Operations & Maintenance

Types of Maintenance Triggers

Ryan Chan

Running a maintenance program can be an expensive business, particularly if you have to spend your day as facility manager dealing with all manner of operational issues.  To be on top of these, it is imperative to have a system of reminders built into your CMMS software to alert you to the fact that some operation is impending or needs to be carried out.  But there is more than one type of trigger, and several different means for the system to alert you and your team to maintenance needs.  Not all of these can be driven solely by CMMS and they may require a more hands-on approach to operate them.  The most popular triggers are:

Time Trigger

Probably one of the most frequently used means of assessing the need for maintenance, the time trigger is linked to your CMMS and alerts to the requirement for maintenance at user-set time intervals.  Because time is the easiest concept to plan for, this might be used for fairly simple maintenance tasks such as applying grease to running gear or carrying out inspections on low-use equipment.  Similarly, because it can effectively be linked to seasons, and used to drive routine upkeep such as changing air conditioning filters during the spring months ready for summer.  While the time trigger is effective for preventative, condition based, and predictive maintenance regimes, if you have any specific requirements that need to be carried out on a regular basis, this is the ideal means of activating it.

Usage Trigger

Like the time trigger, the usage trigger is based upon a specific aspect of the equipment under question, and in this case it’s the actual usage of it, regardless of the time period.  This is less of a blunt tool than the time trigger, which is carried out on a regular pre-determined basis irrespective of the equipment condition, and actually looks at its use and bases maintenance on that factor alone.    This means that a particular piece of equipment only gets the maintenance it needs once it has completed a certain amount of service.

The obvious example here is company vehicles which reach a certain mileage, or number of hours of activity, but it can also be applied to machines that carry out certain time or quantity-constrained operations.  By taking meter readings and adding them to your CMMS, you can receive an alert when the quantity/value is approached.

Usage triggers are an excellent way of capturing equipment that is subject to irregular use and requiring servicing after a certain number of operations.  Like the time trigger, usage triggers are especially useful when dealing with preventative, condition based, and predictive maintenance, and for items that don’t fall into other trigger methods completely.

Breakdown Trigger

Very much a feature of run-to-failure maintenance programs, the breakdown triggers are simply a cue to fix or replace a piece of machinery or equipment that has suffered a failure and is unable to continue in its present state.  The failure may be small and easy to repair or may be catastrophic and require complete replacement of the equipment, but the issue triggers a session of unplanned maintenance to get the equipment area working again.

The breakdown trigger is useful when a company is running a mass of low-cost or easy to replace equipment and has a stock of replacement parts or units which can be swapped out with ease, minimising downtime.  Not having a planning requirement, makes this kind of maintenance cheap to run but requires a trade-off between either having parts and equipment available along with personnel to be able to fit them at all times.  That means holding shelf stock for what may be protracted periods of time which is contrary to many companies Just In Time (JIT) delivery policies, designed to cut down on stagnant stock.

Breakdown triggers are commonly associated with Reactive, Corrective, and run-to-failure modes of maintenance, and are rarely seen as part of a credible, corporate-approved maintenance strategy.  Since they are activated after a failure, they cannot be prompted by your CMMS package.

Condition Trigger

As its title implies, this mode of maintenance is driven by assessment of a particular piece of equipment and a decision made as to whether it is appropriate to keep running or requires maintenance. Plainly, this decision-based need makes the condition trigger a complex and labour-intensive option that requires the maintenance team to have a strong knowledge of the equipment that they are dealing with in order to make informed decisions as to the condition of it.

But the condition of equipment can be assessed remotely in many cases, allowing sensors to gauge and monitor aspects such as temperature, vibration, and noise to pick out any significant change in these which may signify a need for maintenance.  By engaging automated equipment, the need for expensive periodic assessment can be negated, making this a less expensive option for machine upkeep. If automated assessment is used, the condition trigger is ideal for use in a predictive maintenance program.

Event Trigger

Some damage to company equipment and facilities can arise as a result of other events occurring, triggering a need to review and assess certain things that may have been damaged or affected by it.  This might include the need to carry out electrical checks and the condition of infrastructure if a flood has occurred, or the state of air conditioning filters if a small fire has taken place.

This too can be driven by CMMS, and the system can be set to alert the maintenance team to the need to carry out certain checks and cleaning operations following specific incidents, ensuring that anything that may have been affected can be assessed.  It is important to understand that, while Event Triggers take place after an event, they may not all be directly attributed to the event itself and may include the servicing and maintenance of wet and dry vacuum cleaners following extensive use following a flood.

Maintenance triggers are an ideal solution to implementing your maintenance needs as they can be used to alert both managers and technicians to upcoming maintenance needs, and semi-automate the system.  With a system like this connected to your CMMS, there is little possibility of maintenance tasks being forgotten or missed and you can be assured that everything that needs to be done, will be completed when it needs to be.

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