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Focusing RCM To Maximize Return on Investment

Since the end of the cold war in the 1990's, the Navy's maintenance budget has dwindled steadily without a corresponding decrease in mission demand. Meanwhile the submarine force shrinks from early decommissioning because the Navy cannot fund all the desired submarine overhaul, modernization and depot level repair work; further exasperating the increased operating demand. The strategic need to maintain a submarine design capability and industrial infrastructure while fighting a global war on terror also competes for overall defense department funding. All factors combined will keep Navy's maintenance budgets curtailed for the foreseeable future.


Submarine Type Commanders, being squeezed between the conflicting realities of shrinking fleets/maintenance budgets and increased operating tempo, constantly look to create more operating availability with existing submarines. Often ideas to increase operational availability focus on the minimum "just on time" maintenance required to support mission requirements and/or preserve safety functions. In other words, maintenance schemes conforming to basic RCM principles and derived from an RCM methodology. Because most submarine maintenance plans are "mature" and are based on RCM principles, a classic RCM methodology is only used to analyze existing maintenance1 where justified.

Unfortunately, classic RCM is labor and time intensive, exceeding the Navy's capacity and desired timetable. As the demand and urgency for relief grows, shortcuts to classic RCM are attractive and compete for the same engineering resources.

Because this spiral is self perpetuating, a process to concentrate limited engineering resources where they'll reap the most value, through classic RCM, is essential. To address the Fleet's needs with available resources, an objective method for selecting equipment for classic RCM analysis was necessary.

Proactive Maintenance Planning-Engineering Analysis (MP-EA) was born to strike the balance between limited RCM resources and demand. Proactive MP-EA strives to maximize the value of RCM to the submarine force by using existing feedback mechanisms to ferret out troubled components or equipment as they're evolving. The proactive MP-EA process is a three-pronged semiannual process. Specifically, objective analysis selection, objective means for quantifying results and advertising.

The Navy enjoys several objective feedback mechanisms to analyze equipment performance, maintenance, logistics and cost factors. In the past, these feedback sources have been used somewhat independently within the individual communities to address their specific business responsibilities. The proactive MP-EA process integrates these feedback sources to rank components/equipment equitably and objectively to:

  • Select candidates for classic RCM analysis; and,
  • Develop semiannual schedules for classic RCM accomplishment.

Semiannual review of the objective feedback data helps assure that limited RCM analysis are applied to address the submarine force's biggest reliability issues as soon as they can be identified. An additional advantage of semiannual RCM schedules is it fosters frequent dialog between the fleet and their engineering/technical support infrastructure. Metrics are captured as the classic RCM is accomplished and implemented to measure the progress and effectiveness of the proactive MP-EA process.

Although the purpose of classic RCM is to produce applicable and effective maintenance, net cost avoidance usually results. Net cost avoidances tend to result because Navy maintenance plans traditionally focused on maintaining equipment design specifications versus the system performance necessary to support mission and/or safety functions. As such, an objective way to quantify classic RCM cost avoidances is necessary to be able to demonstrate the long term benefit of proactive MP-EA.

Advertising the results of the classic RCM is important to remind people of the overall value of the proactive MP-EA process and imperative to its continuation. The basic metrics gathered during the conduct and implementation of classic RCM provide the basis for advertising, The advertising , also conducted semiannually, focuses on key areas such as specifics/volume of analysis conducted and resulting cost avoidance for the fleet. The intent of advertising is to justify the proactive MP-EA process for selecting components/equipment by comparing its value to the submarine force to the cost of accomplishing classic RCM.


The proactive MP-EA process uses objective feedback to select RCM analysis candidates based on Corrective Maintenance (CM) burden. CM information is collected and considered for all components/equipment installed on operating submarines. CM is also gleaned from several sources and compiled, searching for the reliability issues that erode the Type Commanders maintenance budget2 and compromise their ability meet the increased operational demands.

CM3 data is collected from Ship's Maintenance, Material and Management (3M) System and the Performance Monitoring Program (PMP) over the preceding five year period. The raw numbers are totaled and grouped in descending order to establish the historical CM burden on a per component/equipment basis. The raw numbers are also divided into ten six month periods to quantify the average CM volume per component such that a statistical view of component reliability trends can be assessed. This mining of Ship's 3M and PMP data results in potential classic RCM analysis candidates, based on CM burden.

The Navy's Causality Report System (CASREP) is also queried to determine which components/equipment represented the highest support issues for operational submarines. Additional potential RCM analysis candidates are identified based on operational support issues identified from CASREPs.

Concurrently, submarine "as found" Material Condition Assessment (MCA) data at refurbishment is reviewed to determine which components/equipment are either being restored too soon or too late. Components/equipment being restored prematurely waste limited maintenance dollars while those being restored too late risk failure and/or increase the cost of restoration. Early or late execution of planned maintenance also exposes potential classic RCM analysis candidates.

Additionally, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), Type Commanders and other programs are asked to provide recommended analysis candidates. While these recommendations may not be based on objective historical data, these entities are in a position to recognize big picture influences or problems before they reveal themselves in feedback data. These recommended candidates are consolidated with candidates mined from Ship's 3M, PMP, CASREPs and MCA programs into a single list. Once the list is consolidated a cutoff, representing an aggressive amount of RCM for an eight month period4, is selected. Then CM labor and material costs, over the last five years, are collected for components/equipment above the bar.

The list is then ordered by cost5 resulting in the list of preliminary classic RCM analysis candidates. The preliminary candidates are given points with the most costly components/equipment receiving the highest number of points. For example, if there were 100 candidates above the threshold, the most costly item would receive 100 points and the least expensive item would get zero points. The preliminary candidates are ranked by ship or personnel safety and mission importance. This ranking is accomplished by adding additional points for each category that applies. At this juncture, the preliminary candidates are prioritized based on safety, mission and cost considerations.

The prioritized preliminary candidates are reviewed by the System Engineering staff and refined where necessary to eliminate known problems that have or are being addressed, by improved designs for example. Once the list is refined, an eight month classic RCM schedule is negotiated and published. When developing the schedule, various methods of accomplishing the classic RCM Analysis are considered. The primary methods include workshops and desktop analyses conducted by individual Engineers. Workshops are the preferred method.

In a workshop scenario, a facilitator working with the operators and mechanics from the fleet and the engineers from headquarters, complete analysis together. Workshops are preferred because they result in a more comprehensive and efficient analysis while involving all stakeholders in the solution. Components/equipment to be analyzed are grouped to maximize the expertise necessary because a workshop must be cost effective when compared to the lost labor and travel costs involved. Workshops are held in fleet locations to ease the impact on fleet operators and mechanics. Experience has demonstrated that monthly RCM workshops are sustainable indefinitely, allowing enough time to complete the associated analysis, maintenance plan changes and quantify cost impacts before conducting the next workshop. High priority components/equipment that don't justify a workshop are analyzed independently by the system engineer, an RCM program engineer (facilitator) or contracted resource.

As the classic RCM analyses are completed, Class Maintenance Plans are revised and the cost impacts are quantified. The quantification process is a straight forward mathematical calculation which totals the value of eliminated and/or new planned maintenance tasks. The cost of the planned maintenance tasks are based on actual average return costs, when available, or estimates from the accomplishing activities. This cost quantification information is collected and used to objectively justify the value of the proactive MP-EA process. Upon reaching the six month point in the schedule, the MP-EA selection cycle is repeated putting another schedule in place before the previous one ends, allowing for continuous analysis.

The remaining critical feature of the proactive MP-EA process is advertising the results of the completed RCM. This is accomplished annually in presentations at Submarine Hull, Mechanical and Electrical (HM&E) Conference and through routine maintenance program and RCM schedule correspondence.


The proactive MP-EA process has been in place for nearly a year and is working through its second cycle. Although proactive MP-EA is still evolving, its strengths are already recognized within the larger navy community. In fact, the surface ship and aircraft carrier communities have begun utilizing proactive MP-EA to prioritize their RCM efforts as well. Advertising the value of proactive MP-EA and partnering with the fleet in the process is critical to continuing to reap the most benefit from the overall Navy's RCM effort.

  1. New systems, components or ship classes require full Classic RCM analysis per Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) direction
  2. CM is unplanned and therefore cannot be budgeted accurately.
  3. At each specific configuration installed in the fleet.
  4. Eight months provides overlap so RCM can continue during schedule development, without disruption.
  5. Cost information also provided by Ship's 3M.

Article submitted by Eric Smith, US Navy, Submarine Maintenance Engineering, Planning and Procurement (SUBMEPP)

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