Reliability Centered Maintenance Explained & How to Successfully Perform RCM
Answered November 05 2019
Each maintenance strategy has its merits, and while some are technically more cost-efficient than others, it’s often best not to stick with one single strategy. The process of choosing the best strategy for each piece of equipment is the core of reliability-centered maintenance.
What is reliability-centered maintenance (RCM)?
Reliability centered maintenance (RCM) is a maintenance strategy that involves using the most optimal methods to keep equipment running. It’s essentially a thorough analysis of what’s needed to help company assets function reliably while keeping costs down. That analysis involves assessing the causes of equipment failures, what parts are needed, the criticality of each asset, and other factors.
RCM vs. preventive maintenance
Preventive maintenance and reliability-centered maintenance are often mistaken for being the same thing. While preventive maintenance has a number of advantages including increased equipment life, reduced energy usage, and fewer unexpected failures, it can run up maintenance costs when applied to every asset in a facility. Because PM isn’t selective like RCM, it can be very inefficient.
Reliability centered maintenance reduces inefficiencies by assigning unique maintenance activities to individual assets. Each asset is “put under the microscope” and is carefully considered before a type of maintenance is assigned. In some cases, this may happen to be preventive maintenance.
Where RCM fits in with predictive & preventive maintenance
While RCM isn’t the same as preventive or predictive maintenance, RCM will likely make use of PM and PdM strategies. Remember that RCM is the process of analyzing the reasons behind equipment failure and what strategies would work best to solve them. Often, the best solution for a given type of equipment failure involves preventive or predictive maintenance tasks—the point of RCM is to discover that fact and put it into action.
It’s worth noting that PM or PdM aren’t always called for, such as if the asset is low-risk, or if it’s too old for regular monitoring and inspections to be cost-efficient. In those cases, other maintenance strategies might be a better fit.
How poor maintenance reliability impacts businesses
Ultimately, the goal of RCM is to make sure maintenance tasks are both efficient and effective. The goal is to keep costs down, while maintaining equipment reliability. If maintenance is handled poorly, the following issues may arise:
The less reliable your machines are, the more downtime you’re likely to have. This may result from more frequent breakdowns, but it can also involve increased time spent on repairs and routine tasks. If maintenance planning is handled poorly, regularly scheduled tasks may cause more downtime than necessary.
Companies that can’t operate at maximum capacity lose profits due to decreased productivity. The more often equipment breaks down, the lower equipment availability will be, and that ultimately diminishes revenue. In addition, profits may also be lost on increased maintenance costs as expensive repairs become more common and PMs become less efficient.
Unsafe work environments
Machinery that doesn’t work at peak performance not only costs more to keep running, but it can also pose a safety hazard. Sudden faults or failures in heavy equipment can threaten the safety of employees working nearby. In addition, if maintenance isn’t planned properly, it can make repairs or PM tasks more dangerous to perform.
Quickly depreciated assets
Poorly maintained equipment tends to wear out sooner, diminishing its overall life expectancy. This leads to rapid depreciation and increased costs since assets have to be replaced more frequently.
Slow production times
Poor reliability means lower production. Equipment fails more frequently, maintenance tasks take longer, and while machines might technically function, they may not operate at maximum capacity.
Evaluation criteria for RCM
Reliability centered maintenance involves a thorough analysis of each asset’s failure modes, criticality, impact, and so forth. This analysis often involves answering important questions about the equipment’s purpose, performance requirements, and impact on the system as a whole.
9 common RCM questions to ask
Answering the following questions should give you a clear idea of what types of maintenance you should implement for each of your assets.
- What is the item’s purpose (main action) and performance standards?
- What are the ways it can fail to perform its main action?
- What events cause each failure?
- What events result from each failure?
- How does each failure impact the system as a whole?
- What is the probability of each failure occurring?
- What task can be performed proactively to prevent, or lessen the impact of, the failure?
- How would the cost of preventive actions impact profitability?
- What actions must be taken if a preventive task can’t be found?
The 6 steps in performing RCM
Performing RCM is a multi-step process, and not one that you want to rush. The following steps will help you implement reliability centered maintenance in your facility.
1. Valuable machinery/equipment is identified
First, pinpoint which pieces of equipment are most important to maintain. This may involve performing criticality analysis on each asset to compare the seriousness of equipment failure with that failure’s frequency. From there, assets can be prioritized based on risk and overall impact on your processes.
2. Reasons for system failure are identified
Once you’ve prioritized assets, outline the ways each asset might fail along with the causes of each failure. Looking at past data or performing root cause analysis (RCA) can help you pin down the typical failure modes for each piece of equipment.
3. Those failure components are recorded
Once you’ve pinpointed each type of failure and its root causes, record them for planning purposes. Having them written down or logged into a database—perhaps as notes attached to the asset in your CMMS—will help you when conducting the next step.
4. Engineers/maintenance teams work to find an optimal solution
Once you know how each piece of equipment can fail, it’s time to start working on the best solution for each cause of failure. This involves selecting the right type of maintenance for each asset. Some examples of maintenance strategies include:
- Reactive maintenance, best for non-critical or small items
- Preventive maintenance, for items with recognizable failure patterns
- Condition-based maintenance, for assets that aren’t subject to wear or that fail randomly
- Predictive maintenance, for highly critical assets with random failure patterns
The type of maintenance and the way it should be conducted are hashed out, and a plan is created for each asset.
5. Optimal solution is put in place
Once the best solution for each asset is selected, it’s time to put it into action. Maintenance planners outline the timeframes, required equipment (such as sensors), MRO inventory stock items, and other details for each asset’s maintenance plan. Once complete, the plan is put into effect.
6. Results are monitored over time for improvement
Over time, you should record and track the results of your RCM tasks. As you gather data on each asset’s performance and the impact of your maintenance plans, you’ll be able to make adjustments to improve your results and streamline future costs.
You can use reliability-centered maintenance to decrease maintenance costs while upholding compliance by applying the right types of maintenance to individual assets. Instead of applying a single maintenance type facility-wide, you can use RCM to make maintenance more targeted, individualized, and efficient. This is a maintenance strategy that requires significant resources upfront, but has the ability to turn your maintenance program into a world-class operation.
FAQs about reliability centered maintenance
The best KPIs to track your maintenance program’s performance include PMP, response time for repairs and work orders, reactive maintenance tasks per machine, schedule compliance, maintenance backlog, and maintenance overtime.
When trying to balance your maintenance workload, it helps to take a close look at your scheduling practices, coordinate with staff members, and evaluate your staffing needs as a whole. Taking a holistic approach will help you make informed decisions about how you assign work.
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The biggest mistakes facility managers often make include an unhealthy focus on budget, failing to listen to employees, and mismanaging inventory. These issues can be solved by focusing on efficient spending, team collaboration, and solid inventory management practices.
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The eight kinds of waste set forth in Lean Six Sigma are outlined by the acronym DOWNTIME:
- Non-utilized talent
- Extra processing
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It’s possible to make preventive maintenance more efficient by optimizing schedules, tracking KPIs, monitoring equipment, training staff members, and implementing different maintenance strategies.
The most common mistakes made in PM programs revolve around planning, schedule compliance, and poor rollout of new methods/technologies, such as a CMMS.
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