration, allowing manufacturers to reduce or remove many back-office functions historically associated with managing a maintenance program. For planned maintenance, the CMMS presents tasks for scheduling just before their due date. Once scheduled, the CMMS automatically raises the worksheets, listing the number and type of skills needed, highlighting the required tooling, spares, and consumables, and checking rosters, asset lists, and inventory to ensure the availability of all required resources. It can also reference appropriate maintenance manuals and illustrated parts catalogs.

On partially or fully completing the task, the technician directly updates the CMMS, removing the need for error-prone data entry by a clerk. Any defects found and not acquitted during the task are captured and added to the maintenance backlog for later rectification. Spare and consumable usage automatically updates inventories and, where necessary, schedules repair or replacement actions.


Where the task stems from a maintenance order, a similar automated process manages the entire request-to-task workflow, including work order prioritization, with limited planner intervention and minimal data-entry requirements. By using thoughtful integration, a manufacturer can remove much of the administrative function, leaving sufficient staff to carry out governance at defined system hold points.

#2: Reduced maintenance tasks and interventions

Machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), and the industrial internet of things (IIoT) are combined within a modern CMMS to provide prescriptive and predictive maintenance for critical equipment. Through constant real-time equipment monitoring, the analytics engine within the CMMS can predict the need for maintenance, identify the issue, and even prescribe a range of options the business can choose to resolve the issue.

This advance is a step beyond typical time-based preventive maintenance by monitoring for changes in operating characteristics undetectable by the human senses. Initiating a maintenance intervention only when equipment condition requires it avoids unnecessary maintenance tasks, improves safety, saves money, and increases uptime. Additionally, it improves equipment reliability and maintenance program effectiveness.

Prescriptive and predictive maintenance optimizes the employee numbers required to set up, monitor, and implement a maintenance program. Specialist engineering skills required for effective governance reduce, as do technician numbers owing to greater equipment reliability and administrative roles due to increased automation.

#3: Knowledge retention

One reason businesses avoid employee turnover, besides acquisition costs, is the loss of corporate memory and operational knowledge when a worker walks out the door. A worker that was with a company for a long time has lived and absorbed the organization’s history and ways of working. 

They understand the context behind decisions, how certain actions affect production, client needs, industry norms, and equipment idiosyncrasies. Also, these workers know the best methods of repairing an asset, the tools to use, and how long tasks take. When such worker decides to retire, all that knowledge leaves with them, making the company poorer for its loss.

This brain drain is important in all labour markets, but especially in an industry that faces looming and prolonged labour shortages. Using a CMMS provides two benefits to mitigate this loss. The first is due to the CMMS becoming the central repository for all processes, procedures, standards, and locations. As the single source of truth for how maintenance is affected, a CMMS reduces the impact of one or several employees leaving. 

All empirical data like maintenance methods, task times, tooling, and asset locations reside in the central database. Also, historical information is retained, allowing data mining and analysis for greater insights and patterns.

The second benefit derives from improved employee satisfaction, with a CMMS removing mundane and administrative tasks from employees, allowing a business to up-skill them and empower them with new technology and broader responsibilities. When the labour supply is short, employee satisfaction and being an employer of choice help prevent churn as other companies’ employees shop for greater paycheques or improved conditions.

Manufacturers face unprecedented times, emerging from a pandemic into a global slowdown, only to be threatened with labour shortages just as the economy begins to claw its way back. While revised government policies may alleviate some of the labour shortage issues, there is no doubt technology has an important role to play.

Maintenance forms a material part of a business’s costs, and with equipment increasing in complexity, organizations should consider using that same technology to remain competitive.


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