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6 Sci-Fi Classics Where CMMS Could Have Made a Difference

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Who says maintenance and reliability are boring?

As an asset manager, you’re trying to keep a lot of assets running against the clock (because downtime is expensive). You’re dealing with machinery that can require as much finesse as knowledge to maintain—and sometimes doing it in hard-to-access areas, like the scaffolding of a factory, or the top of a cell phone tower.

maintenance management software

Moreover, you can do it with a computerized maintenance management system, a program that makes reliability engineering a high-tech, engaging job. When all is said and done, I’d argue that maintenance work is actually pretty interesting.

Take a look at some of the most exciting movies ever made, and you’ll find maintenance (or a lack of maintenance) plays a pretty big role in them, too.

In the six science-fiction movies I’ve chosen below, a good maintenance plan and a CMMS to manage that plan could have kept the characters from disaster.

“Star Trek:” Into downtime

Is there any franchise more focused on downtime than “Star Trek?” With almost predictable regularity, something breaks on the USS Enterprise, the setting of most of Star Trek’s action. Admittedly, a lot of it has to do with third-party problems—aliens like the Romulans and Klingons, or genetically engineered superhumans like Khan Noonien Singh.

However, you’d think that Mr. Scott, the Enterprise’s chief engineer, would realize that the only thing they can expect is the unexpected, and build some kind of predictive maintenance plan around it. Average the weird and out-of-the-ordinary occurrences every twenty missions or so (being attacked by a godlike alien, for instance), and he could develop a pretty good prediction of what might break down, and when it would.

More like task management!

Fortunately, you can set up such a plan. While 21st-century predictive maintenance plans may not address issues with warp drives, they’re still effective ways to reduce downtime. “Predictive maintenance is about being able to sense something before it happens,” says Bryan Christiansen of Limble CMMS.

“With predictive maintenance, you’re getting data sent to you that says a bearing’s going to fail, or there’s a leak over here, or a circuit board’s getting too hot,” adds Christiansen.

The sensor-enabled predictive maintenance capabilities you’ll find in a system like Limble’s can alert you to possible problems, and prevent major breakages that could lead to downtime.

That gives your technicians the chance to check out that asset, and effectively predict a problem before it occurs. In the case of Star Trek movie “Wrath of Khan,” for instance, if you know you’ll be fighting an evil genius, maybe plan to do a few extra checks of the engine before you engage the enemy.

“Jurassic Park” is frightening in the dark

In “Jurassic Park,” a theme park full of genetically engineered killing machines turns out to be a really bad idea (shocker). The park’s creator, John Hammond, breeds dinosaurs to be part of an amusement park, but his plans go awry when the computers are hacked, and the park’s electric fences break down.

And when an asset like electric fences break, things like this happen:

I couldn’t find an image of the guy getting eaten, but you get where I’m going with this.

While “Jurassic Park” may principally be about not messing with the order of nature, it’s also a cautionary tale about the need for maintenance and reliability. As soon as the electric fence goes down, the tyrannosaurus (let’s call him Earl) gets out and helps himself to a midnight snack. With the right alerts to staff, Earl would’ve stayed in his pen.

Some CMMS programs, such as Eagle Technologies’ Proteus CMMS, can be set up to send alerts as soon as an asset breaks down. If you’ve got a phone with the Proteus app on it, you’ll get a push notification like you would from any other app—but this one can help you reduce that downtime, and the number of dinosaur-related deaths.

All work (orders) and no play makes Jack a dull boy

What’s “The Shining” really about? Is it a ghost story? A study in madness? A covert apology for the moon landing? “The Shining” is about none of the above—it’s about what happens when you don’t organize your maintenance tasks into work orders.

In “The Shining,” Jack Torrence is paid to keep an eye on the Overlook Hotel for the winter. This requires regular maintenance of the grounds, boilers, and industrial machinery.

As the winter progresses, Jack becomes increasingly insane. You might argue that this is cabin fever, or the fact that the hotel’s built on an Indian burial ground… but you’d be wrong. Note that Jack, and the Overlook, don’t have a CMMS, or any apparent system for handling the Overlook’s major maintenance needs.

Just think—Jack could have managed all the Overlook maintenance in an easy-to-reference CMMS app with a dashboard that tells him when a task is coming up, and when it’s complete. All those pages of, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy?” They were just Jack’s stab (no pun intended) at a dashboard.

I think it’s clear the true horror in “The Shining” is a lack of organization.

With a CMMS, Jack could have managed all those tasks, just like Santa Clara County Public Schools has. With Workstraight CMMS, Santa Clara County has been able to easily manage 1,200 work orders, and rebound from a flood that would have otherwise overwhelmed their resources.

Inventory management, or, fly casual

In “Return of the Jedi,” the third installment of the “Star Wars” saga, an inventory management oversight costs the Empire the entire war. The Rebel Alliance’s plan to destroy the second Death Star hinges on using a stolen Imperial shuttle to sneak into one of the Empire’s bases.

Heather Wilkerson, an educational outreach writer for Mapcon, calls attention to how the right maintenance management software could have stopped the Rebel spies. Wilkerson notes that “if the Empire had a CMMS in place to track their inventory, they would have noticed right away that one of their shuttles was missing.”

When Darth Vader and company realized they were missing a key asset, they could have been on the lookout. As a result? The Empire could have prevented losing yet another Death Star.

You’d think the Empire would bar code these things

Inventory management can do more than just prevent Rebel attacks, however. A CMMS helps clothes merchant American Eagle predict the need to replace parts. They are alerted when inventory on a certain part is low, and can make sure they don’t run out.

Mapcon can also help you control your inventory. Mapcon’s inventory module can keep track of everything from issue and return tickets for a tool, to what aisle, shelf, or bin holds the part you need.

Where we’re going, we don’t need a CMMS…

Eyal Katz of Connecteam has another science-fiction movie in mind, but one with a little less martial activity:

“The ‘Back to the Future’ franchise would have to be up there for me. The breakdowns of the DeLorean were at the axis of each movie, especially the first movie. Finding a way to fix the problems in the DeLorean without having the necessary tools or technology is something any maintenance guy on the job can relate to. What made ‘Back to the Future” so great was that we wanted to see how Doc and Marty find a way to overcome their mechanical problems.”

Doc and Marty could have used a dedicated maintenance staff to help fix the DeLorean. Moreover, if they’d had a CMMS with technician management, they could have managed their maintenance team while elsewhere. The technician management feature would allow Marty and Doc to leave detailed instructions, check on their workers’ progress, and communicate via text while they tried to, say, keep Marty from being phased out of existence.

In space, no one can hear your reliability…

What could have saved the crew of the movie “Alien” from a double-mouthed demon beast? A mobile-optimized CMMS to help the crew stay connected.

Becoming disconnected leads to bad decisions in “Alien.” When you’re stuck on a spaceship billions of miles from home, bad decisions start to add up. A lot of tension revolves around the maintenance crew complaining about unequal pay, and the fact that no one comes to the part of the ship where maintenance is done.

Even more tension revolves around the fact that the captain, Dallas, ignores the need for necessary maintenance. “We’re blind on B and C decks—” Ripley protests, pointing to the problems with broken equipment. “Oh, that’s a bunch of crap,” Dallas says. “Look, I just want to get the hell out of here.”

With a better maintenance strategy, and apps like the ones offered by Fluke, the crew of the Nostromo could have stayed connected, and known where the monster was on board. Fluke’s apps connect workers to each other through the cloud, but also connect workers with “IR cameras, insulation testers, multimeters, and process meters,” and those cameras on B and C decks. But, Captain Dallas ignores Ripley’s focus on reliability. About four scenes later, guess who’s alien chow?

Rough day at the office

Other movies where maintenance mattered?

Though I’ve kept this list to six, these are hardly the only movies in which maintenance plays a role. Know of any others? If so, be sure to list them in the comments below!

If you’re interested in any of the features I mentioned in the article, consider using the filter in Capterra’s CMMS software directory. With it, you can pick which features you want, such as inventory control, task management, and mobile access. It’ll help you narrow down which program has the specific functions you need.

If you’re looking for more movie-inspired maintenance info, check out one of these articles:

What Is CMMS Software: The Willy Wonka Guide

What Is Fleet Management Software? The Mad Max Guide

Looking for Field Service Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Field Service Management software solutions.

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About the Author

Geoff Hoppe

Geoff Hoppe writes about business intelligence and field service management for Capterra. His background is in education and higher ed, but he’s interested these days in how small businesses can use software to be more agile and efficient. When he’s not reading and writing about software, he’s probably reading and writing about history, music and comic books, finding new hikes throughout Virginia, or following the Fighting Irish.

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