Choosing the Right Trigger to Suit Your Maintenance Program

Choosing the Right Trigger to Suit Your Maintenance Program

In an ideal world, your operations hum smoothly without skipping a beat. But the reality for most companies is that operations can encounter minor and major hiccups that can lead to a host of problems, from the temporary cessation of production to unfulfilled orders.

While it is not entirely possible to prevent the breakdown of your company’s assets, there are a few strategies that you can enforce, including preventive maintenance.

Making a case for preventive maintenance

Compared to reactive maintenance, you can expect less downtime with preventive maintenance. This is because your maintenance team is adequately prepared for the tasks involved, including having the right parts and tools on hand.

Preventive maintenance also allows your teams to minimize production interruptions, especially during crucial times. Unexpected breakdowns are kept to a minimum, if not totally eliminated.

In addition, you will notice that through preventive maintenance, you can get more out of your assets, especially in terms of asset life.

Finally, preventive maintenance boosts efficiency, productivity, and workplace safety.

But despite these advantages, there are a few downsides that you need to consider before making a switch to preventive maintenance.

Although your company can end up saving a considerable sum of money over the long term, the transition to preventive maintenance carries a high upfront cost.

You will also need to make a substantial investment toward personnel, tools, and spare parts.

Choosing the right maintenance trigger

Your maintenance team relies heavily on triggers to know when an asset needs to be worked on. Furthermore, triggers are used in creating and developing maintenance plans, ensuring that assets are well-taken care of while minimizing the waste of valuable company resources.

Should you decide to implement a preventive maintenance scheme or even improve your reactive maintenance program for your plant, one of the first things that you need to decide is which trigger to use.

Maintenance triggers aren’t exclusive to preventive maintenance. In fact, reactive maintenance uses a trigger: a breakdown.

– Breakdown trigger

When you use a breakdown as a maintenance trigger, that means an asset is used until it breaks down or fails. Your team does not perform any maintenance work on it until failure.

Allowing assets to break down completely may not seem like a sound maintenance policy, but it can prove to be a valuable strategy, especially in the allocation of resources. Specifically, it can be used for non-essential assets, which can either be easy to repair or replace, like light bulbs, for example.

– Time Trigger

One of the most commonly used triggers in preventive maintenance is the time trigger. Here, maintenance work is done according to a set schedule. The schedule can range from a matter of days, weeks, months, or even a full season.

When the specific time arrives, a work order is automatically triggered, and the maintenance crew works on an asset.

This type of trigger is ideal for performing more straightforward tasks, like replacing oil and spare parts which wear out fast.

Usage trigger

In a usage-based trigger, maintenance works occur when a specific asset or part reaches a predetermined output.

For example, the condition of a car tire may be checked upon reaching 10,000 km of travel.

Like the time trigger, the usage trigger is commonly used in preventive maintenance. The usage trigger ensures that an asset or its part is replaced before a breakdown.

This type of trigger is often chosen for mission-critical assets which are used heavily in the production process. Also, such assets typically have a usage-based failure rate, which is helpful in determining the schedule for maintenance works.

Event trigger

To an outsider, reactive maintenance may seem to be implemented with little forethought or planning.

On the contrary, some maintenance teams that use reactive maintenance use a trigger called the event trigger.

In an event trigger, maintenance work is performed when a specific event happens. For example, when a fire alarm goes off, the maintenance crew performs a series of checks on assets, and the premises of a plant after a fire has been ruled out.

Event triggers are used on the premise that although some events cannot be predicted, appropriate measures can be put into place. Furthermore, event triggers are typically used during emergencies and unexpected adjustments.

Usually, event triggers are used on assets that are critical to the production and those which are susceptible to external forces or events.

Condition trigger

When an asset is running optimally, you expect it to perform without any hitch. But prior to a breakdown, it will exhibit a few hiccups. These hiccups are what are called conditions.

When a condition trigger is used in maintenance, your team looks for a particular element that is not working as it is supposed to.

In this type of trigger, maintenance professionals look at the source of the problem in order to address the issue. For example, when an asset overheats or emits an unusual sound, a trigger is activated before things take a turn for the worse.

Conditions can be monitored in a variety of ways, ranging from visual inspections to the use of high-tech equipment.

Compared to other triggers, a condition trigger is more complex, requiring the acquisition and interpretation of accurate data. This is why this type of trigger is often reserved for critical equipment.

Which trigger should you use?

According to physical asset management experts, choosing the wrong trigger for your maintenance scheme can lead to one of two things: over-maintenance or under-maintenance. Either of these, in turn, can result in a variety of issues, including inefficient use of resources and breakdown of assets during crucial moments.

Usually, maintenance crews use either time or usage triggers. Each type offers its own sets of advantages and disadvantages that you will need to weigh carefully before settling on the type of trigger that suits your company’s needs.

It is not necessary to settle for just one type of trigger. In fact, some maintenance teams use a combination of the aforementioned triggers for their maintenance programs.

What is crucial is to choose the triggers that make the most sense to your current and future needs. Consult experts like your CMMS vendor for guidance.


Andrew Piechowiak is the General Manager – Asset Management Business at SGE Group International, a multidisciplinary group of companies with core business interests in Asset Lifecycle Management, Land Development and Software. Aladdin is SGE’s proprietary Asset Lifecycle Management software, designed to empower FM, Maintenance and Asset teams across multiple industry sectors.


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