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CBM: Where to Begin and Tools to Get Started

Jan 22, 2021 | TRM Blog

Condition-Based Monitoring (CBM) is the act of performing and making decisions about asset maintenance based upon the condition (current and possibly future) of the assets. It may also include the monitoring of the assets via technology or manual data collection methods.

Using a vehicle check engine light as an example, based on data from sensors all over the car, when a threshold is exceeded or not reached the light becomes illuminated. This alerts the owner that somewhere on the car a condition exists that requires attention. Hence, condition-based maintenance.

Another asset condition approach is by rental car companies. When the vehicle reaches a set number of miles, it is sold. No questions asked. Reach a certain point, move it out!

So how can you start planning an effective condition-based maintenance strategy for your facility?

Document Your Approach

An element of the typical asset management plan is the documented approach taken for the definition, assessment, and management of asset conditions. It all begins with the documented definition of what the organization means when they state asset conditions. Certainly, the qualitative approach of new, used, old, refurbished is a valid method to begin to track asset conditions. However, the next level is considering data elements such as date of installation, expected life, rotation/location movement history, work history, failure history, etc. can be used to manage assets as well.

What then does “condition” mean in your context? Is the asset new? Old? Refurbished? What does “old,” mean? Is it the “situation,” the asset is in? The input pressure is too high/low? Ambient temperature is too high/low? The key is to have a condition matrix and lists of values… along with explanations… that everyone understands and applies to the assets in a consistent manner.

Establish Technical Monitoring Points

A further advanced approach is establishing condition monitoring points on assets where actual or virtual “meters” are attached to the asset itself. Warning and/or alert thresholds are also defined for these points. These are used to notify decision makers in a variety of ways if those thresholds are exceeded/not reached. As these meters are updated (either manually or automatically) the software tools at hand can process the gathering data and provide insights in several ways to your benefit.

Where to Begin your Condition-Based Maintenance Program

The process of beginning a condition monitoring program looks like this:

  1. Understand the methods of asset condition data capture available to you. You may be quite surprised what you already have access to!
  2. Select a subset of your assets to pilot with.
  3. Establish and draft document the method(s) used to capture asset condition data

Stop here a moment. There is nothing wrong with taking a manual approach to capture asset condition data as a starting point. As work or inspections are performed on assets, have the field crews capture asset condition data. Most asset/work management software, such as Maximo AAM for example, have the facility to capture, “meter,” data that is related to individual assets. While it is an extra task you are asking the crews to perform, very quickly you will see the value in this data. Even a small amount of captured data can begin to show trends and certainly the occasional surprise!

An example of this extra task would be to record the odometer of a fleet vehicle (or the run hours on a forklift) as it enters a service interval. Given that the vehicle is an asset in your system with an associated meter, this is an easy data point to capture.

  1. Start the capture/processing of data
  2. Filter/transform the data so it is useful (device sensors are VERY verbose with the data they produce)
  3. Develop several “visualizations” of the data to ensure it is in fact useful and that the presentation of the data makes sense
  4. Collaborate with stakeholders as to what the data is telling them. Everyone must agree that the data is good and useful for making decisions, as well as appreciate the visualizations.
  5. Document the outcome!

CBM Tools to Get You Started

Circling back to some of the tools that may assist you in establishing your CBM program:

  1. Many assets either come with or can be interfaced with telemetry devices that provide real data about the asset. Temperature, vibration, cycle count, sonic, etc. sensors in many cases send data out to a central “historian,” system. The amount of data coming from these sensors is quite extensive. Even a simple temperature sensor provides minimum, maximum, average, last hour, last 24 hours, etc. data elements. If you look at the raw data coming from these systems, you will be quite amazed at the amount and detail. In many cases, the calculations are done for you!

An aside: One could add imaging systems to this tool set. It is not uncommon to see a camera placed in front of a gauge of some sort, broadcasting the images back to Operations. Hopefully, someone is paying attention to the monitor! Motion detection and night vision are inherent functions in most cameras that can be leveraged in many ways to capture “conditions.”

  1. Now that you have all this data on the historian system, what to do with it? You could use this raw data as a foundation for simple reports and even metrics/dashboards. With all this data coming in, the visualizations of the data could be considered near-real time. With a report or business intelligence development tool connected to all this data, you could provide “metrics,” for all to see and even present on a big flat panel monitor hanging on the wall.
  2. Most current asset management software tools (EAM/CMMS) have infrastructure built-in to interface with sources of data. The path of data can be one-way or bi-directional depending on your needs. In the case of sensor data/historian, that data is presented to the EAM/CMMS and can be used in several ways. Just a few examples are:
    • triggering the generation of preventive or corrective maintenance work orders based upon increasing cycle counts or thresholds being exceeded
    • alerting maintenance staff… not just the operations staff… as to immediate issues with assets
    • showing trends per asset
    • automating the report of downtime events
    • automating inspection activities by pre-filling in data elements in online inspection forms
  1. Without getting into the weeds, keep in mind that most software systems these days leverage open interface technology such as APIs, REST, etc. Given these interfaces are normally well documented, and the concept of an API is very well known to the average developer, the task of interfacing your sensor data to your EAM/CMMS is not as daunting as it was 10-15 years ago.

All of this comes together when the assets themselves are telling you their current conditions and whether anything needs to be done about them. If all is in the green, take that long lunch. If not, most likely you will have more information that you did in the past to quickly solve the problem and get the production line going again. All this condition data being captured over time greatly increases the effectiveness of your maintenance program and fosters decisions based upon facts vs. conjecture.

The check engine light is on… do something!

Article by John Q. Todd, Sr. Business Consultant at TRM. Reach out to us at if you have any questions or would like to discuss deploying MAS 8 or Maximo AAM for condition based maintenance / monitoring.