Reliability Centered Maintenance

What is Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM)?

Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) is a process used to determine what must be done to ensure that physical assets continue to do what its users want in its present operating context. Ultimately, by performing RCM, organizations are looking to develop unique maintenance schedules for each critical asset within a facility or organization.

There are four basic principles of an RCM program, stated in different ways by organizations all over the world. A program is RCM if it:
1) Is scoped and structured to preserve system function
2) Identifies failure modes, which are the ways in which something might fail. Failures are any errors or defects, especially ones that affect the customer, and can be potential or actual
3) Addresses failure modes by importance
4) Defines applicable maintenance task candidates and selects the most effective one in the case of important failure modes

Industry professionals have described an RCM program as:

  • “The best way to develop a maintenance improvement program improvement program.” – A. M. Smith
  • A process that “uses a cross-functional team to develop a complete maintenance strategy designed to ensure inherent design reliability for a process or piece of equipment.” – Doug Plucknett
  • A way “to identify components whose functional failures can cause unwanted consequences to one's plant or facility.” – Neil Bloom

When is a Maintenance Program considered “Reliability Centered”?

A Guide to the Reliability-Centered Maintenance (RCM) Standard (SAE JA1012) identifies the basic requirements a program must meet before it is truly RCM. It begins with these seven questions:

  • What is the item supposed to do and what are its associated performance standards?
  • In what ways can it fail to provide the required functions?
  • What are the events that cause each failure?
  • What happens when each failure occurs?
  • In what way does each failure matter?
  • What systematic tasks can be performed proactively to prevent, or to diminish the consequences of the failure?
  • What must be done if a suitable preventive task cannot be found?

How Do You Implement A Reliability Centered Maintenance Program?

There are three phases (Decision, Analysis and Act) of a reliability centered maintenance program , and seven steps within these phases to ensure the program is fully implemented.

Phase I: Decision

Justification and planning based on need, readiness and desired outcomes.

1. Analysis Preparation
RCM analysis is only as effective as the team behind it. The most effective cross-functional teams include maintenance employees, project leaders, subject matter experts, and if possible, executive leadership.

Additionally, documenting procedures and your project plan can be vital to keeping your team on track. The beginning of an RCM project is a great time to outline your organizational goals, project management concerns, budget and timeline, and potential obstacles.

2. Select Equipment for RCM Analysis
Equipment selected for RCM analysis should be critical to operations, the cost of repair vs. replace and previous spending on Preventive Maintenance. To select the best candidate, ask yourself these questions:

  • Could failure be difficult to detect during normal operation and maintenance?
  • Could failure affect safety?
  • Could failure have a significant impact on operations?
  • Could failure have a significant impact on spending?

3. Identify Functionality
Define a complete list of a piece of equipment’s functionality, including as much data driven information as possible. It is important for your team to specify your desired asset performance levels instead of actual performance, as it may reflect an operational or maintenance issue. System functionality then drives the required functions of the equipment supporting the system functions.

Phase II: Analysis

Conduct the RCM study in a way that provides a high quality output.

4. Identify Functional Failures
Functional failure is the inability of an asset or system to meet acceptable standards of performance. Failures can encompass poor performance, over performance, performing unnecessary or unintended functions, or complete failure. For example, when a motor bearing is failing due to lack of lubrication, a Total Functional Failure would be the motor not rotating, and the motor failing to function.

5. Identify and Evaluate the Effects of Failures
Next, your team should document what actually happens when failures occur. What can be observed? What is the impact of the failure on production? Is there a significant safety impact?

6. Identify and Evaluate the Effects of Failures
Once you identify your equipment and systematic functional failures, failure modes must be considered. One of the most common techniques to approach discovering failure modes is Failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA). FMEA is a step-by-step approach for identifying all possible failures in a design, a manufacturing or assembly process, or a product or service. Understanding the effects of failure involves asking questions such as:

  • What are the safety concerns with this failure?
  • What impact does this failure have on operation/production?
  • Does this failure mode result in full or partial outages?

A CMMS offers automation tools to help reduce missing scheduled work and equipment failures, making PM optimization as efficient and streamlined as possible. PM Task Generation, PM Scheduling and Inspections help facilitate continuous improvement and support for an organization’s Preventive Maintenance program.

Phase III: Act

Act on the study’s recommendations to update asset and maintenance systems, procedures and design improvements.

7. Select Maintenance Tasks
At this point, the most appropriate maintenance action can be identified based on the failure mode information. Failure management techniques can be grouped into two categories:

  • Proactive tasks - Preventive and Predictive Maintenance techniques are performed to prevent failure of a piece of equipment of system. Preventive Maintenance is calendar or usage based, and helps to reduce the risk of failure, while Predictive Maintenance, or Condition Monitoring, can detect the failure before it begins.
  • Default actions - Fire fighting or reactive maintenance deal with failures after the fact. Run-to-failure is a tactic where equipment is run until it fails, and then work is performed.

Selecting the right strategy for failure management is rooted in an understanding of failure modes, criticality of equipment and the economic impact of failure.

RCM implementation with a CMMS

A properly implemented Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) can support the RCM process. CMMS helps maintenance programs develop goals for cost tracking, benchmark data and monitor the bottom line. For example, with eMaint’s reporting and dashboard tools, organizations can consistently document work order history, failures, costs and trends. With a few clicks of a mouse, organizations have access to the data to perform the analyses that RCM requires.

The goals of RCM include the ability to evaluate, categorize, prioritize and understand the appropriate way to intervene in the impact of failures. Ultimately, by performing RCM, an organization is looking to develop unique maintenance schedules for each critical asset within a facility or organization. Successful implementation of a RCM process, coupled with CMMS software, will increase cost effectiveness, asset reliability, equipment uptime, and an enhanced understanding of the level of risk that the organization is managing.

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