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Maintenance management vs. asset management (and the software tools that help!)

CMMS, EAM, APM – what’s what already!

Digital transformation is everywhere. Banks, restaurants, hospitals, retail – we’re used to the apps and portals we use regularly in our personal lives. In recent years (and rapidly since the pandemic began) the use of IoT, big data, automation and more has become second nature in the industrial world, too. In fact, more than 80 percent of manufacturers have already used IoT in some way to increase operational efficiency. However, oddly, the same study shows that only 44 percent are using IoT to prevent ginormously expensive equipment malfunctions.

We get it. Adopting new technology can be expensive and hard. But, at the same time, if you’re in the business of protecting your company’s big-ticket equipment assets, you might be shaking your head thinking, “If there’s a fix out there for this mess, let me have it, for goodness sake.” Because that’s the root of the matter (and of any digital solution, really). There is an easier, faster way to get the information you need to make better decisions. In terms of equipment reliability, the answer comes in the form of a maintenance or asset management software system.

But which do you need? And how do you start your search? Let’s break it down.

Are maintenance management and asset management essentially the same thing?

Before we dig into tools, let’s just quickly address this question because what you manage has a huge impact on what software you need. There is some inevitable overlap between maintenance management and asset management since both have to do with taking care of a company’s equipment. The easiest way to distinguish is to look at the first word in each:

  • Maintenance – This is the work you perform on equipment, right? So maintenance management relates to tasks.

  • Asset – This refers to the equipment itself, meaning that you’re managing the value of an object… not the tasks performed on it.

With that understanding, the goals of each become clearer. Maintenance management aims to track the work orders, labor and inventory associated with preventing equipment breakdowns and unplanned downtime. Asset management, on the other hand, tracks all the data about a company’s equipment assets in order to improve performance and extend equipment life.

3 Common software solutions

If you’ve already been vetting potential solutions, you’re probably familiar with how blurry the lines between maintenance and asset management can be – and even more so when it comes to the available software options. That’s why keeping your end goal in mind is important. Remember, any software you choose should always be solving a specific problem you have or creating a defined gain you know you need.

Some of the most common terms you’ll come across are computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), enterprise asset management (EAM) and asset performance management (APM). It’s tempting to want to categorize these as a good/better/best scenario, but we encourage you not to think of it that way. These tools really are all super legit – their value is completely defined by what you personally need to complete your job functions. Here’s a quick look at what each system offers and how that aligns with your goals.


Used by: Maintenance managers, technicians

Best for: Managing maintenance tasks and scheduling

The main goal of the CMMS is to control maintenance costs and activities, with work order creation as a key function. Maintenance managers use CMMS tools to build schedules, budget for labor costs, assist with inventory management and ensure basic preventive maintenance. A CMMS offers work order tracking, a real-time, comprehensive activities log and historical maintenance database.


Used by: Operations/maintenance managers, reliability engineers, technicians

Best for: Managing asset/equipment data

An EAM can perform most of the functions a CMMS does but is focused on extending asset life and reliability. It offers more advanced analytics and condition-based monitoring, energy monitoring, warranty/claims tracking and compliance reporting, to name a few functions. The tool gives a detailed snapshot of every asset and helps align the asset’s value with the business’s needs.


Used by: C-level leaders, operations directors

Best for: Optimizing performance, availability, financials

APMs are geared toward operations that are asset-intensive, meaning that the health and output of the equipment is closely tied to the success and growth of the business. The goal here is decreasing operational risks. These systems utilize technologies like sensors and IoT devices, paired with artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze lifecycle data, employ predictive and prescriptive maintenance, ensure peak performance, and improve financial returns.

Here are a few more acronyms you might see.

When you’re trying to find the right tool, it can be just as useful to rule out systems you definitely don’t need. Trying to keep track of all the software acronyms can be overwhelming. Here’s a few you probably don’t need if you’re searching for maintenance or asset management software:

FM or CAFM – These refer to facility management (FM) and computer-aided facility management (CAFM). These tools are designed with your physical location in mind. This software manages everything from the architecture and engineering of your facility and infrastructure to environmental factors, utilities and more.

IWMS – An integrated workplace management system (IWMS) is also in the facilities management space. It’s similar to a CAFM but is better suited for larger, more agile environments and has a greater ability to analyze and create action steps.

DAM – Depending on what you search, digital asset management (DAM) tools may come up. The wording is a little confusing, but this type of solution is actually for managing digital assets (materials you store online) rather than digitally managing equipment assets. Don’t even go down that rabbit hole right now.

To sum up, if this is your first foray into a software solution, a CMMS or an EAM is probably your best starting point – and you can ascertain which makes more sense based on your role and your goals. If you still have questions, we’d be more than happy to talk it out, digitally or otherwise.

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