What is Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM)?

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”?

Evaluation Criteria for Reliability-Centered Maintenance (RCM) Processes (SAE JA1011) 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 informati