Asset Optimization with Reliability Centered Maintenance

When it comes to the management of physical assets in large facilities, maintenance is a primary concern.  Maintenance structures have evolved over the years with the advent of Enterprise Asset Management or EAM Systems, several forms of automated maintenance have evolved.  One of these is Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM), which deals with the analysis of failures and potential failures of physical assets.

What is Reliability Centered Maintenance?

A brief understanding of RCM is essential in order to get an insight into the way it functions as a maintenance process.

Reliability Centered Maintenance is an automated process to measure when Asset Maintenance will have the most value.  As a maintenance strategy, it has been adopted by more demanding facilities such as the aviation industry and commercial nuclear power industry in the U.S.  In some cases, it has also been incorporated by the U.S. military as a maintenance strategy.

Where RCM is different from predictive or preventive maintenance is that instead of focusing on the physical asset alone or choosing a set schedule for asset maintenance, it directs attention more to the functions of those assets with an effort to preserve the functions for the longest possible period.  The aim is not necessarily to preserve the equipment itself at top capacity; rather it is to preserve the output of the equipment with maximum efficiency.

Reliability Centered Maintenance provides a structured framework where the functions and possible failures of a physical asset can be analyzed.  Maintenance systems are then set up with the aim to not only to reduce maintenance costs, but to enhance the reliability of the asset for the duration of its lifespan.  Proactive methods are utilized to achieve this means.

The Basic Principles of Reliability Centered Maintenance

When creating an RCM plan, there are a few things to remember:

  1. The first thing to note is that RCM focuses on the function of the physical asset.  Unlike most other maintenance methods, such as condition based maintenance and preventive maintenance, Reliability Centered Maintenance is not necessarily about preserving the condition of the asset, but rather of the preservation of output of the asset.
  2. Secondly, it is important to know that RCM does not see only breakdown of an asset as failure; if the performance of an asset is unsatisfactory, RCM considers that a failure as well.
  3. RCM looks to the output of the asset as a whole, rather than the functioning of single units of that asset.  The general performance of a physical asset is more important to RCM than just the performance of one part of the asset.
  4. For Reliability Centered Maintenance to be effective, it has to be able to reduce the probability of failure in a way that is cost efficient.
  5. RCM is a dynamic system, as it relies on continuous data gathering and feedback.  It is more of a process to keep the assets productive versus a plan to keep assets running. This is what makes is a proactive maintenance technique.
  6. Most large facilities include shift or daily tour logs plus a Building Automation System (BAS) to ensure systems are running efficiently. RCM uses this information to evaluate asset performance, along with individual asset Key Performance Indicators (KPI) to optimize asset utilization.

These are just some of the basic principles of RCM. This method enhances the continued function of a facility by addressing it as a whole unit. As important as this form of maintenance is in facility management, it should not be used in exclusion.  The incorporation of an effective CMMS makes it possible to combine the different methods of maintenance into one cohesive whole.