What Is Reliability-Centered Maintenance?

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Reliability-centered maintenance is a process of planning maintenance inspections and procedures to ensure your equipment what you need them to do and to preserve its current function(s).

Reliability-centered maintenance, or RCM, begins with identifying the problems and potential problems with your equipment, beginning with how they can fail. RCM then leads you through an orderly process that leads you to identifying ways to prevent those failures.

We’ll explain more in this article.

Before you go further, feel free to download our Guide to Industrial Maintenance Training or check out our online industrial maintenance training courses and solutions.

The JA1011 Reliability Standard for Reliability

The JA1011 Standard, created by the Society of Automotive Engineers, is where you should begin your research into reliability-centered maintenance.

Titled “Evaluation Criteria for Reliability-Centered Maintenance (RMC) Processes,” JA1011 explains a series of 7 steps or questions to ask while planning and performing reliability-centered maintenance. They are:

  1. Which equipment and how well should it perform?
  2. What are all the different ways that equipment can fail (what are the failure modes)?
  3. What can cause those failures?
  4. What effects might could about as a result of those failures?
  5. How do those failures and their effects affect your company’s financial bottom line, or how else does it matter?
  6. How can you prevent those failures?
  7. If you can’t prevent those failures, what’s your backup plan to make sure the failure is quickly fixed?

Before we go further, we invite you to read our article on the Failure-Modes and Effects Analysis, or FMEA. As you’ll see, it’s centrally related to the method we just listed for you.

The Origins of Reliability-Centered Maintenance

The term reliability-centered maintenance was first used publicly by executives at United Airlines to describe optimum maintenance requirements for airplanes. By 1978, the United States Department of Defense had sponsored a report and other materials on reliability-centered maintenance, bringing the phrase and the concepts to greater public attention.

Before this work was done, the airline industry assumed that equipment tended to have a predictable, relatively-defined lifetime during which reliable operation could be assumed. As a result of the high crash rate of early jets, studies were conducted and it was learned that the idea of a predictable, steady lifetime expectation wasn’t true. That meant replacement couldn’t just be scheduled for a short period of time before the end of that anticipated safe lifetime.

Here are some of the new understandings that came about as a result of this research:

  • Most failures are not due to asset age
  • It is necessary to try to “manage” the process of failure through alternative maintenance strategies and techniques
  • Managing equipment on conditions, which is sometimes referred to as condition monitoring, conditions-based maintenance, and/or predictive maintenance, is essential
  • Risk management techniques had to be incorporated into maintenance strategies

Ranking Your Failure Modes

Some failures are critical. You absolutely don’t want them to happen because the cost, in financial or other terms, will be very high.

Other failures aren’t so critical. You don’t want them to happen–there’s a reason we call them failures, after all–but you can weather the storm if the failure does occur. At least you can weather the storm much better than you can the storm that comes from one of those critical failures.

If you’re familiar with basic risk management techniques, this approach probably isn’t new to you.

Conclusion: Reliability-Centered Maintenance Can Improve Your Efficiency and Lower Maintenance Problems

Your organization might want to implement RCM at your workplace. Let us know if  you have questions about training your workforce on RCM concepts or techniques and please share your insight if you’re currently using RCM already.

And before you go, download our Guide to Online Facilities Maintenance Training (just follow that link) or our Guide to Online Industrial Maintenance Training (just click the button below).

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Free Guide to Selecting Online Maintenance Training

Download this free guide to discover everything you need to know to select and use online maintenance training, including courses, learning management systems, and providers.

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Jeff Dalto, Senior Learning & Performance Improvement Manager
Jeff is a learning designer and performance improvement specialist with more than 20 years in learning and development, 15+ of which have been spent working in manufacturing, industrial, and architecture, engineering & construction training. Jeff has worked side-by-side with more than 50 companies as they implemented online training. Jeff is an advocate for using evidence-based training practices and is currently completing a Masters degree in Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning from Boise State University. He writes the Vector Solutions | Convergence Training blog and invites you to connect with him on LinkedIn.

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