June 11, 2019

Reliability Centered Maintenance: How Digital Shifts Maintenance from Reactive to Proactive

BY Marty Groover
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Over the span of my career, I’ve been exposed to a lot manufacturing operations. Then and now, I see too many manufacturers relying on spreadsheets and manual systems when it comes to maintenance. Not only are they not getting the most out of their equipment, they’re also risking (practically inviting) unplanned interruptions and unexpected downtime.

Here’s the core problem: Most manufacturers’ maintenance operations are neither well integrated with their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) transactional systems nor included strategically in their production planning process. As a result, most maintenance ends up falling into one of two categories:

1. Reactive – Run-to-fail maintenance creates a “firefighting” response, relying on emergency repair measures that don’t reduce the failure’s impact on production. These production impacts, along with the high operational expenses of keeping extra maintenance resources on standby to answer the alarm bells, means the costs of reactive maintenance is 9:1 compared to preventive maintenance.

2. Planned – Planned maintenance includes both periodic maintenance scheduled at OEM-recommended intervals as well as post-failure maintenance actions masquerading as preventive maintenance. While the goal of planned maintenance is to reduce the frequency of reactive maintenance, it is rarely timed to correlate with failure modes; in fact, if not completed by skilled technicians, planned maintenance can actually cause equipment failures.

Here’s what I find especially interesting: There’s a third category – Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) – that has been proven to reduce the need for reactive maintenance and lower operating and capital expenditures when administered properly, but it hasn’t been adopted as industry standard. Why?

RCM has a reputation for being “too hard”

Like many great “process” systems, the RCM strategy proved its superiority in the airline industry and armed forces. Its rigorous process –identifying root cause failures and maintaining appropriate documentation – is a large administrative task, which, like any “production system” requires leadership commitment and dedicated resources to gain and maintain the benefits.

Few maintenance experts would disagree that RCM is superior to other maintenance strategies on paper, but in practice the cost of maintaining the system or even finding reliability engineers to lead the program makes it difficult to adopt in most business cultures.

That’s why I noted, “when administered properly.”

The heart of RCM (and the heart of the difficulty) is a tool called Failure Modes and Effect Analysis (FMEA), a manual documentation process that breaks down machinery into functional systems, then analyzes the failure modes of each based on the machinery’s manufacturing functions. FMEA is both time consuming and demanding, with deep machinery knowledge required to accurately derive all failure modes and assign risk rankings to each based on severity, occurrence and detection.

Anyone who has ever been through a FMEA process understands how complex and challenging it is to complete. Developing, implementing and sustaining an RCM maintenance strategy based on its results is even more difficult. That’s why most full-blown RCM attempts are either abandoned or pencil-whipped, so they fail to produce the desired outcomes.

RCM is still the right strategy to drive better business outcomes

RCM uses rigorous FMEA critical-risk analyses to objectively evaluate system reliability, calculate failure probabilities, and devise the appropriate maintenance strategy to predict failure and preempt its consequences on manufacturing production. RCM lets manufacturers move away from risky, costly reactive and preventive maintenance operations and move toward condition-based and predictive maintenance instead.

By implementing RCM, manufacturers improve machinery availability and reduce costs.

Now, if you asked most manufacturing leaders to sign up for reduced costs and improved manufacturing performance, they wouldn’t hesitate – until they saw the overhead required to maintain it!

That’s why C5MI developed an easier way to implement RCM:

Digital Reliability Centered Maintenance SM

DRCMsm is the digital RCM solution from C5MI that categorizes machinery function, captures criticality and failure modes, and develops live condition-based and predictive maintenance monitoring strategies without the need for manual tools or processes. Instead of spreadsheets, all data is contained in digital cloud-based applications, and all applications are integrated with the core ERP transactional maintenance system.

By incorporating digitally connected assets such as Industry 4.0 and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies, DRCMsm links production systems and assets with business processes. The result is a digital continuous improvement capability that reduces RCM overhead costs and increases asset availability. Machinery is better maintained, and failures are predicted and prevented before they can impact production.

Interested in how C5MI’s DRCMsm can reduce costs and improve the reliability of your asset management and digital manufacturing processes? Reach out to your trusted partners at C5MI.