Asset Monitoring / Condition-Based Maintenance / Predictive Maintenance / Change Management

What makes a condition-based maintenance program sink or swim

Here are the factors that will help create and sustain success with CBM.

By Adrian Messer, UE Systems

In this article:

When deciding to implement a condition-based maintenance (CBM) tool, there are always many questions to ask and decisions to make. Ultrasound or vibration? Infrared or oil analysis? Motor current testing or precision alignment? Over the years, I have had countless conversations with maintenance and reliability professionals about which CBM technology is the best.

The question they should be asking is a little more precise: Which technology can find the failure modes I’m looking for, and how early will it be able to find them?

A good CBM program will start with a detailed asset-criticality assessment. Once it has been determined which assets are the most critical, the maintenance organization should then seek to understand their failure modes. From this base level of knowledge, the team will then be able to identify the CBM technology that will find the failure modes early enough to allow the maintenance team to plan and make repair-or-replace decisions before a failure becomes so severe that safety risks increase and shutdowns occur.

Once the CBM technology has been chosen, questions should be asked regarding current and future needs. For example, the reliability team might determine an immediate need for compressed-air leak detection and recognize a future need for a bearing condition monitoring program. Therefore, it would be best to select an ultrasound instrument that will allow for the easy transition from one condition monitoring application to the next. 

Another question that should be asked but is commonly overlooked is what kind of support is offered by the CBM technology solution provider. Usually, the provider is willing to host a lunch-and-learn to discuss inspection techniques for certain applications. Software and instrument-specific webinars are easy to set up and can be an effective training method.

With the onset of the industrial internet of things (IIoT) movement, common questions center around the data collected from CBM tools. How will the data be utilized? Where will the data be stored? How can my CBM technology data integrate with my CMMS or other monitoring systems?

In my many visits to plants and facilities each year, there is one thing I have consistently noticed that maintenance and reliability professionals can do better: reporting and documentation. If maintenance is to be perceived as a value rather than a cost, reporting and documenting the findings from CBM tools are critical. When documenting problems found with the CBM tool, ROI information should always be included.

For example, instead of only reporting that a certain number of compressed air leaks were found during the last survey, the report should also include the dollar amount reflected by the energy loss from those leaks. If the problems found are mechanical in nature, then the report should also include the costs associated with the potential downtime that was averted by finding the problem early. These reports should be well-documented and shared throughout the facility, including with upper management. At the world-class level, this information should be shared with similar facilities throughout the organization.

Why do CBM programs fail?


CBM programs usually fail because of a lack of clear goals and expectations for them. CBM program stakeholders need to be educated about the need for doing things differently than they’ve been done in the past. Maintenance and reliability workers also need to be supported and allowed the proper amount of time to become familiar with new CBM tools. Once a tool is in use, clear expectations must be in place about how the data and reports will be used to make better decisions moving forward. A CBM program will also need to utilize root-cause analysis on any detected failure. All of these actions together, performed on a regular basis, will help sustain the CBM program.

Shifting from a reactive to a proactive maintenance approach is a big undertaking that can create many challenges. Often, stakeholders choose to ignore the process completely, citing time as a limiting factor. Two things must be in place before any CBM initiative begins: a team of individuals unafraid to step up to the challenge and a clear set of goals and expectations for them.

In almost all cases, the sustainable and successful CBM programs I have seen were started by people who weren’t afraid to step up and take a stand against outdated reactive programs. These individuals recognize that their organization can no longer afford to continue to operate in a reactive environment. They are willing to do things differently, and they will be the champions of change and progress.

Well-defined goals and expectations are critical. Maintenance and reliability goals should reflect the company’s core business principles and strategies as well as any industry-specific corporate and regulatory compliance standards.

These goals should also take into account:

  • Any safety improvements coinciding with the improved reliability of equipment.
  • Customer or supplier satisfaction gained through enhanced production capabilities.
  • Environmental awareness of better energy efficiency and waste reduction.
  • Increased shareholder value through enhanced reliability and process efficiency.

Planning for success


Regardless of the chosen CBM technology, having a plan in place before the implementation of the new tool is critical for success. In many cases, the organization’s culture is the biggest hurdle to overcome. There are many models to help with a change management initiative; Kotter’s 8-Step Process for Leading Change is one of the best:

  1. One must prepare for the change. In this phase, there must be a sense of emergency that links the change to the organization’s long-term goals and enlists leaders who support the change.
  2. Second, a guiding coalition is created with leaders who will let the team know what is expected and how others can be coached to lead the charge.
  3. Third, leaders develop a vision of the change to engage those who will be affected by it.
  4. Change is managed by communicating the vision for buy-in, which helps ensure that the change is stabilized. At this point, the team should begin to look for signs of resistance and then coach and reinforce as needed.
  5. Empowered leaders utilize broad-based actions, which make it possible for people to adopt the change, removing organizational obstacles such as structure, KPIs, and reporting processes that are inconsistent with the change.
  6. Momentum-building phase, wherein short-term wins are generated and celebrated. This increases the probability that others will adopt the change.
  7. Leaders reinforce the change. It’s important to keep the message alive, monitor the progress of the change, and have discussions to keep people from reverting back to old habits.
  8. Finally, the change is incorporated into the culture of the organization. In this step, leaders and managers have the change embedded within policies, procedures, audit processes, and communications.

Planning for success may also include a benchmarking visit to a sister site that already has a relevant CBM program in place. Additionally, the chosen personnel should be properly trained. When considering an investment in a new CBM tool, the training cost is usually minimal compared with the overall cost of the tool. When budgeting for costs, formal training should be included if the users are to get the most out of the tool and have the right understanding of how to use it.

Additional best practice information for CBM programs can also be found in industry resources such as the Society for Maintenance & Reliability Professionals’ (SMRP) Best Practices Metrics. This reference material is available to members of SMRP at no additional cost. It is compiled from a wealth of knowledge from industry practitioners. One of the referenced metrics that is directly related to CBM programs is maintenance training return on investment, which is a measure used to determine the ROI of training maintenance employees. Tracking this metric will help stakeholders gain information necessary for making improvements to the facility’s maintenance and reliability program. Another metric of importance is the percent of corrective work from the CBM findings. The SMRP Best Practices Metrics suggests that at the world-class level, the share of corrective work from CBM findings should be greater than 35%.

Sustain the effort


Making the transition from reactive maintenance to a more proactive strategy is a big change. To do it, the organization must change what it values most. In a reactive environment, “firefighting” maintenance is valued, but in a proactive environment, the strategy should focus on preventing the fires from ever sparking. When focus is placed on how the organization can prevent failures from happening, the culture begins to shift from reactive to proactive. There will always be some reactive problems, but being able to minimize reactive work will allow for more time for productive PMs, better planning and scheduling, increased equipment uptime, and an increase in overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).

For all of this to take place, the people involved must be engaged, informed, trained, and supported. They should have clearly communicated goals and expectations. Also, stakeholders in the new CBM strategy should have a sense of ownership in the program and understand why their roles are important. Effective use of condition monitoring tools can help forewarn maintenance leaders about potential issues before they become problems that must be addressed reactively. With some initial planning and thought, effective change management, and guidance from industry resources such as SMRP’s Best Practice Metrics, the CBM program will have a better chance of being successful and sustainable.