Five types of CBM programs, Part I

John Schultz
Tags: maintenance and reliability, condition monitoring

Few companies are getting the full benefits from condition-based maintenance. For the most part, CBM programs fall into one of five categories or levels:

  1. Not engaged: These are the companies doing little, if any, condition-based maintenance.

  2. Experimenting: These companies are testing various aspects of CBM inspections and technologies.

  3. Enlightened: They are the ones that have seen the benefits of CBM and plan to invest and expand.

  4. Good practice: All of the key elements are in place, and the program consistently produces real benefits.

  5. Best practice: These companies have world-class programs for their industry.

Interestingly enough, most programs fall somewhere in the middle. Yet no matter where you are, you can always find ways to improve.

Where do you start? The trouble is, many programs are under-staffed, under-funded and under-trained. So, they settle for just trying to "make the plant run." Plus, there are so many different aspects to CBM, it's easy to get so bogged down in the details.

The trick is to focus on the fundamentals that will make your program better. Make it your goal to get better every day in some small way. Small daily progress eventually results in huge advantages.

Here are a few examples to consider:

You get what you expect: The starting point for a successful CBM program is successful thinking. Positive beliefs and expectations usually lead to positive outcomes. So, what are your expectations for your program? What do you really want to achieve? You need to have a clear picture of exactly what you want your program to be and the results you want to have.

For example, Level 5 programs focus squarely on early elimination of defects and root causes. On the other hand, Level 1 companies use CBM tools just for the purpose of troubleshooting. That's a big difference in mind-set - and a big difference in results (see the table below).

At the end of the day, it all comes down to what you do. But what you do is limited by the way you think. So, start by taking a good look at your expectations.

Increase coverage: When was the last time you added equipment to your CBM program? You see, the reason many companies aren't getting the payback on CBM is simply because they aren't monitoring enough equipment.

No matter what kind of industry you're in, CBM is almost always the most cost-effective maintenance strategy. There is a direct correlation between higher levels of CBM and lower overall costs. Why? It is because CBM drives more planned work. And, planned work means jobs done faster, safer and at a lower cost.

Find out what your current level of coverage is vs. best practice in your industry, and see what you can do to bump it up to the next level.

It's what's between your ears that counts: CBM is a knowledge business, and CBM technicians are knowledge workers. In other words, it's brains, not brawn, that counts. That's why training, education, coaching and mentoring are so important.

For example, a Level I vibration technician can collect, evaluate and analyze basic data, whereas a Level III technician can establish the collection and alarming criteria, build new databases and work with multiple software platforms. The difference is training, education, knowledge and experience.

The key is to always be moving forward. Don't stop investing. Don't stop improving. Don't stop doing something new. The moment you stop improving your program, it starts to die.

Focus on the fundamentals and watch your program grow.


Considering each level's characteristics, where would you place your CBM program?

John Schultz is a Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professional through the Society for Maintenance & Reliability Professionals and is a partner with Allied Reliability. As the largest consulting, engineering and service firm focused on predictive and preventive maintenance, Allied serves more than 200 plants and facilities. For more of John's insights, subscribe to the new free e-course "How to Avoid the Seven Biggest Mistakes in Predictive Maintenance" at You may also call 812-841-9252 or e-mail