What are the four basic principles of a Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) program?

A successful Reliability Centered Maintenance program:

  1. Is scoped and structured to preserve system function
  2. Identifies failure modes — that is, the ways 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

How do you implement a Reliability Centered Maintenance program?

There are three phases of a Reliability Centered Maintenance program and seven steps within these phases to ensure the program is fully implemented. The three phases are Decision, Analysis, and Act.

Phase I: Decision

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

1. Analysis Preparation

Reliability Centered Maintenance 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 even 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 Reliability Centered Maintenance Analysis

Equipment selected for RCM analysis should be critical to operations, subject to the cost of repair vs. cost to replace debate, and included in previous spending on preventive maintenance. To select the best equipment for RCM analysis, answer 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

Create a complete list of a piece of equipment’s functionality, including as much data as possible. It is important to specify your desired asset performance levels, rather than actual performance, as it may reflect an operational or maintenance issue. System functionality drives the required functions of the equipment supporting the system functions.

Phase II: Analysis

Conduct the Reliability Centered Maintenance 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 because of a 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 Failure Modes

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 Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) offers automation tools that reduce missing scheduled work and equipment failures, making PM optimization as efficient and streamlined as possible. PM Task Generation, PM Scheduling, and Inspections features facilitate continuous improvement and can support your 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 or system. Preventive maintenance is calendar or usage based, and helps to reduce the risk of failure, while predictive maintenance can detect the failure before it begins. Predictive maintenance is also known as condition monitoring.
  • Default actions: Reactive maintenance, or firefighting mode, deals with failures after the fact. Run to failure maintenance is a tactic where equipment is run until it fails, and then work is performed. A classic example of a component commonly run to failure is a lightbulb.

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

Reliability Centered Maintenance implementation with a CMMS

A properly implemented CMMS can support the RCM process. CMMS software 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 easily and consistently document work order history, failures, costs, and trends. A CMMS collects and centralizes the data you need to perform the analyses that Reliability Centered Maintenance requires.

What are the goals of an RCM Program?

The goals of RCM include the ability to evaluate, categorize, prioritize, and understand how to intervene in the impact of failures. Ultimately, by performing RCM analysis, your organization will develop unique maintenance schedules for each critical asset. Successful implementation of an RCM process, coupled with CMMS software, will increase cost-effectiveness, asset reliability, and equipment uptime. An RCM program can enhance your organization’s understanding of risk as well as improve decision making. Maintenance is not a one-size-fits all practice, and a Reliability Centered Maintenance program involves a detailed and tailored analysis.

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Industry professionals have described Reliability Centered Maintenance 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 Plucknette
  • 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 Maintenance?

A Guide to the Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) Standard (SAE JA1012) identifies the basic requirements a program must meet before it is truly an RCM program. 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?
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