What is condition-based maintenance?

Condition-based maintenance, or CBM, is an approach to maintenance management that relies on tracking the condition of equipment. With condition-based maintenance scheduling, you’ll carry out maintenance only when conditions require it.

It is based on condition monitoring, because you’ll use the results of your condition monitoring to decide when to carry out maintenance actions. Plants managers set thresholds for each piece of equipment, and carry out maintenance when those thresholds are reached.

These thresholds can be based on:

  • Observational data, such as smelling smoke or hearing noise from a part
  • Sensor data, such as pressure levels or temperature
  • Vibrational analysis, to track and understand vibrations in equipment
  • Oil analysis to track oil degradation and asset wear
  • Ultrasonic tracking for defects below the surface of the asset

Condition-based maintenance is often compared with predictive maintenance (PdM). Both PdM and CBM aim to predict part failure in order to carry out maintenance at the right moment, before a part fails, instead of running to fail (reactive maintenance) or carrying out maintenance at fixed times regardless of need (preventive maintenance).

But predictive maintenance relies on predictive analytics, which uses machine learning (ML), deep learning (DL), other AI-based learning systems, and/or big data analytics to learn the norms of the entire plant and produce more accurate early alerts. In contrast, CBM only uses current plant data.

Why does condition-based maintenance matter to process manufacturing plants?

Condition-based maintenance can improve the timing of maintenance activities. When maintenance is carried out too soon, it can be a waste of time and money on the part of the maintenance team. But when it’s left too late, you may have no choice but to replace a part which could have been repaired if it was dealt with earlier.

With condition-based maintenance, plants can:

  • Cut costs for replacement parts 
  • Increase plant efficiency by correcting issues that affect performance
  • Reduce plant downtime
  • Improve reliability and ROI for equipment
  • Decrease waste caused by equipment running below par
  • Raise employee safety by ensuring equipment is in good condition

How can process plants implement condition-based maintenance effectively?


Identify your critical assets

Condition-based maintenance is recommended for critical and/or expensive items of equipment, which would cause severe loss of money and/or production time if they failed unexpectedly. You need to start by selecting which parts meet those criteria.

Establish thresholds for CBM alerts

You’ll need to set the parameters of “normal” conditions so that your condition-based maintenance solution knows how to recognize variations that merit an alert. You’ll need to collect the data or find it in your data sources, and then set the thresholds to trigger an alert.

Manage your data

Condition-based maintenance relies on data from sensors, employees, and analytics programs. You’ll need a system to store, preformat, and organize all your data so that your CBM solution can access it easily.

Appoint the right personnel

Managing a new condition-based maintenance solution can be a full-time task, at least until you’ve got it up and running. You need to identify specific employee(s) who will dedicate time to understanding, managing, and mastering the new software.

What are the benefits of condition-based maintenance in process plants?

With the help of CBM, process manufacturing companies can increase reliability by cutting unplanned downtime, unnecessary part replacement, and excess maintenance hours and costs.