Reliability centered maintenance (RCM) is a process whereby organizations identify the physical assets (e.g., machines or tools) required to produce their products and create a comprehensive strategy for keeping them online and operating at an optimal level.
RCM is a highly customized process with a unique approach for each asset tailored to its usage, key component parts, and unique threats to usability. The ultimate goal is to maximize equipment availability while reducing the need to replace assets, thereby reducing costs. It differs from other maintenance procedures in that it treats every asset differently depending on its specific needs, importance to the overall process, and how it needs to be monitored and maintained.
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Before specialization and the global supply chain separated the builders of equipment from their ultimate end-users, those who previously built physical assets were often the ones who used them, thereby having an innate understanding of their inherent parts. As specialization increased and the builders of products were no longer the end users, customers of physical assets needed a more comprehensive and strategic methodology to understand and address the parts of their machinery.
This was especially true and critical for the aviation industry, which is commonly attributed as the birthplace of RCM. As the crash rate of airplanes accelerated in the 1960s, the industry had to change how it handled maintenance, which was not happening frequently enough to prevent those catastrophic crashes. The industry needed help identifying possible failures and had to change its approach. Time-based maintenance, where interventions happened on a specific schedule, was no longer working. Some studies proved that spending less time and cost on maintenance but handling it so more strategically produced better results, suggesting that a more efficient approach was possible.
In fact, the name reliability centered maintenance comes from a 1978 Nolan and Heap report for United Airlines, which sought to codify the new process for ensuring better airplane safety through a new approach to equipment maintenance. The impact of this report is so lasting that virtually every RCM approach evokes the Society of Automotive Engineers JA1011 standard, which the Nolan and Heap report created.
Now, RCM has spread to nearly every industry as an intelligent and cost-effective way to run maintenance during the manufacturing process.
Reliability centered maintenance analysis requires several components to work in coordination with each other. Above all, a well-functioning factory requires a system whereby all workers log in and identify which tools and equipment they are using so the organization understands the amount of wear and tear on their machines as important data points to incorporate into its reliability centered maintenance program.
There are four major types of maintenance programs that a company can do.
Also known as corrective maintenance, this costly type of maintenance addresses asset failure after the fact. Reacting to assets after they've failed is costly, a burden on the manufacturing process, and, with RCM, entirely avoidable by focusing more on other types of maintenance.
Preventive maintenance involves conducting regularly scheduled maintenance activities to help prevent failures in the future. This involves addressing specific actions before potential asset failure, such as cleaning, tightening or oiling components, or replacing parts. Preventive or scheduled maintenance uses machine learning, operational data analytics and predictive asset health monitoring to optimize maintenance and reduce reliability risks, thanks to maintenance workers addressing a potential problem via a preventive task.
This proactive maintenance approach uses sensors, data, the Internet of Things, and other automated monitoring to help engineers make more informed decisions on when to perform maintenance. A hallmark of RCM is only to intervene and provide maintenance when necessary, which is why predictive maintenance, also known as condition-based maintenance, is highly favored.
A maintenance strategy where a company tolerates equipment failures to avoid maintenance costs. By allowing a functional failure, this maintenance process usually only makes sense if the cost of replacing products is cheaper than the cost of preventive maintenance or predictive maintenance.
Any interruption to factory operations has severe consequences, including reputational damage, hard costs, and slowed growth. Successful implementation of a reliability centered maintenance program prevents costly interruptions to overall production, producing several important benefits, including:
Asset RCM is much cheaper than replacing products because it prioritizes and optimizes the most important assets, uses automation and technology to replace costly maintenance tasks, and intervenes only when necessary. This is true when preventive maintenance is at the forefront of the RCM strategy to avoid unnecessary actions.
As companies launch sustainability initiatives, maintaining product functionality and avoiding the need for premature asset replacements is a net positive for both businesses and the environment. RCM enables companies to reach their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals.
Addressing potential failures before they become unsolvable ensures that those assets remain in service but it also extends the overall lifetime of the asset.
Due to equipment reliability, a fully functioning factory operating as intended will keep a company's supply chain running as intended, ensuring customers receive timely deliveries.
Implementing RCM is not without some tradeoffs, however. Companies that had a much more manual process may struggle at the onset of creating an RCM process, so it’s good to know what they will need to address.
For companies starting from zero, RCM can require significant investments in time, money, and resources. In some scenarios, the company may need to alter existing equipment or replace it with newer versions incorporating sensors or other automated technology. This could mean an upfront CAPEX cost, but the company should expect to recoup those costs in time thanks to increased efficiency and fewer costly breakdowns.
Moving from a reactive or preventive maintenance model to RCM is a jump of several degrees in complexity. It requires replacing technology, building a comprehensive process, and training your workforce to utilize the new system.
Codifying RCM into the organization will require an operational strategy and culture transformation, which some executives and employees may need help adapting. It may take extensive training and C-suite calls to action to get everyone on board with the new approach.
While RCM involves significant automation and technologies, many components still require human decision-making, such as risk assessment and when to intervene. As with other human decisions, errors and mistakes can happen.
RCM requires several specific steps, all working in ordination with each other.
It behooves organizations to document (or review) their existing processes, no matter how simple, to understand how they were previously approaching maintenance. This will demonstrate to leadership how much work will be required to achieve RCM.
Each piece of equipment must be analyzed to understand its parts and how the individual equipment fits into the larger factory. As part of this, identify which assets are critical. Fortunately, smart software, like a CMMS, has long replaced the days of spreadsheets and manual documentation.
Understanding how to keep equipment running requires a cross-disciplinary team, including engineers, mechanics, coders, maintenance workers, and personnel from other departments, to help create and document the RCM process and remain involved in its implementation.
Following the guidance of SAE JA1011, create a process that incorporates best practices but is customized to your unique needs. How your process works will depend on your assets, which need immediate upgrades, your production schedule, and hundreds of other steps that will dictate wear and tear and how you can best keep the manufacturing process running.
Intelligent asset management, monitoring, predictive maintenance and reliability in a single platform
Improve asset reliability with condition-based predictive maintenance. Unify disparate operational data into analytics-driven predictive maintenance models that help you optimize maintenance planning to improve asset reliability.
Preventive maintenance is the act of performing regularly scheduled maintenance activities to help prevent unexpected failures in the future. Put simply, it’s about fixing things before they break.
IBM is helping companies across industries apply predictive maintenance to improve business performance. Access five IBM client examples demonstrating how predictive maintenance in the cloud is helping businesses from five different industries excel.
Asset managers are fast realizing how disruptions can affect even the most prepared organizations, thereby increasing the value of automated asset monitoring and maintenance programs that empower workers to do more with less.
Short for computerized maintenance management system, CMMS is software that helps manage assets, schedule maintenance and track work orders.
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Asset performance management (APM), allows companies to enhance their maintenance strategy with IoT to make more informed decisions and expedite their transformation from preventive maintenance to more predictive and even prescriptive actions.
Get the most value from your enterprise assets with Maximo Application Suite. It’s a single, integrated cloud-based platform that uses AI, IoT and analytics to optimize performance, extend asset lifecycles and reduce operational downtime and costs.