As all industrial and service organizations know, setting up an asset or piece of vital equipment is only half the job. The other half consists in performing maintenance tasks on any critical asset to prevent asset or equipment failures. Therefore, to ensure employee and environmental safety and for continued operational efficiency, companies must implement maintenance programs to extend asset life span, ensure equipment availability, and prevent possible failures.
This is where reliability centered maintenance (RCM) comes into play. First used in the aviation industry, where the potential of equipment failure is frequent, RCM has subsequently spread to other sectors where equipment and asset management are critical dimensions of company operations. However, what, exactly, is meant by RCM? Before discussing how your company can introduce reliability centered maintenance, let’s first discuss what we mean by RCM and how it differs from other maintenance strategies (such as risk centered maintenance).
What is Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM)?
RCM originated in the aviation industry before proliferating to other industries. It is now considered a ‘corporate level maintenance strategy’ – meaning that the strategy is applied to all company levels by the company leadership. The most essential aspect of RCM is to understand that it is a continuous process undertaken by the company to ensure continued asset reliability.
And what exactly happens during the RCM process? Simply put, RCM processes, as we shall see shortly, are concerned with matching assets/equipment with the appropriate and most cost-effective maintenance strategy. Of course, companies are not restricted by selecting just one maintenance strategy for all their assets. Instead, companies have a choice between different maintenance tasks and strategies – such as preventive maintenance, predictive maintenance tasks, condition monitoring, and so-called ‘run-to-failure’ strategies (the last being an example of reactive maintenance). The central mission of RCM is to match these strategies with assets to prevent equipment failures and extend asset lifespan.
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Difference Between Risk Centered Maintenance and Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM)
Now that we understand RCM, we can briefly discuss the differences between it and risk centered maintenance. While reliability centered maintenance (and subsequent RCM program) is concerned with pairing assets with the best maintenance strategy, risk centered maintenance is the process of deciding how a company uses its limited and available resources for its maintenance programs.
Risk centered maintenance begins with the following assumptions: there are always more maintenance tasks than workers, and, no matter how generous the maintenance budget is, the demand for budgetary resources among the maintenance team will always exceed the available supply of resources. Thus, risk centered maintenance must select which assets and equipment should be prioritized by a company. Then, with the criticality of each asset established, spare parts, time, and resources are designated for these assets.
The Three Phases of Reliability Centered Maintenance
Now that we have established what is meant by RCM, we can discuss how your company can establish an RCM program.
Phase 1 – Make a Decision
In phase 1, your company needs to outline how the RCM system functions using an RCM analysis. In other words, businesses need to ‘map out’ how each asset operates – including both the inputs and outputs of the asset. This is because companies need to understand every possible reason why failure occurs in assets and equipment. Moreover, companies should primarily ask themselves how the particular asset performs and its associated performance standards. Answering this question provides a good platform for the standard to which a business should maintain its assets.
It is usually a good idea to begin mapping the systems for assets prone to breaking down regularly or critical assets for company operations. In other words, these assets’ breakdown or complete failure causes high safety concerns or will dramatically affect company operations.
Phase 2 – Perform Analysis
In the analysis phase, businesses should first identify functional failures of assets and equipment. A functional failure (or even total functional failure) is the reason why an asset cannot perform its required functions. For example, functional failures can occur due to machine overuse/fatigue, human error, corrosion, or failure somewhere else in the system. A different way of framing this involves identifying failure modes for your assets. Again, critical failure modes are simply the reason why an asset is not performing efficiently. Following this, companies can conduct a deep analysis of the root causes of asset failure (this is explained in more detail below).
Finally, companies should identify what happens when a failure occurs. In other words, what are the safety, environmental, and operational consequences following equipment failure. Thus, during this period, the central question organizations should ask is, ‘why does each failure matter?’ The answers to these questions determine the criticality of failure modes and enable companies to rank consequences of asset failure.
Phase 3 – Take Action
Finally, with each failure mode identified and the root causes established, your company can decide the suitable preventive task and maintenance program for each asset. Once the appropriate maintenance tasks begin, your company should monitor the results of the RCM program. Essentially, these results are the foundation for any future RCM analysis. Of course, any maintenance program can only be improved by companies when they collect feedback on existing programs.
How to Implement a Reliability Centered Maintenance Program?
⦁ Select the Equipment
Of course, the first step is selecting the equipment that will be subject to an RCM analysis. Typically, equipment prone to breaking down (and therefore has high repair costs) or equipment essential for company operations should be selected for examination by the company first.
⦁ Define Boundaries and System Functionalities of the Equipment
Following this, companies need to establish how the equipment functions (in other words, what the asset does and the service it provides) and the system to which it belongs. Understanding the system to which a piece of equipment belongs involves mapping the equipment’s inputs and outputs. This is a vital component of reliability centered maintenance (RCM), as the cause of equipment failure could be a fault in the systems’ inputs. Moreover, mapping the entire function of the system (as well as the inputs and outputs) enables comprehensive maintenance management planning for all your assets.
⦁ Define Failure Modes
With the system and its inputs/outputs mapped out, your company can identify failure modes for your assets. A failure mode is simply a way a piece of equipment can fail to provide the desired service (or operate at the desired standards). For example, a failure mode could include machine overuse/fatigue, human error, or rusting/corrosion. Of course, failure modes will differ according to the piece of equipment or asset analyzed. For example, a conveyor belt will have different failure modes than an AC unit.
⦁ Identify Root Causes of Failure
Once each failure mode has been identified, it is time for a deep analysis of the root causes of machine or asset failure. We have identified some potential root causes of failure – including machine overuse and human error. However, the analysis must move beyond these categories. For example, while human error may be a root cause, it is essential to ask why and how human failure was a cause of failure (this analysis could reveal insufficient training as the ultimate failure factor, for example).
⦁ Assess Criticality of Failure Modes
With the modes of failure identified, it is time to assess and rank the criticality of them. Essentially, the consequences and effects of asset and equipment failure are analyzed here and subsequently ranked. Should asset or equipment failure affect safety at the business or result in significant financial losses (due to extended downtime or cost of replacement), these assets should be given priority by the organization.
Of course, assessing and ranking the criticality of failure modes is critical for reliability centered maintenance, as the results of this analysis determine the maintenance strategy assigned to each asset.
⦁ Find Appropriate Maintenance Tactic for Each Failure Mode
Once the criteria mentioned above have been evaluated, management can select maintenance tasks to perform on the assets. As noted, the maintenance task for each asset and piece of equipment will differ according to the conclusions reached above. After all, pairing appropriate assets/equipment with unique maintenance schedules is the central objective (and one of the desired outcomes) of reliability centered maintenance.
For assets that are critical to company operations (or whose failure can significantly jeopardize employee or environmental safety), the best maintenance management strategies will consist of performing preventive maintenance tasks or using a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) solution to help implement predictive maintenance. Both predictive and preventive maintenance are examples of proactive tasks that companies can use to extend the lifespan of the assets.
Compared to these proactive tasks, run to failure maintenance deliberately allows non-critical assets (for example, light bulbs) to fail before replacing them. In these cases, the overall maintenance costs will be lower by following a ‘run to failure’ strategy instead of constantly performing routine tasks.
⦁ Implement RCM and Review Recommendations
Finally, your business can now implement your reliability centered maintenance program! Once the program has been implemented, be sure to monitor its progress to ensure successful implementation of the program. Mainly, your company should review whether the maintenance program selected is correct. Moreover, performing these reviews enables your company to drive continuous improvement in the RCM process. If a suitable proactive maintenance task cannot be found for an asset, the company should make contingency plans to replace the asset once it fails.
RCM; The Right Choice for Your Company
When implemented correctly, RCM is the correct choice for your company. However, to fully realize the benefits of this strategy, your company also needs to implement a CMMS or Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) solution. When such a solution is implemented, collecting data regarding asset performance and sharing data on past maintenance jobs with relevant employees is far more manageable. This is why your company should consult the NonStop Group, which assists companies in establishing EAM solutions. The benefits of using the services of the NonStop Group are enormous – with audit-ready electronic forms and enhanced asset efficiency being only two of the benefits. Should you want these results and more, contact the NonStop Group today!