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Fitting Your Condition Based Monitoring Program to Your Facility by Tim Goshert, CMRP, Cargill & Andy Page, CMRP, Allied Reliability

As the strategic value of condition based monitoring (CBM) programs becomes more apparent to manufacturing and operations leaders, the need to quickly source the CBM talent for staffing these programs becomes urgent. With this urgent need comes a search, sometimes even a frantic one, for viable staffing options. The options vary in their ability to produce short term and long-term results effectively and efficiently.  Some of the important considerations are the company culture, the sales forecast, the long-term profit strategy, the management/labor relationship and the current state of the assets deployed.  All of these become significant factors when deciding which sourcing strategy best fits a company’s needs.

CBM Sourcing Strategies

When considering options for sourcing your condition-monitoring program, there are essentially three options from which to choose.  Although each has inherently unique advantages and limitations, best practices results may be achieved no matter which option is selected. The probability of success of any of these programs may fully depend on factors that will be outlined in detail later in this article. The options you may consider for your program are: in-house, outsourced and hybrid programs.

In-house programs employ your company’s staff (supervisors, engineers and crafts people) to complete the work of the CBM program. Outsourced programs employ an external supplier to complete the CBM program.  Not surprisingly, hybrid programs employ some combination of the two. For instance, an external CBM supplier could provide the on-site leadership of the CBM program, while the company could provide the people to staff the program. There are also a number of other combinations possible with the hybrid option.

It is important to note that each type of CBM program - in-house, outsourced and hybrids - can all achieve great success. All stakeholders in the program must understand and agree to the level of commitment required to sustain success. If all stakeholders, from top to bottom, are willing and able to dedicate the necessary level of resources, they will realize a tremendous return on their investment in Conditioning Based Monitoring.

In-House Programs

In-house programs offer some advantages that appeal to the very core of most people’s desire for self-reliance. Developing your CBM program in-house allows your employees to create a significant feeling of ownership of the program. This can be very advantageous when the findings and results that come from a CBM program are challenged within the organization.

One substantial limitation can be the difficult work involved to create and sustain a vision for the future of the program, especially if no one has done it before. Additionally, if the company’s core competency is typically NOT condition based program operation then the organization might have little familiarity with many of the available condition monitoring tools and processes. Often, a reliability engineer (or another manager) is in charge of the development of a CBM program when he/she has no experience and the task might be just an addition to their current responsibilities. Sometimes they may attend one or two training classes on a particular technology and then, armed only with that limited knowledge, try to develop a comprehensive program. In cases like this, understanding the technologies, their applications and how that information is layered into the daily work practices can quickly overwhelm even the brightest reliability engineer. Additionally, having little or no previous experience with developing a program can hinder progress and confidence in the program. A third significant limitation is that many companies starve the CBM program over time by not providing the most up to date tools, software, training, and other necessities of a strong and successful program — mostly under the guise of cost control. CBM analysis can become a casualty. Often, analysts begin struggling to complete their needed CBM work because their efforts are diverted away from CBM tasks and focused on reactive urgent work. Essentially, they become part time CBM analysts. Finally, there can be a lack of knowledgeable mentors who are able to share significant information on important issues and questions. Very often CBM analysts are addressing daily issues with limited access to CBM mentors and experts to help them with questions.

Outsourced Programs

CBM programs that are outsourced certainly have some notable advantages. In general, there is no quicker way to get a program off the ground and producing quality results than outsourcing it to a dedicated CBM supplier.  The development and implementation phases of the process are usually extremely efficient because suppliers are selected based on their experience in building programs from the ground up.

Outsourcing your program, however, has its own limitations. When the CBM programs are not operated by in-house personnel, it can become challenging to create the natural checks and balances that are required for effective and efficient use of the information coming from the CBM program.  Essentially, the CBM supplier could be producing excellent results in terms of identification of component defects. However, when there isn’t anyone internally to own the program and use the data in a meaningful way, there is the chance that information sits idle. The CBM data begins to spoil because it has a limited time span during which it is useful. Another potential problem with outsourced programs is that the CBM program has no internal ownership.  There must be buy-in from people all along the chain of command - from frontline trades workers to the executive level.  CBM programs can fail and do fail from the lack of buy-in at one level or another within the company.

Hybrid Programs

In theory, hybrid programs have the potential to offer “the best of both worlds”.  These types of programs combine the on-site leadership of the CBM supplier and the company‘s internal manpower to staff it or some other combination.  The hybrid program overcomes many of the limitations of both in-house and outsourced scenarios when both internal company personnel and external supplier leaders are involved at the lowest level.  Unfortunately, management attitudes toward the CBM program can limit the success of hybrid programs. Historically, many plant supervisors don’t see the CBM program as valuable and necessary, instead viewing the reassignment of “their” crafts people as the equivalent of “losing” them. A competition for the company’s crafts people can then develop, which can create a roadblock to the success of the program. When additional resources and people are needed for overtime hours, breakdowns, emergency repairs, plant turnarounds and vacation relief, CBM techs are pulled over to do what is perceived as more “valuable” work”.

Ideas on How to Make the Right Choice

How do you decide what program is right the choice for your company?  What factors are important to consider?  These are excellent questions, so let’s dig to find the answers.

When making decisions about the right CBM program for your company you must have one overriding purpose and goal.  The purpose of the program is that it must deliver high quality outputs that are an accurate assessment of the known health condition for all the critical assets in the facility.  The goal of the program is to deliver accurate recommendations to correct root cause health defects of these assets.

The decision starts with how best to deliver on the above purpose. Here are several factors to consider:

1. Company’s overall size and complexity

2. Amount of plant locations

3. Diversity of plant locations

4. Diversity of plant size

5. CBM core competency

6. Availability of competent CBM resources in the region

7. Ability to give non-biased view of the health of assets

Company size, amount of plants, diversity of plant locations and diversity of facility sizes are the first four factors to consider.  The decision regarding which type of CBM program is appropriate for your company will depend on these specific situations.  Let’s use these 3 scenarios as examples of how to select the program that best suits your company.

Scenario 1: A company with one or more large facilities.  By large we mean that the Replacement Asset Value (RAV) exceeds 100 million US dollars per plant.  The plant(s) may be located in remote areas, which means finding qualified CBM service providers may present a challenge.  These factors may force the facility or facilities to be self-sufficient. In this case, the best choice is to commit to leading and managing an In-house CBM program.  A second choice may be the hybrid program where the internal people collect the data for the CBM program, and an external CBM service provider does the analysis, perhaps through remote diagnostics.  Because there may be significant challenges to source and keep CBM talent, the last choice would be to outsource the entire program to a CBM expert company.

Scenario 2: A company that has one or many medium to small size facilities in a region or regions of the world.  For example, facility sizes are all less than 100 million in RAV.  Since there is a smaller amount of equipment at each facility, buying CBM equipment for each of these smaller facilities might not make economic sense. In other words, because of the potentially low utilization rate of the equipment, it might not make sense to invest in equipment for each facility.  Because of the corresponding low utilization of the CBM skills, it may be difficult to keep qualified internal CBM analysts at each facility.  The combination of these factors probably eliminate the choice of an in- house program.  In this scenario, the best choices are most likely an outsourced or hybrid program.

Scenario 3: A company that is a very large global company with many facilities in many countries.  In addition to the large size of the company, the diversity of size among plants adds another layer of complexity. Less than 20 % of the plants are greater than $100 Million in replacement asset value, with some reaching as high as a billion dollars.  Another 40% of the plants range in size from $100 Million down to $25 Million.  This leaves the remaining 40% of the plants at less than $25 Million in replacement asset value.  The diversity in size, locations and complexity of this situation makes any kind of company-wide CBM initiative a very complex challenge.  Additionally, the company’s corporate leadership may want a standardized condition monitoring program for each site so consistent comparisons and benchmarking can be accomplished company-wide.  This example is really a blend of the first two scenarios. Several companies in industry with these parameters have chosen to outsource the program with suppliers who specialize and have a “core competency” in condition monitoring. This allows a consistent high-quality CBM program to be used in all facilities, regardless of size or location.

However, before final decisions on CBM program approach is decided, it is prudent to consider the last several factors:

CBM “core competency” is a vital decision point. What is core competency? We think Jim Collins, in his book “Good to Great”, defines it best by calling core competency the company’s “Hedgehog”.  His definition of Hedgehog is “a simple, crystalline concept that flows from deep understanding about the intersection of three key dimensions:

1. At what you can be best in the world

2. What drives your economic engine

3. What you are deeply passionate about.”

Therefore, some key questions to ask, and answer, before embarking on a CBM program are:

1. Do your company’s leaders in business, operations or maintenance have extensive knowledge of all the PdM technologies available? Do you offer your maintenance leadership advanced training or knowledge to successfully lead a best practice CBM program? Do they “eat, sleep and breath” CBM?

2. Does your company have time to learn and experiment with CBM? Companies are faced with implementing many other elements of the maintenance and reliability improvement process – are you willing to dedicate manpower to a CBM program?  When there is an internal need to build and improve planning and scheduling systems, assemble spare part kits for job completion, improve Root Cause Analysis systems, improve spare parts inventory control and improve crafts skills dramatically, you can get buried with these other highly important issues that will prevent your doing both simultaneously.

3. CBM technologies are highly technical and the analysts need advanced training and experience - the more the better.  It requires the analyst have proper prerequisites (i.e. background education and motivation) before embarking on a career of CBM learning.  Many In-house CBM programs do not have the ability to choose the right person for this job due to plant work rules, lack of the proper personnel and sometimes selection criteria that is not well thought out.  Great CBM analysts are developed from people with the proper background and motivation, continuing education, testing, and years of full time experience under a seasoned mentor.  A successful CBM program attracts and keeps personnel with these characteristics.

4. Since CBM may not be a company’s core competency, the company may not have a career path for analysts to progress in skills and responsibilities.  Additionally, they may not respond well when employees need to move from one geographical location to another.  Sometimes CBM programs pay people significantly under market value and the aggressive, sharp analysts leave after they have gained ample training and experience.  Therefore, many programs never mature past novice level since the CBM talent leaves once trained.

A significant factor to consider is the availability of finding and retaining qualified, certified CBM analysts in varied regions of the world.

Our belief today is that this can be a major challenge. There is a shortage of qualified and certified analysts in several regions of the world.  This situation has opened up a market for the possibility of unqualified companies and/or people filling this void.  It is imperative that sourcing decisions are made by evaluating CBM program value, benefits and the quality of deliverables instead of just the cost of the services.  Buyers need to be educated on the CBM technologies so that costly mistakes are not made by selecting inferior products or services.  Decisions based on program cost alone may produce undesired and unwanted results.

The final element to consider is the need for a “3rd party independent review” of a company’s and facility’s asset health.  For the best results, a company should have a corporate maintenance and reliability organization to develop standards for machinery health by individual PdM technology.  This is important so the valid machinery defects can be alarmed by the appropriate technologies and so the root causes of equipment defects can be identified by CBM analysts.  This M&R organization is needed to have consistent asset health report results that are comparable between plants within a company.  In our experience, facilities that complete their own asset health reports do so very optimistically and, therefore, do not recognize and/or acknowledge all of the equipment defects that exist.  In other words, some sites fail to face the brutal facts of their facility’s health.  Although this is less likely to happen with a 3rd party review, outsourced CBM analysts can sometimes be put under extreme pressure at some companies/facilities to relax the standards, or not report in the required way. This causes friction at the facility.  Many times though, a 3rd party view of a facility’s equipment health is viewed much more positively from outside entities such as insurance companies, regulatory agencies, and other interested parties.

Trust Based Relationships

Whether in our personal lives or our professional careers, trust is at the heart of all relationship transactions.  Trust can act as a multiplier, thus increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of an encounter. Mistrust or lack of trust can be the root cause of slow moving and ineffective encounters.

Trust doesn’t simply affect how we feel about a person or a company; it also affects how we interact with them.  Remember, our actions are the results of thoughts, which are the results of feelings. Our feelings are the by-product of processing events that happen around us and to us through the mental and emotional filters we all have.

To paraphrase Stephen R. Covey from the book The Speed of Trust – in all relationships, either personal or professional: as trust increases, speed increases and costs decrease.  Conversely, as trust decreases, speed decreases and costs increase.  So what is an example of trust being a multiplier and not a divisor?  A personal example might be that as a result of trusting a friend’s driving directions, we don’t have to waste time double checking their accuracy.  Therefore, as a result of trust, the encounter went smoother and quicker than it would if you had received directions from another (un-trusted) source.

A business example might be a CBM solution provider. There are numerous places where a trust based relationship is mandatory for the rapid development of increased effectiveness and efficiency not otherwise possible with an un-trusted solution provider.  Some examples include:

– The ability to co-develop corporate standards requires a great deal of trust.  Allowing a solution provider to literally help “decide policy” can only come from a fundamental belief that they have your company’s best interest in mind.  In terms of CBM, this would manifest itself by allowing the CBM Team to own the technology standards and implement Management of Change (MOC) for modifications to the standards.

- The ability to provide your CBM supplier with access to CMMS and process data requires a tremendous amount of trust

– without it, their ability to analyze the data will be severely hampered.  Repair and performance history are vital parts of a comprehensive analysis strategy.  Preventing a CBM analyst from gaining access sets the tone up front that a level of mistrust  exists.

– Being a beta test site for new methods, new process flows and work procedures requires trust – some innovations will fail to deliver the anticipated or even desired results. When this occurs, the absence of trust will readily be seen in the finger pointing session that typically occurs in environments where collaboration isn’t encouraged and valued.

– Trust must be at all levels. Any outside CBM provider must also be capable of building trust with the workforce, not just trust with the corporate level. The CBM analyst has to trust and be trusted by the supervisors and craft personnel. The CBM manager has to trust and be trusted by engineering and management. Without trust at all levels, it is much more difficult for the CBM program to produce meaningful results, and it will never reach its full potential for the company.

In summary, choosing the best CBM option is imperative for a company to be successful in the maintenance and reliability improvement process. Careful evaluation and review of the options and factors need to be understood for your company’s situation.  No matter which option is selected, in-house, contracted or hybrid, a relationship with a solution provider will be required, even if for a short while.

That relationship must be a relationship built on trust. And, like collaboration, relationships built on trust must be born of mutual respect.  Trust based relationship mean that traditional market surveys or cost plus mentality do not apply. It is about mutually agreeing on a goal, negotiating compensation for that contribution and working together to monitor the process, driving unnecessary costs of doing business out, and, if the model isn’t working, being open to modifications along the way.

About the authors

Timothy Goshert has 28 years of experience working in the food processing industry, including plant operations management, project engineering, construction management, and maintenance & reliability management.  Tim’s current role is the Worldwide Reliability and Maintenance Manager with Cargill, a position held since 2000. He is responsible for the company’s worldwide reliability and maintenance initiatives and is chairman of the company’s Worldwide Reliability and Maintenance Steering Committee. Tim and other Committee members educate and lead Cargill’s business units in the company’s reliability and maintenance vision, strategies and tactics.

Tim holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Penn State University. He earned his CMRP (Certified Maintenance & Reliability Professional) designation from SMRP in 2001.

Andy Page is the Director of Allied Reliability’s training group that specializes in training clients in reliability engineering topics from root cause analysis, Reliability-Centered Maintenance and integrated condition monitoring programs. Andy has 15 years experience in the maintenance and reliability field, beginning with Noranda Aluminum where he was responsible for implementing a comprehensive PdM program and continuous improvements of the planning and scheduling function. Next he held the role of Regional Services Manager for CSI. He then worked for Martin Marietta Aggregates as the Asset Reliability Manager.

Andy is well grounded in reliability and maintenance topics with particular emphasis on PdM technologies including advanced experience in vibration analysis and ultrasonics and Level 2 certifications in infrared thermography and oil analysis. Andy has an engineering degree from Tennessee Technological University and is a Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professional (CMRP) through SMRP.

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