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Implementation of RCM in production: obstacles, problems, solutions

22.07.2021

Reliability-Centered Maintenance (RCM) is a reliability-focused maintenance strategy. According to this concept, efforts should be focused on extending the life and preventing downtime of key assets, as well as minimizing repair and maintenance costs.
The RCM philosophy recognizes that not all equipment is equally useful for achieving economic goals. This means that for some assets it is necessary to establish a minimum acceptable level of service. And do them only when the value prevails over the risks.
RCM not only improves service profitability, but also prevents critical disruptions, reduces service workload, and improves control of production processes. These advantages set the strategy apart from the preventive and reactive maintenance alternatives.

What is good in theory does not always show the expected results in practice. ReliabilityWeb notes that more than 70% of implemented reliability-focused maintenance programs fail to deliver the desired cost savings and performance gains. According to other studies, up to 85% of RCM initiatives are never implemented in practice.
Why is this happening and how can you make RCM more effective? Let’s take a look at five key areas that require increased attention.

Strategic Approach

Misconceptions about RCM often lead to overestimated expectations. Adequate goals are not set, there is no systematic approach to planning and, of course, all this is done in a hurry. Most of the companies that have not effectively planned the implementation of the strategy face the listed problems.
Another block of serious obstacles to the implementation of RCM is dependence on reactive service, a shortage of qualified personnel, and an ineffective system for collecting and documenting data. In such an environment, reliability-oriented service can only exacerbate the situation, because the strategy has its own set of tools and requirements.

So what do you do?

Start by creating optimal conditions by dividing your RCM implementation plan into several steps:

  • Decision – preliminary planning stage. Define goals based on desired results and timelines for implementation, actual plant readiness and critical barriers.
  • Analysis – the stage of research. Analyze assets, prioritize, assess the potential of existing tools, and prepare a list of actions to achieve quality results.
  • Implementation – the stage of practical work. As recommended by analysts, proceed with procedural optimization, asset renewals, assignment of contractors, and implementation of new operating standards.
  • Benefits – stage of monitoring results. Measure key metrics, measure the effectiveness of a new service strategy, and look for opportunities for further improvement.

The success of RCM initiatives is based on a deep understanding of each stage by all participants in the process. This requires some effort to improve communication and raise the awareness of the responsible personnel. Without such work, the use of the RCM system will always be only formal.

Cost optimization

Misallocation of resources is the second most popular reason for the phasing out of RCM programs. Very often, the plan for transitioning to new service principles seems too costly due to the large coverage of assets. And when a strategy does not give quick results, it is immediately put on the list of unprofitable ones.
It is important to remember that RCM is a progressive process improvement methodology. It usually takes more than one year to recover the cost of implementation. Therefore, you should not focus on the initial costs, it is much more reasonable to assess trends – the impact of RCM on the condition and efficiency of equipment use.

Rational prioritization can help you optimize your RCM implementation costs.

Include in the program only those assets that have a decisive impact on:

– making a net profit;
– production safety;
– operational efficiency.

Analyzing the impact of RCM on the performance of such equipment will help find a balance over time between asset investment and return on operating assets.

New culture

The director of the Reliability Leadership Foundation, Terrence O’Hanlon, conducted a survey of 376 business representatives to find out the reasons for the failure of RCM in their companies. According to 48% of respondents, the main factor is resistance. It can come both from the side of excessive savings on the part of the management of the enterprise, and on the part of unmotivated personnel.
In such an environment, would you be introducing new standards for operating procedures or investing in service upgrades? The answer is obvious. Therefore, in parallel with the development of the RCM strategy, it is necessary to work on the creation of a new corporate culture.
Provide top-down support for RCM implementation program managers, consult with industry experts, engage staff for technical implementation, and raise overall staff awareness. This is the only way to overcome your business’s dependence on reactive service methods.

Strong team

The effectiveness of RCM is proportionately dependent on the effectiveness of those implementing the strategy. Do not expect outstanding results in the shortest possible time from performers without the appropriate experience and tools. Also, do not think that RCM implementation is a task that can be solved with small efforts and in one approach.
One way or another, you will have to assemble a team of broad-based specialists and involve them at different stages. Therefore, it is important to objectively assess the readiness of staff, and, if necessary, start training competent performers as early as possible.
Such an investment pays for itself, because you create a service system not for a year or two. An experienced team will keep your critical assets running smoothly over the long term.

Working with data

Condition monitoring, equipment performance evaluation and failure analysis are the main mechanisms for increasing the efficiency of RCM. Without the correct interpretation of the data, it is difficult to determine the potential of certain solutions. And without adequate countermeasures, breakdowns and downtime will be repeated.
During the RCM implementation period, regularly test the equipment included in the maintenance plan. Compare parameters, document and organize data.
At this stage, investment in an electronic control system is indispensable. It will automate the collection and analysis of data, help to establish optimal templates to reduce maintenance costs, increase planning efficiency and operational stability.

SmartEAM has a lot of IT solutions for collecting and analyzing operational data. Such systems can become the main tool for the implementation and subsequent optimization of RCM.

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