How to Harness Reliability-Centered Maintenance for Advanced EAM

Effective enterprise asset management (EAM) hinges on your organization’s ability to identify, monitor and design interventions and modifications for all your physical assets and infrastructure at each point in their lifecycle—from design to disposal and replacement.[1] Maintenance is a critical part of EAM, ensuring that assets continue to provide optimal production. The most basic form of maintenance is reactive. When a problem or failure case arises, what must be done to fix it? Preventative maintenance is another clear-cut type of maintenance system, providing across-the-board, proactive maintenance. But what if you’re looking for a more targeted, specific method of enterprise asset management? Enter Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM).  

Here, we’ll discuss what constitutes reliability in maintenance, outline what the rise of RCM means for asset management and pinpoint some of the benefits RCM brings to companies and organizations.  

What is Reliability in Maintenance?

Reliability necessarily varies from organization to organization based on equipment, needs and standards. The driving force behind reliability, though, is the idea that a particular physical asset does what it is supposed to do and that it is expected to continue to perform that function satisfactorily. In an article in MaintWorld, John P. Coleman defined reliability as follows: “The probability that a component or system will perform a required function for a given time when used under stated operating conditions.” [2]

Putting reliability as the goal of EAM not only means assessing whether a given asset is performing up to standards in the current moment and given current conditions, but also being able to modify processes and strategy if any of your organization’s needs (function, time, operational conditions) change. The question then becomes how to implement reliability best practices in a systematic way that best meets the needs of an individual enterprise asset management organization.

A Brief Overview of Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM)

Renewed focus on reliability as a goal in asset maintenance has prompted the Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) movement. RCM can be thought of as a process, a program and a set of strategies to ensure that assets are running optimally while reducing the need for reactive maintenance. Because RCM is targeted and predictive, it’s best thought of as a continuous process. In essence, by identifying potential failure modes and their effects and developing processes for proactively maintaining enterprise assets, RCM allows companies to increase the reliability of their services and asset management procedures.  

There are three frequently overlooked questions and four basic principles at the heart of RCM. The questions driving RCM are:

  • How does failure occur?
  • What are its consequences?
  • What good can preventive maintenance do?

From these questions arise the basic principles of robust RCM:

  • Appropriately scope and structure the analysis.
  • Recognize failure modes.
  • Triage failures to address them in order of importance.
  • Define and implement maintenance tasks to address important failure modes.  

Ultimately, these questions and principles provide the foundation of RCM. Effective RCM maintenance strategies exploit insights, data, and information around the concepts of equipment function, functional failure of an asset, failure modes, failure effects, and failure consequences to design proactive, continuous maintenance strategies.  

Enterprise Asset Management and RCM Best Practices

For any process to qualify as RCM, it must meet the standards defined in the SAE JA10115, which outlines a series of policies to manage and mitigate failure modes in physical assets and systems. Broadly, these policies stem from seven questions that identify potential issues, delve into consequences of asset failure and develop strategies to prevent failure and work around excessive downtime, equipment failure and unnecessary wear and tear.  

  • System Functions—What does the equipment do and how do we measure success and compliance?
  • Failure Modes—What factors, including wear, human error, manufacturing flaws, conditions and fatigue, could cause the equipment to fail to deliver key system functions?
  • Failure Causes—Given possible failure modes, what are the potential and actual underlying causes of these failures?
  • Effects of Failure—What happens when these potential and actual failures occur?
  • Consequences of Failure—What are the broader consequences of these failures and their effects for production, operational procedures, equipment and clients?
  • Preventative Tasks—What predictable maintenance tasks can be scheduled and performed proactively to avoid failures and ensure more efficient and cost-effective operations?
  • Alternatives—When prevention is not possible, what other modifications or replacements are necessary to ensure continued operations and meet facility needs?

It’s worth noting that these tasks and questions frequently become more difficult and complex as we go down the list; identifying systems and failures is straightforward, while more detailed responses on the consequences of failure and effective prevention require a great deal of information and analysis. In addition, more recent iterations of RCM increase the focus on risk—in addition to comprehensively identifying failure cases, RCM analysis also works to differentiate between acceptable and unacceptable risks for a given asset or system.

By approaching each of these steps with discipline and a reliability mindset, organizations can develop a robust RCM process based in risk identification and assessment and equipment criticality.  [3],[4]

How Does Reliability in Maintenance Benefit Enterprise Asset Management?

Bringing reliability into focus as the goal for your organization by implementing RCM strategies and methodologies produces a wide range of benefits, all centered on reducing operating and maintenance costs, extending the life of assets, and mitigating unplanned repairs and downtime.  

An organization’s dedication to implementing RCM processes is a long-term, systematic process of understanding the operating conditions of their assets, optimizing maintenance and eliminating failure cases. A commitment to mitigating reliability losses provides significant, tangible financial returns to enterprise asset management. Equipment retains a longer lifespan and has fewer outages. This increased stability also spreads the load on other assets as more resources remain more consistently available.  

Increased reliability also reduces overall maintenance costs. Avoiding defects or identifying defects and performing repairs early mitigates unnecessary repair work and associated outages. Appropriate planning and scheduling with RCM also provide early indicators that repairs might be necessary, allowing for appropriate ordering and procurement of additional parts. This RCM-based planning reduces last-minute ordering or excessive inventory storage.

In addition to the cost-savings generally associated with reliability, there are many other organizational benefits to increasing reliability in your enterprise maintenance workforce, including reduced risk of injury, better morale and organizational confidence.

Fundamentally, RCM uses data-based insights to pinpoint risks and asset failures and, ultimately, predict and prevent these failures. Reliability Centered Maintenance boosts productivity by producing a robust and holistic path forward for proactive maintenance planning and scheduling.

The RCM framework is the guiding force behind Prometheus Planning & Scheduling, which integrates with the rest of the Prometheus Platform. As part of a connected enterprise asset management system, Planning & Scheduling can help your organization move toward RCM by harnessing data to better understand and prevent failure cases and implement predictive maintenance.   [6]