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How to Implement Reliability-Centered Maintenance (RCM)

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Although it’s been around for years, reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) is still being used today. But what about this strategy is so crucial to the maintenance industry? 

Developed in the late 1960s by the commercial aviation industry, reliability-centered maintenance responded to the increasing complexity of aircraft systems. It showed the immense need for systematic and efficient maintenance strategies in the industry.

After its beginnings in aviation, this strategy spread to many other industries – mostly notably to the military, manufacturing, and transportation.

What Is Reliability-Centered Maintenance (RCM)?

Reliability-centered maintenance is a systematic approach to maintenance management. It aims to optimize maintenance activities in order to ensure the availability and reliability of assets while minimizing costs. It involves identifying the most effective maintenance tasks for each asset based on its criticality, failure modes, and potential consequences.

Over the years it’s evolved into one of the most efficient strategies for industries to apply to their equipment. But, these industries also found out a few things along the way.

They realized that in maintenance, there’s a difference between doing what has to be done and what can be done. RCM helps managers choose one strategy for each asset, aiming at preserving its performance standards.

The Main Goal of RCM

Overall, the main focus of RCM is to reduce the life cycle cost (LCC) of an asset.

The LCC is the sum of all costs with the equipment, from its specification, installation, operation, and maintenance until its decommissioning, uninstallation, and disposal. Because of how it takes LCC into account, reliability-centered maintenance is one of the most profitable maintenance models that exists today.

Additional key principles of Reliability-Centered Maintenance include:

  • Identifying and prioritizing critical systems and equipment that significantly impact safety, production, or operations helps organizations allocate maintenance efforts.
  • Function-oriented analysis learns the functions of each asset, and identifies potential failure modes that could prevent those functions from happening.
  • Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) is used to analyze failure modes, their causes, and their potential consequences. This analysis helps determine how critical each failure mode is, and enables companies to mitigate risks.
  • Proactive Maintenance Approach: Following a proactive approach to maintenance helps us prevent failures before they occur. It encourages the use of preventive maintenance, predictive maintenance techniques, and condition monitoring to detect and address potential issues in advance.
  • Optimization of Maintenance Strategies: Various factors are considered to determine the optimal mix of maintenance tasks. These include failure consequences, maintenance costs, and the potential benefits of different maintenance approaches.
  • Continuous Improvement: It’s an iterative process that encourages continuous improvement. By monitoring and analyzing the performance of maintenance activities, we can enhance asset reliability and performance over time.

Overall, RCM services ensure that maintenance efforts are targeted, cost-effective, and aligned with the risk profiles of assets. 

Steps to Implement RCM

A typical RCM process involves 6 steps:

A picture listing the 6 steps to implement RCM

Now, let’s take a look at what each of these steps really entails.

1. Choose the Equipment

When implementing any type of reliability maintenance, the first step is choosing the equipment that will follow the strategy. This process involves utilizing the criticality matrix as well as considering safety, legal and economic effects.

We must add every asset to the radar that you wish to add to the program. This should be done as if you could scan your installation as a whole. 

2. Identify the Functions

Now we need to figure out what each piece of equipment does, and how it contributes to the overall process. This involves describing what tasks each equipment is expected to perform, both in words and numbers.

Let’s take an example of a pneumatic press used in the cosmetic industry. Its function is to press cosmetic materials and turn them into different types of makeup products. To understand its role better, we can calculate how many eye shadow products it produces in an hour.

This step helps us realize that each piece of equipment is part of a larger system. By understanding the functions of each equipment, we get a bigger picture of how the entire system operates.

3. Identify the Functional Failures

The next step is to identify the failures that prevent the equipment from fulfilling its expected production tasks. These failures, known as functional failures, disrupt the equipment’s ability to perform its intended functions.

If we take an electric motor, for instance, some of the functional failures may include:

  • Disarming due to overcurrent
  • Short-circuit damage
  • Bearings damage
  • Rotor unbalance
  • Loss of starting torque

In other words, you need to list the facts that, if present, could lead to the asset’s unplanned breakdown.

4. Identify the Failure Mode and Effects

In step 4, we examine the factors that can lead to failures, and understand their potential impacts. This crucial process involves conducting a Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA). 

In FMEA, we carefully assess the production process to identify possible failures that could disrupt the process. We determine not only the specific symptoms or behaviors associated with these failures. We also find the resulting consequences or effects. This analysis is typically carried out in three steps:

  1. Point of failure:

Here you must compile a list of equipment that’s crucial for optimal operation, like gears, bearings, and retainers. The best way to do this is by creating a table with three columns. 

In the first column, list the names of the equipment. In the second column, describe their functions. And, in the third column, include all the essential components associated with each piece of equipment.

  1. Failure analysis:

The heart of FMEA lies in failure analysis; there are 3 essential questions used:

  • Failure mode: How does the failure present itself? Which sense does it trigger (visual, hearing, smell, or touch)?
  • Failure effect: What is the consequence of this failure?
  • Cause of failure: What led to the failure of that component?

For example:

  • Failure mode: Shock of flanks (excessive vibration)
  • Failure effect: Disarming of electric motor
  • Cause of failure: Lack of adjustment in the Back Backlash

After answering these questions, you can begin to understand how each part of your equipment is important for entire processes. Attention to detail is important, as the effect can be catastrophic if a problem occurs.

  1. Risk assessment

Lastly, all you have to do is quantify. The risk assessment considers three factors:

  • Occurrence of failure
  • Severity of failure
  • Odds of detection

Each of the three items above will receive a score from 1 to 10. We then multiply these three scores to get the Risk Priority Number (RPN). 

The higher the RPN, the more attention and priority we should give to that point in the process.

5. Select the Maintenance Tasks

The next focus is on minimizing or removing the risks of production interruptions. This can be achieved by assigning specific maintenance tasks that improve the overall functioning of the equipment. Let’s look at some different types:

  • Corrective Maintenance is suitable for non-critical items that don’t pose risks to the production process. It involves performing maintenance actions after failures occur, whether they are potential or functional.
  • Preventive Maintenance strategies reduce the likelihood of potential failures, such as regular inspections and replacing parts based on their usage time.
  • Predictive Maintenance involves monitoring and conducting tests to identify and assess the severity of potential failures at an early stage. This also includes the collecting and analyzing of equipment data, including factors like vibration levels, temperature, noise, and flow.
  • Prescriptive Maintenance focuses on failure analysis, identifying root causes, and optimizing equipment performance. It involves constantly improving processes and equipment based on knowledge gained from previous failures and maintenance events.
  • Proactive Maintenance aims to prevent equipment failures before they occur. Preventive actions based on data analysis and performance trends are taken, like regular inspections, condition-based maintenance, and maintenance activities.

6. Evaluate and Revise

Assessing and refining your RCM process uncovers areas for improvement, giving you a direction to go in with your maintenance strategy. Most of the time, this is done through discussions with experts in the field, or with your team.

Additionally, conducting mock-ups by simulating possible scenarios within the current setup provides valuable insights to identify potential improvements.

Benefits and Advantages of Reliability-Centered Maintenance

Successful implementation of RCM in your facility can benefit the company in many ways. 

First, RCM helps enhance equipment reliability by proactively identifying and addressing potential failures. This increased reliability helps teams increase safety as well, reducing the risks of equipment failures that could lead to accidents.

Reliability-centered maintenance also provides a structured framework for maintenance planning and scheduling activities. Companies can use this to create better coordination, resource allocation, and reduce disruptions to production processes. 

By focusing maintenance efforts on critical equipment and failure modes, RCM optimizes maintenance activities. This reduces unnecessary costs associated with corrective maintenance while ensuring effective use of resources.

When appropriate maintenance actions are implemented, RCM helps extend the lifespan of equipment, minimizing premature equipment replacement and associated capital costs. It’s because of these optimized maintenance tasks that increased operational efficiency can be achieved.

How TRACTIAN Solutions Support RCM

TRACTIAN is an AI-powered platform that supports Reliability-Centered Maintenance by providing real-time monitoring, predictive analytics, and maintenance management capabilities.

With patented fault detection technology, the TRACTIAN Smart Trac sensor is able to monitor vibration, temperature, and oil. This data is then collected and compiled for use by your maintenance and reliability team.

These insights can be used to diagnose asset issues and prescribe the type of intervention that needs to happen in order to get that asset up and running again.

For more on TRACTIAN solutions and to see how they work in your facility, follow this link and chat with one of our experts.

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About the author:

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Gabriel Lameirinhas

Founder and Co-CEO of TRACTIAN. Computer Engineer from University of Sao Paulo, Specialist in predictive and passionate about industrial maintenance.

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