Is Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) right for you?

Whether you are starting from scratch in developing a structured maintenance program or tweaking a system that is currently in place, Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) is likely a process worth your consideration. A holistic approach that consolidates various methodologies such as Preventive Maintenance (PM), Predictive Maintenance (PdM), intentional Run-to-Failure (RTF), and reactive maintenance, RCM focuses on maximizing the maintenance of physical assets while minimizing cost, downtime, and negative operational impact.

What’s the history of Reliability Centered Maintenance?

Pioneered in the 1970s by the United States airline industry, RCM was born out of necessity in response to an uptick in commercial airplane crashes in the 1960s. Maintenance personnel realized a “one size fits all” approach was inadequate to address the unique form and function of physical assets that demanded the highest standards of performance, reliability, and safety. The 1978 Nolan and Heap United Airlines report details the origins of the RCM philosophy.

What are the benefits of Reliability Centered Maintenance?

Of course, you want to consider the risks and benefits of Reliability Centered Maintenance. In our estimation, the RCM approach is more comprehensive, less reactive, and increasingly efficient compared with other maintenance programs that employ a single, standalone methodology. We believe that RCM is a powerful course of action that can accommodate a broad spectrum of physical assets, industrial processes, and operational dynamics. When employed effectively, RCM has the ability to produce streamlined results as well as maintenance outcomes that align directly to customized objectives.

How do you begin implementing RCM?

First, you should define and evaluate the equipment functions that are necessary for your current operation. For task-based functionality, ask questions like, “What purpose does this equipment serve? Why did we buy it? How is it running… in terms of speed, output, product quality, etc.?” For user-based functionality, ask questions like, “Can personnel operate this asset with efficiency? How difficult is it for operators to interact with the HMI or other control stations? How does it perform in terms of user safety?” Conducting a thorough asset analysis by defining and documenting component functionality is a critical first step in executing RCM.

What’s after Reliability Centered Maintenance analysis?

Great question! Next in the process of RCM implementation, you should consider multiple dimensions of asset failure. For each asset defined in the analysis phase, you will begin by identifying failure modes and evaluating their effects on equipment function. For example, are you observing complete failure, partial failure, or temporary partial failure? And then, what happens as a result? Routine operation can be impacted by a range of unfavorable outcomes: equipment downtime; production delays; increased maintenance costs; personnel injury; component, system, or organization-wide failure.

But don’t stop there…

Now, you should determine the why behind the what and pinpoint the specific cause of asset failure. It may prove tedious to perform a thorough examination in order to find the underlying flaw within the operation since machine faults can be difficult to diagnose, not routinely encountered, symptomatic of further underlying defects, and strenuous for personnel and resources. As such, this step will likely require you to execute a Root-Cause Analysis (RCA), Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA), or other systematic evaluation. However, your RCM initiative cannot effectively mitigate the consequences of asset failure nor address the failures themselves unless you first identify foundational problems.

RCM and problem-solving

Let’s transition from discovering problems to discovering solutions. Reliability Centered Maintenance will help you optimize the way you approach equipment issues, both short- and long-term. Based on what you learned in the first two phases of asset analysis and failure examination, you will formulate and execute a holistic maintenance plan that emphasizes production consistency, asset reliability, and personnel safety. You will likely incorporate a variety of maintenance strategies throughout your production operation: maybe Preventive Maintenance (PM) for this component, Predictive Maintenance (PdM) for that asset, intentional Run-to-Failure (RTF) for another machine, and reactive maintenance in this critical process. Your goal in utilizing RCM is to develop and execute a systematic approach that is both purposeful and continuous in addressing maintenance issues.

So, what’s next?

Another excellent question! Chances are, if you’ve read this far, you’re already committed to researching and implementing maintenance solutions and best practices in your given industry. In short, we believe Reliability Centered Maintenance training will transform your current context and help you see immediate and ongoing success, and we’re here to partner with you in that endeavor.

A leader in the industrial field for 30+ years, Multi-Skill Training Services (or MST) has a team ready and willing to audit your existing maintenance program, communicate the findings, help you develop an appropriate action plan, and facilitate the seamless integration of RCM strategies tailored to your unique situation. Contact Barry Masters, Director of Maintenance Foundations, to schedule a site visit and explore Reliability Centered Maintenance training for your company.

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Multi-Skill Training Services, Inc. (MST) can enhance the performance of your industrial maintenance personnel by improving your maintenance employees’ technical skills through targeted training.