Computerized maintenance management systems in a large-scale public works organization

Dave Smith, P.E.
Head, Central Work Controls Group
Los Angeles County Department of Public Works

Much has been written over the years regarding the benefits of Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) to public works organizations. With the advent of the new federal GASB regulations regarding the inventorying and valuing of public works infrastructure, the need for such systems is vital. However, implementation becomes increasingly difficult as the size and complexity of the public works agency grows. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works began using CMMS systems for flood control maintenance in the 1970s and expanded the use of this technology in 1997. The department's implementation involves one comprehensive database for inventorying, tracking, and maintaining the entire infrastructure in four areas: road maintenance, waterworks maintenance, sewer maintenance, and flood control maintenance. It should be noted that the sewer and flood control systems in Los Angeles County are separate systems. There are 89 separate jurisdictions in Los Angeles County including 88 cities and the county unincorporated area. To better understand the size of the systems involved, here are some basic statistics for the portions of Los Angeles County maintained by the department:

Road Maintenance


3,100 miles of roadway
2.5 million square feet of pavement markings
174,000 traffic signs
1,459 signalized intersections
70,747 highway trees
500 bridges
6,300 miles of pavement striping

Waterworks Maintenance


Water service to 51,462 customers
118 water storage reservoirs
48 water wells
163 booster pumps
1,132 miles of water mains

Sewer Maintenance


5,000 miles of main line sewers
147 sewage pumping stations
4 sewage treatment plants

Flood Control Maintenance


15 dams
460 miles of open channel
2,600 miles of underground storm drain
72,000 catch basins
43 storm water pumping plants
134 debris basins
217 concrete crib check dams

The above facilities represent over 600,000 facility records in the CMMS system with many more to be added as more elements of the above systems are tracked via the CMMS.

To maintain and control all of the information, the department purchased Oracle-based Maximo from MRO.com in 1996 and began a multi-year program of implementing the software on an enterprise-wide basis. Implementing this type of system for such a large organization requires considerably more time and resources than for the average municipality. The average city may have all of these types of utilities to maintain, but in quantities far smaller than that of the County of Los Angeles. The average city of four to ten square miles in size may be able to set up and input data into this type of system in six months to one year. The County of Los Angeles required several years to accomplish the same thing for the 4,000 square miles it covers.

Los Angeles County's CMMS is spread out at over 40 locations, with over 500 registered users. Communication is provided by a TCP/IP wide area network comprised of T-1, and fractional T-1 communication lines. Central server processing is provided at the department's headquarters on a large HP multiprocessor server. The current database is over 11 gigabytes in size and holds three years of data for historical comparison. The department's Information Technology Division provides communications, programming, and data processing support.

In 1999, the department put the system under the control of a newly-formed group called the Central Work Controls Group (CWCG). The CWCG acts as the owner organization for the software. Its mission is to ensure that the maintenance divisions utilize the software correctly, have adequate training, and use published standards for data entry. The CWCG also provides assistance in adding new facilities to the system, finding and correcting problems, and implementing new features and reports.

The CWCG provides future planning for the system which includes interfaces to the department's Financial System, Waterworks Billing System, Pavement Management System, State Mandated Bridge Maintenance System, Geographic Information System, and mobile data terminals.

The system performs the function of tracking most preventive maintenance routines, complaint calls, and work orders for maintenance and repair. Additionally, it tracks percentages of planned versus unplanned work and work backlogs. In the future the system will look at resource utilization to aid in determining manpower needs. The system also helps provide data for tree trimming contracts and for tracking information on sewer overflows. Addition of the flood control catch basins and road drains will allow the department to use the system to prepare catch basin cleanout contracts.

The department is in the process of reviewing the general systems operation and looking for areas where the software might be improved to better fit the public works arena. Maximo was originally conceived as a CMMS for the manufacturing industry. Features designed to make it more adaptable for the public works environment were added in the 4.0.1 version. However, other adaptations could be made to improve the fit. In an effort to determine what changes would best benefit the general public works organization, the Department of Public Works in conjunction with Optimization Resources, Inc. (ORI) has set up a website that displays the department's CMMS screens and provides an area for comment on each module in the system. The webpage is located at www.optimiz.com\feedback. ORI is hosting the site and will compile the data collected. ORI and the department encourage all public works agencies that are interested to log in and take a look at the system. The website provides areas where persons may submit comments on the system, features, and changes that are important to their public works organization. These comments will be studied by the CWCG and forwarded to MRO.com in an effort to improve the operations of the software and the general service of the department.

Dave Smith can be reached at 626-254-0301 or at Dsmith@dpw.co.la.ca.us.