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Q&A - Anthony “Mac” Smith

Q You and the late John Moubry are credited with introducing the Classical RCM process to industry many years ago. Can you tell us the interesting and common link that you both shared?

A When John suddenly passed away, the M&R community lost a true giant in creative maintenance thinking. John and I had more similarities than differences because we both learned the RCM process from the inventors at United Airlines. Our differences were in the details of how we analyzed the four RCM features.

Q Did you ever expect that the RCM process would grow to such success that it enjoys today?

A When I personally experienced the benefits that RCM could create for plants and systems, I was certain it would become a major successful tool for the maintenance practitioner. Today, however, it still has a way to go to achieve the universal success it deserves. Much of this reason for this is that many facilities are ingrained in the “old culture” that frequently takes a long time to change.

Q What sets the RCM process apart from the many other reliability models in the marketplace?

A It is a unique mindset process that requires one to initially define just what a plant or system does, which is called functions, and then proceed to focus on what specifically can defeat those functions. We call these failure modes that can lead to serious safety, operation, or economic consequences. Once we have established this relationship, we can focus our resources where they can do the most good. I know of no other M&R process that can do this effectively.

Q With that said, there have always been critics of the RCM process. Can you address that?

A The main criticism seems to be “it takes too long and too much effort.” Well, you get what you pay for in this world! I use the 80/20 rule as Step 1 in the RCM process, i.e., which are the 20% of the systems in a plant that cause 80% of the corrective maintenance and downtime? When we know that, it is common sense to invest in the classical RCM process for the 80/20 systems.

Q What is the secret to your long and successful career?

A Behind every successful man stands a strong, understanding and supportive woman. I certainly have that. Couple that with a professional career that is filled with interesting and technical challenges plus fascinating, experienced and friendly peers and associates, and you have an unbeatable combination.

Q What has been most rewarding to you?

A Professionally, I have always been most fortunate to be on the leading edge of technology and innovative ways to make things better. In my private life, I had an equally fascinating challenge as my wife and I raised six very different and talented children.

Q Can you tell us one of your favorite projects?

A Three come to mind quickly. One is my current role in helping to guide over the past four years the successful M&R program at the Greater Cincinnati Metro Sewer District. A second is my role after the 1979 Three Mile Island Unit 2 (TMI-2) nuclear accident where I helped to install a completely revitalized PM program on the 80/20 systems at TMI-1, which had the world’s highest capacity factor in 1991. A third is my RCM program with Boeing Commercial Airplanes from 1998 to 2002 where my RCM programs saved MILLIONS in reducing production downtime for the 737, 767, 747 and 777 airplanes.


Boeing Commercial Airplanes


Three Mile Island


Greater Cincinnati Metro Sewer District

Q How about one of your worst?

A It was not a matter of any one “worse” project. I had about a 65% success record. But the 35% not-so-successful were usually characterized by the client’s failure to follow through with implementation. One example that stands out is the USPS where a very successful project on its new automated flats sorting machine was proven to be a huge success at its Phoenix demo site, but the USPS never followed through implementing this on the other 534 machines throughout the country! What a loss (do the arithmetic)!!

Q Where do you see the RCM industry heading in the future?

A Unfortunately, the U.S. industry is still mainly in the reactive maintenance mode. RCM can change that situation with a shift to proactive maintenance. The opportunity is there for those who choose to seize it.

Q You have had a long association with JMS Software, can you tell us how that started and where do you see the future of this relationship?

A From 1980 to the mid-1990s, all of my RCM analyses were recorded by hand. It was obvious this had to be computerized. Through my RCM projects at NASA-Ames, I met three very talented people who agreed to develop to my specifications a computerized RCM analysis program (called RCM WorkSaver). This effort led to the 1998 creation of JMS Software, which today continues to actively market this software and has sold to over 78 sites in eight different countries. In the future, JMS will continue to supply and service this software as there continues to be a demand for it.

Q And lastly Mac, congratulations on your successful career. What do you have planned for your retirement?

A My professional career has been an extraordinary trip. At age 82, I shifted to a 90/10 lifestyle – 90% retired, 10% still active with selected clients. I am NOT a golfer, but my time is spent with my wife, Mary Lou, seeing our six children and six grandchildren, keeping in shape at the gym, doing activities with our community plus some non-business travel and writing my memoirs. Life is busier than ever.

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