What Program Managers Should Demand of a CMMS

 

As rooftop and C&I incentives bloom across North America, many program administrators are learning what should be requested of the maintenance contractors that respond to RFPs for maintenance services.

Given federal, state and utility investment in clean energy at the residential and C&I levels, and the number of installations that demand maintenance, let’s ensure you aren’t missing anything in your evaluation.

Similarly, rooftop solar lease program administrators grapple with evaluating the competence, diligence and protocols their solar field service providers offer.

May these points be in the spirit of an Amicus Brief that underscores the critical significance of implementing a robust Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) to manage your solar asset portfolio.

 

How a CMMS Provides Targeted Solutions

The pressure to award contracts to the lowest bidder may unintentionally yield low quality. This means downtime. This could mean owner dissatisfaction. The “race to the bottom” may drive respondents to RFP to adopt generic software tools. Yet when it comes to service, the quality of monitoring, as well as maintenance tools is imperative to evaluate.

While many respondents may focus solely on cost efficiency, let’s recognize the nuanced value proposition of a comprehensive CMMS solution over mere field data capture software.

Although 60Hertz Energy is a combined monitoring and CMMS product for solar, storage and Distributed Energy Resources, we have a collegial relationship with our monitoring and field service competitors.

Importantly, program administrators from Connecticut to Puerto Rico need clear eyes to compare apples to apples. May 60Hertz be a resource to you: given our familiarity with your use case, and to offer points in the event they contribute to your success.

 

Comparative Analysis: Comprehensive CMMS vs. Basic Field Data Capture Software—at a Glance

Feature Comprehensive CMMS Basic Field Data Capture Software
Asset Management Holistic management functionalities, including scheduling preventative and corrective actions. Limited to capturing field data.
Performance Metrics Access to key metrics like MTTR, MTBF, and the ratio of preventative to corrective work orders. Limited or no performance metrics available.
Monitoring and Insights Unified dashboard for real-time monitoring and actionable insights. Multiple, disjointed monitoring pages.
Quality Assurance Supports random inspections and quality checks to ensure compliance and performance standards. No inherent support for quality assurance measures.
Cost Efficiency vs. Value Prioritizes long-term asset value and reliability over initial cost savings. Focuses on low upfront costs, potentially at the expense of long-term value.
Support and Accountability Offers support for fractional asset management and ensures vendor performance through transparent metrics. Limited support and accountability mechanisms.

As such, may we offer six points worth evaluating as respondents provide their CMMS and monitoring tools:

1. Differentiating Comprehensive CMMS from Basic Solutions: Not all field services tools are also a CMMS. While basic software may offer field-data capture capabilities, a comprehensive CMMS provides holistic asset management functionalities, enabling your vendors and Green Bank to schedule preventative and corrective actions, track historical engagement at a site, and analyze performance metrics.

We applaud Green Bank’s clear recognition that proper maintenance documentation and planning mitigates the risk of underperformance and downtime.

2. Key Performance Metrics: Metrics such as Mean Time to Resolution (MTTR); Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF); the ratio of preventative to corrective work orders; the number of systems down as well as total days of downtime across the fleet should all be readily available to Green Bank.

As Green Bank may be aware, Time Magazine’s 2023 article “Rooftop Solar Power Has Its Dark Side” illustrates how lease-holders or agencies’ lack of such metrics have yielded the impression among some homeowners that their systems are not optimized (at best) or operational (worst case).

Given our seven years in the market and host of conversations with solar services companies of varying maturity, 60Hertz notes ways corners are often cut. But wherein data can easily help course-correct. By prioritizing these metrics, you can enhance system reliability, maximize energy production, and optimize resource allocation.

 

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3. Unified Monitoring Dashboard: Instead of navigating through disparate monitoring pages, a unified monitoring dashboard provides a centralized platform for real-time monitoring and actionable insights.

As the RFP rightly identifies, daily monitoring is essential to swiftly identifying critical alarms and distinguishing them from non-urgent errors, thereby ensuring timely intervention and minimizing downtime.

Alas, we see many, many service contractors “tab jockeying” wherein multiple tabs in a web browser are open to various manufacturers’ monitoring portals. Best intentions aspire to check these portals daily, yet the host of nuisance alarms, or intervening job priorities can prevent promptly identifying problems and responding.

Unified dashboards with conditional rules are available on the market and may be important to validate that respondents include in their proposals to Green Bank.

4. Ombudsman and Fractional Asset Manager: We encourage the Green Bank to identify a fractional solar asset manager or commercial solar ombudsman to review your fleet of systems and perform desk-based oversight.

Monitoring portals, when cross-referenced with work order data, can paint a far different picture than a quarterly report from the service provider. 60Hertz could identify multiple individuals and firms to perform such if of interest.

Identifying and monitoring key performance indicators across the portfolio is important. Fractional asset management can be cost-effective, and serve in support of your selected O&M vendor, and/or to ensure the vendor’s performance.

Learn more about CMMS:

5. Quality Assurance Through Random Inspections: In addition to proactive monitoring, random inspection services play a crucial role in ensuring quality and compliance. The 2024 NABCEP conference in Raleigh, a continuing education panel focused on the importance, structure and results of inspection services.

We would be happy to put Green Bank staff in touch with panelists, or to provide these presentations to you. Random inspections uphold performance standards. Your commitment to quality assurance enhances transparency, fosters accountability, and instills confidence in the integrity of your solar asset portfolio.

6. Should Green Bank dictate the tool?: Should you rely on vendor choice? Or should Green Bank identify the preferred CMMS? 60Hertz Energy does not have a partner applicant, that we know of, applying for this RFP. We were motivated to reply for three reasons:

a. Given the (perhaps perceived) pressure for respondents to this RFP to provide lowest-cost bids, they may lean on inferior tools, or have insufficient experience with monitoring and maintenance of portfolios at scale.

Is there merit in opening a separate RFP or otherwise dictating both the monitoring dashboard and CMMS your service vendor should use, to remove the risk of asst underperformance or premature failure?

b. Does the Green Bank perhaps need access to view audits and access live data from the selected contractor?

This could enable transparency and accountability. By gaining real-time visibility into system performance and uptime, you can make informed decisions, address operational challenges promptly, and optimize long-term asset value.

c. 60Hertz was tangentially involved in a similar effort across Puerto Rico, wherein two O&M providers were selected to care for a fleet of solar/storage assets across 180 Red Cross sites.

We were called in for additional support, since half of the systems maintained by an inferior provider suffered from measurable lack of care; the others achieved stated uptime. The maintenance software used by the firms was highly relevant to the success of the assets.

In conclusion, we applaud your demand for a CMMS solution by your vendors. As an industry leader active on thousands of sites nationwide, if we can offer thought partnership, discussion or help, please call on us.

Sincerely,
Signature ima
Piper Foster Wilder
Founder/CEO

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