Basic maintenance triggers
Maintenance triggers are used to alert technicians that maintenance is required on an asset. Planning, acting on and recording maintenance triggers is key to keeping equipment at its best and available when you need it, while avoiding extra work. Leveraging technology, like a CMMS, is a key component of creating, tracking and executing effective maintenance triggers.
The five most common types of maintenance triggers
There are five common types of maintenance triggers: breakdown, time-based, event-based, usage-based, and condition-based. It’s important to understand when and how to use each one to achieve maximum efficiency and reliability at your facility.
As its name suggests, a breakdown maintenance trigger occurs when a piece of equipment breaks down and can’t be used anymore. The moment an asset stops working, an alert is triggered and maintenance is scheduled to fix the problem and return the equipment to operation.
Breakdown maintenance triggers are a clear sign that a run-to-failure maintenance strategy is being used for an asset. There are no preventive measures in place to stop failure before it happens. Instead, equipment is allowed to operate until it breaks down and only then is maintenance scheduled. While maintenance is not scheduled when using a breakdown maintenance trigger, a plan is still in place to manage the breakdown. For example, a light bulb is allowed to operate until it goes out, which triggers a maintenance order that can be fulfilled quickly because extra light bulbs have been stocked for this exact scenario. Breakdown triggers are usually put in place on non-critical assets that can be replaced or fixed quickly with little cost or effect on production with planned stock availability.
Maintenance types that use breakdown triggers: corrective, reactive, run-to-failure
Time is one of the most frequently used maintenance triggers. Here’s how it works: an asset is scheduled for maintenance on a predetermined schedule, such as the first of every month or every 14 days. When that time arrives, a maintenance work order is triggered, a technician is alerted and the maintenance task is completed. Time triggers come in many different shapes and sizes, from an hourly indicator to a seasonal one.
Time-based maintenance triggers are part of a preventive approach to maintenance. By scheduling maintenance at regular intervals, it helps ensure assets are functioning properly with a minimal amount of unplanned downtime. Using time triggers, small problems can be caught and fixed before they grow into bigger ones and lead to costly equipment failure.
Time-based maintenance triggers are best used for simple tasks, such as oil changes, and on assets that have an established best-before date, such as air conditioning filters that need to be changed every spring.
Usage-based maintenance triggers occur when as asset requires maintenance after operating at a certain output. A belt may need to be inspected after 100 hours of production, tires could be checked after 10,000km and induction sealing equipment might require maintenance after 20 production cycles. Whatever the case, when the asset meets this usage point, a work order is triggered and maintenance is scheduled.
Usage triggers are another hallmark of a preventive maintenance strategy. Rather than wait for an asset to deteriorate and fail with the strain of use, a trigger is identified to prevent unplanned downtime from happening. That belt is inspected after 100 hours so it doesn’t stop working in hour 101 or hour 150 or whenever you need it most.
Time-based maintenance triggers are best used on assets that are critical for production, are either heavily or irregularly used and have identifiable, usage-based failure rates, such as drills at a mining operation.
This type of maintenance trigger boils down to one sentence: if this event happens, it triggers that kind of maintenance. Just add a specific scenario and corresponding maintenance tasks. When the event is added into a digital maintenance system, like a CMMS, a series of tasks are triggered to help minimize the negative impact of the event or ensure assets function properly during the event. For example, if the basement of the facility floods, the electrical systems must be checked, or, if an audit is scheduled, certain assets must be inspected.
By its very nature, an event trigger is part of a planned, reactive maintenance strategy. Many events are unforeseen, but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan for the unexpected. Creating event-based triggers help maintenance teams build a blueprint for emergencies or a sudden adjustment, so tasks can be completed quickly, assets can be maintained properly and parts are on-hand when needed.
Event-based triggers should be used on critical assets that are prone to impact by external forces. For example, equipment at a facility susceptible to hurricanes or an asset with a higher emissions output that might be subject to new environmental laws.
When a certain element of an asset is not working the way it’s supposed to, it could mean something bad is about to happen. When a condition-based maintenance trigger is in place, it identifies the problem areas and alerts a technician that maintenance needs to be performed. For example, an engine may be overheating or a bearing on a conveyor belt may be vibrating too much, which could lead to the entire piece of equipment breaking down. When these conditions are discovered, maintenance tasks are triggered, so the engine can be cooled down or the bearing can be tightened.
Condition-based maintenance triggers are part of a well-planned preventive maintenance program. If a piece of equipment isn’t functioning right, it can be checked, adjusted and returned to normal operation without much expense or time instead of experiencing a costly and time-consuming failure. Various techniques are used to monitor the condition of an asset, track condition triggers and act on. These methods can range from inexpensive (visual inspections) to more expensive, technically demanding ones (vibration and thermographic analysis). The various methods for assessing condition-based maintenance are discussed here.
Condition triggers are the most complex triggers for maintenance. This is because data about the condition of each asset must be obtained and interpreted. The equipment required to perform condition monitoring often requires specialized training and experience to operate effectively. This is why condition-based triggers are best used on very critical assets that have predictable failure conditions and can integrate condition monitoring methods into their operation.