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Can you really Justify Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) - Part II

by Christer Idhammar

My last column published in the September issue of Solutions Magazine generated much feed back. I expected to hear critique from devoted “RCM Purists”, but received nothing but comments of agreement from readers. 

Solution Magazine’s poll October 19, 2005 also confirms that very few organizations, if any, uses complete RCM analysis. Less than 7% answered that they use RCM regularly and 56% answered that they tried it but do not use it anymore. (October 31, 2005)

Below are written responses from three readers:

“Good article and I agree fully. RCM has its place in things like aircraft design. One large industrial plant put thousands of man-hours into it and claimed great results, but a visit to their plant showed that their calculations of benefits was based on assumptions, not hard numbers and they would not allow entry to the plant to talk to their craftspeople. I also think they started from a low point and good PM/ECCM would have achieved the same results.

On the other hand, everyone who is responsible for maintenance should read Moubray's book "RCM II". Its the most logical approach to maintenance that I've ever read, and while it doesn't need to be applied in detail, the concepts are great.” –Don A

“I read you article and agree very closely with your position on RCM. Prior to working in the paper industry, I worked in a Nuclear Power Plant. We went through an RCM type maintenance evaluation and the results were similar. It just amounted to a standardized table of easily identified failure modes and the actions to prevent or detect them. It looked very similar (to) the example in the article. At least I was able to get the right frequencies put in for the predictive maintenance work I was doing at the time. It did look like a good way to make some easy money if you can get a contract for an RCM analysis.

One additional point I would make about RCM that was not in your article is that the general theory is very good for any one in maintenance to understand. Working through some rigid RCM examples in the early stages of learning the maintenance profession does help drive the concepts home. In that respect, I would recommend it as a good training tool for career maintenance professionals. The training should also include how to take these concepts and use them in a practical and affordable way. Many maintenance departments have a variety of PMs on the books that were created when something failed and they had to do something about it. When we go through RCFA analysis of a failure at the (--) mill, I often use RCM type logic when someone offers up another PM as the answer to our problem. I basically ask exactly what the failure modes we are trying to prevent are and will this PM proposal accomplish that. This tactic has allowed me to kill a lot of bad PM proposals and create some good ones. It only takes a few minutes of brainstorming and some arguing and the process done." –James J.

“I too have encountered many paper sites where they have tried to apply all of the principles of RCM (classical) and have failed to produce any meaningful results, in fact, in most cases, NO results, but with plenty of costly effort.

I believe there is a place for the 'plain common sense' aspects of the RCM process, but obviously these have to be applied with moderation and show a return in the investment. As the old saying goes, it's not the process (journey), it's the output (destination) that is the objective. Too often I think we get caught up in the process.” –John Yolton. (He has agreed to include his name)

I would very much like to hear your comments on RCM and true results that could not have been achieved with less effort. attn. Christer Idhammar

Read: Can you really Justify Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) Part I