As asset-intensive organizations have to deal with many types of equipment and machinery, emergency scenarios and unexpected breakdown issues are quite common. These unforeseen preventable failures lead to unplanned downtime lowering productivity and revenue. Reacting to these unexpected breakdowns as and when they occur can be a costly affair due to loss of asset reliability and higher maintenance cost. Shifting to Reliability-centered Maintenance (RCM) can solve these challenges and increase asset reliability and productivity.
What is Reliability Centered Maintenance?
RCM is a corporate-level maintenance strategy implemented to optimize the maintenance program of an organization. It differs from reactive/preventive maintenance methods because it adapts a specific method for each asset or subsystem. RCM is potentially the most efficient maintenance strategy for increased asset reliability and reduce cost.
The primary function of an RCM approach is preserving the system’s functionality. It identifies the condition that causes downtime and prioritizes failure modalities by analyzing maintenance costs. The data decide what specific action provides the best return on maintenance spending and prevents failure modalities.
Understanding Various Maintenance Approaches and Maturity:
1. Reactive Maintenance (Also known as Run-to-Failure): It is a maintenance strategy that reacts to an asset failure or after a need occurs. This approach aims at restoring a broken-down asset to its system condition as it avoids the costs of regular checkup maintenance repairs.
2. Preventive Maintenance: The planning & scheduling of equipment maintenance at regular intervals prevent assets from breaking down or resolving issues before it occurs. This process retains the system functionality by preparing a systematic inspection and work order.
3. Predictive Maintenance: It is a condition-based maintenance approach that monitors assets in real-time to predict when it needs maintenance before it breaks down. It avoids downtime by analyzing when equipment needs care.
4. Reliability-centered Maintenance: RCM is a structured maintenance strategy designed to identify the best maintenance method at each individual piece of equipment and create a unique schedule accordingly.
The main difference between RCM and other maintenance models is the scheduling of individual equipment. While Preventive/Predictive maintenance strategy is generalized across several types of equipment, RCM takes a deep look at each piece of equipment, analyzes it, and creates a unique maintenance strategy. In terms of cost, preventive/predictive maintenance is expensive due to extensive scheduling needs. RCM only has upfront costs that decrease over a period of time as equipment-specific maintenance procedures reduce inefficiencies.
What are the assessment criteria for RCM?
For an effective Reliability-centered Maintenance program, there are a set of minimum evaluation criteria defined by SAE JA1011. There are seven criteria that need to be evaluated and analyzed for each equipment:
1. Identify System Function: You must first identify the primary system function of the equipment and how it meets the customer’s needs.
2. Identify Failure Modes: The failure modes of assets vary from one another and the industry type. Common considerations include asset lifecycle, environmental conditions, human errors, and asset manufacturing flaws.
3. Identify Failure Causes: Once you have identified the failure modalities, you must analyze their cause by understanding the events that could have led to its failure.
4. Identify the Effect of Failure: Naturally, the next step is to associate the effect of these failures on various operations to combat issues such as unplanned downtime, production, and capital loss. This step establishes the need for an RCM system.
5. Identify Consequences of Failure: Assets have failures at different levels of severity. Establishing how each affects the equipment and operations should be a crucial step.
6. Preventing Failure: The ultimate goal is to prevent these failures and achieve more efficient and cost-effective maintenance. To do so, you must implement proper measures at regular intervals based on the situation.
7. Identify Alternatives: RCM differs from other maintenance approaches as it considers the option of modifying an existing asset function or even replacing it when required to achieve reliability in maintenance.
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After following the steps to evaluate equipment and its failure condition, you have to prioritize the maintenance process based on criticality and follow continuous planning and scheduling to reduce costs and improve asset life, among other outcomes such as:
● Meet regulatory compliance and EHS measures.
● Align operations with your business goals.
● Achieve individual improvements for each plant, process, and system.
● Collect accurate and valuable data for better decision-making.
Now, we now know that RCM helps your organization create measurable improvements by individually focusing on each asset’s condition and its reliability. However, for a successful implementation, you need the right partner who has proven experience working on similar implementations.