Reliability-Centered Maintenance (RCM)

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If you’re a manager or maintenance technician, you know that reliability is key to keeping your operations running smoothly. But what steps do you take to ensure reliable performance? One approach is known as reliability-centered maintenance (RCM). In this post, we’ll explore what RCM is and how it can help improve equipment reliability.

What is Reliability-Centered Maintenance?

Reliability-centered maintenance is a comprehensive preventive maintenance strategy that focuses on reducing system downtime and increasing Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). It does this by identifying and addressing the root causes of equipment failures, rather than simply treating the symptoms. RCM requires a close partnership between maintenance technicians and management, as both groups need to work together to develop an effective plan for maintaining critical systems. If done correctly, reliability-centered maintenance can help organizations achieve a high degree of reliability and consistency in their operational performance.

What Exactly is Reliability?

Asset management through reliability is more holistic and long-term than maintenance alone. Reliability is not the same as other maintenance-related concepts, so why is it important to understand the difference? The avoidance of unplanned downtime is essentially what reliability refers to. Unpredictable breakdowns indicate that a piece of equipment is unreliable. Alternatively, you may define it as the likelihood that a component or system will perform a required function for a specified time under specific operating conditions.

Reliability vs. Availability

Reliability and availability are often confused or used interchangeably. As discussed earlier, a piece of equipment is reliable when it avoids unplanned downtime. Accordingly, availability is the probability that a system will not fail or remain in need of repair at the time it is needed. The vital piece of that statement is “when it is needed.” You may have a piece of equipment that is 100% reliable but only 80% available. This is because the 20% that it is unavailable may be planned downtime when you don’t need the equipment. Availability is a function of reliability, but they are not one and the same.

It’s About More Than Reliability-Centered Maintenance

Over the years, experts have come to realize that design, operation, technology, as well as organizational culture, all have a significant impact on reliability. Hence, reliability encompasses far more than maintenance alone. So, there is a growing distance between reliability and traditional maintenance practices.

In the 1960s, an aviation industry study found that asset age caused only 11% of failures. As a result, people’s views of equipment failure changed drastically. What were the causes of the 89% of failures that weren’t related to the equipment’s age? That brought the creation of condition-based maintenance. condition-based maintenance added a new layer to asset management, but it was still solely dependent on the machine’s existing state. 

Now, reliability-centered maintenance has grown in recent years. This idea focuses on choosing maintenance actions to maximize overall machine reliability. A reliability-centered maintenance strategy can encompass a wide range of systems and processes. Because, as we demonstrated previously, reliability takes into account everything from organizational culture to design.

A Reliability-Centered Maintenance Example

Reliability-centered maintenance isn’t here to replace other maintenance strategies. Instead, a reliability-based strategy will if done correctly, incorporate a variety of maintenance methods. The goal is simply to do what makes an asset more reliable. Take an automobile, for instance. If you were to take a reliability-based approach to care for it, you would change your oil according to a time-based preventive maintenance schedule, check your tires according to condition, and go with a run-to-failure method for your light bulbs. Reliability-centered maintenance is using the best maintenance method to maximize the reliability of each component.

Implement RCM in Your Asset Management

With improvements in productivity, design, technology, and data processing, it makes sense that as we learn more and gain more tools, our approach to asset management becomes more comprehensive. When it comes down to it, reliability-centered maintenance is best when you include all of the knowledge, tools, resources, and maintenance methods at your disposal.

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