The Fractal Solutions Blog

What is Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM)?

Nov 23, 2017 8:00:00 AM / by Larry Johnson

Reliability Centered Maintenance or RCM, is a process to determine the most efficient maintenance approach for a company, minimizing downtime and keeping physical assets running.

Originally a commercial aviation term, RCM was then adopted by the United States Military, later by the commercial nuclear power industry and finally by other commercial fields and industries years later.

The discipline of RCM allows machinery stakeholders to assess, monitor, predict and gain a further understanding of the working of their physical assets. RCM sees maintenance as maintaining machinery's functions a user may require in a defined operating context.

Reliability Centered Maintenance allows improvements to be achieved in areas such as, changes to operating strategies and procedures, establishing safe minimum levels of maintenance and establishing capital maintenance plans and regimes. 

RCM programs have 4 core elements, a program is Reliability Centered Maintenance if it:

  • Is designed and structured for system function preservation
  • Determines failure modes, the potential or actual ways something might fail. These failures are defined as any defects or errors, especially failures that affect the customer.
  • Prioritizes failure nodes by importance
  • Defines the maintenance task candidates and identifies the most effective one in the event of important failure modes.
RCM is widely defined by the technical standard SAE JA1011 (and more recently added to in  SAE JA1012) which identifies the requirements a program must meet to be classed as a RCM, starting with 7 questions:
  • What is the equipment supposed to do and what are the relevant performance standards?
  • Which ways can it fail to provide the function/s required?
  • What events cause each failure?
  • What happens if and when the failure occurs?
  • How much impact does that failure have, and how does it matter?
  • How can the failure be prevented or the risk of this failure be reduced?
  • What must be done if a preventative solution can’t be found?

Reliability maintenance has shifted from a repair and breakdown focus to an asset management culture, the preventative, allowing companies to be proactive and not reactive.

The RCM industry has seen monumental changes from its roots, with an ever-fluctuating economy, growing competition and advances in efficiency methods, companies struggle to find the right people to fulfill their Reliability Centered Maintenance program.

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Topics: Reliability Centered Maintenance

Written by Larry Johnson

Larry Johnson is the founder and president of Fractal Solutions.  He is an internationally known consultant, lecturer, and trainer in asset management and equipment reliability programs.

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