A key aspect of competition in industrial maintenance is the trade-off between cost and risk. Decision-making is dependent upon up-to-date information about distributed and disparate plant, coupled with knowledge of sensitive non-technical issues. Enabling technologies such as the Internet are making strides in improving the quantity and quality of data, particularly by improving links with other information systems. In maintenance, the problem of disparate data sources is important. It is very difficult to make optimal decisions because the information is not easily obtained and merged. Information about technical state or machine health, cost of maintenance activities or loss of production, and non-technical risk factors such as customer information, is required. Even in the best information systems, these are not defined in the same units, and are not presented on a consistent time scale; typically, they are in different information systems. Some data is continuously updated, e.g. condition data, but the critical risk information is typically drawn from a historical survey, fixed in time. A particular problem for the users of condition-based maintenance is the treatment of alarms. In principle, only genuine problems are reported, but the technical risk of failure is not the full story. The decision-maker will take into account cost, criticality and other factors, such as limited resources, to prioritise the work. The work reported here automatically prioritises jobs arising from condition-based maintenance using a strategy called cost-based criticality (CBC) which draws together three types of information. CBC weights each incident flagged by condition monitoring alarms with up-to-date cost information and risk factors, allowing an optimised prioritisation of maintenance activities. CBC does not attempt to change the strategic plan for maintenance activities: it only addresses prioritisation. The strategy uses a thin-client architecture rather than a central database, and is illustrated with examples from food manufacturing. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.