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Reliability-Centered Maintenance Mindset (RCM2) The Cognitive Psychology of Maintenance Development

There are many different types of RCM that are practiced in the world today. The experience that I have is centered in the world of Classical RCM maintenance development based on Mil-P- 24534A. This RCM methodology is based upon the work done in 1978 by Nolan & Heap. As with other types of RCM, the Classical version is a method of determining Preventive Maintenance (PM) based on analysis of the likely functional failures. The one subject that is never raised in the development of PM is the ability and mindset of the actual person performing the analysis; the maintenance developer. This paper will attempt to determine what type of personality is best for the development of maintenance procedures and how we should develop that person, including making sure that their mindset aids them in their task.


2. Maintenance need and how it can go wrong


A Need for Maintenance

Your organization has recognized that they are in need of a brand new maintenance program for the assets they currently have or need to make their existing program more efficient – where do you begin? Prior to interviewing any potential candidates, management should first have a good understanding of RCM and how it can help their business. There are two different scenarios that occur in the world of maintenance development; either you need maintenance developed on your facility or developed on the equipment you are building for sale to other parties. In the first case we have a company that has an established facility with HVAC, plumbing, electrical and machinery used to produce their product. In this case the company may require PM procedures for their facility, product or both. The other case is solely based on the need for maintenance procedures to be delivered to the end user along with the finished equipment. Currently the Department of Defense (DoD) requires that military equipment purchased from a contractor needs to have RCM performed and maintenance procedures developed. My experience is in development of PM procedures for military equipment.

Whether you need maintenance for your facility or a product, the principles of RCM apply equally to both. The management team needs to focus on making sure the personnel chosen for the task are suited to the task.

Applying the RCM philosophy to the maintenance developer - How can the maintenance developer fail?

In the world of RCM, the focus has always been on the hardware that is being analyzed, but what if we were to apply the RCM philosophy to the maintenance developer? The output of the analysis should tell us the tasks and their periodicities that would be performed on our personnel.

As we start our analysis, refer to Figure 1, we note that the main function of the maintenance developer is to “develop good maintenance”. It follows that the functional failure would be that they “fail to develop good maintenance”. Now that we’ve determined that the maintenance developer can fail we need to list the “failure modes”.

Figure 1 – Developer Functions and Functional Failures

After reviewing the failure modes we can see that our maintenance developer is flawed and the effects of the failure always results in a “poor quality of maintenance procedures developed”. Through the use of RCM we know that there are PM tasks which we can “perform” on our maintenance developer to preserve their primary function – to develop good maintenance.

3. Discovering the Reliability-Centered Maintenance Mindset

Human Reliability

Now that we’ve determined that our maintenance developer can fail we need to develop PM tasks that will preserve their function. It is unrealistic to assume that an individual will develop good maintenance without fail unless we apply periodic PM tasks. These tasks are listed below and if performed to the right periodicity will produce an RCM Mindset that will result in a valuable asset to your maintenance program.


RCM2 – A Philosophy to Live By

When searching for good maintenance developers, one key trait is a person who is equally as much a pessimist as an optimist. In the development of maintenance it is always good to realize that everything at some point is going to fail (loss of function). The pessimistic knows this and then lets his optimistic side determine that there is a way to stop it from failing (preserve function) by performing periodic preventive maintenance. Just as important is that he also realize that there are times when it’s alright to let the equipment fail and then perform corrective maintenance because through the use of RCM we’ve determined that the maintenance task is not both applicable (restore or maintain reliability) and effective (value added).

How the mind of a maintenance developer works

As we start to delve into the cognitive psychology of a maintenance developer, we need to understand exactly how the mind works when it comes to developing maintenance. Cognitive psychology is the branch of psychology that studies mental processes including how people think, perceive, remember and learn. The core process of cognitive psychology is how people acquire, process and store information. All of these play an important role in the process of developing maintenance by increasing decision making accuracy.

In 1956, Benjamin Bloom and a group of educational psychologists developed a classification of levels of intellectual behavior associated with learning. The structure they devised showed levels from the most basic learning to the most complex learning (see Figure 2).

Figure 2 – Bloom’s Taxonomy

During the 1990’s, a former student of Bloom, Lorin Anderson, updated the taxonomy so as to reflect the relevance of 21st century applications. The structure did not change drastically but now the highest level of learning was associated with creativity. The next two tiers, evaluating and analyzing, can be directly related to the mental attributes of our maintenance developers (see Figure 3). The taxonomy shows the relationship between higher, more complex, learning functions and our maintenance developers.

Figure 3 – Anderson’s Revised Taxonomy

Now that the levels of learning have been established, we can further associate these levels with the process the maintenance developer uses to perform RCM. In the analyzing section of the taxonomy, the section is broken down into several key aspects – appraisal, examination, and question. If we relate these aspects to the RCM analysis we can see that that we perform an appraisal when the maintenance developer analyzes how his equipment will be broken down, or subdivided into sections to make the RCM analysis easier to accomplish. The examination is conducted when the functions and functional failures of the equipment are established. Finally, the main questions are asked to answer what are the local, subsystem, and system effects of the functional failures. In addition, the question is asked as to the applicability and effectiveness of the maintenance tasks derived for the RCM analysis.

Within the evaluating level, the key aspects are listed as defend, select and support. All three are directly linked to the RCM process. The main question we ask is why maintenance is needed – we must defend our decision. Now we must select the types of maintenance that should be applied – Time-Directed (TD) or Condition-Directed (CD), for example. Finally, we must support our decision with justification and rationale.

Viewing your surroundings through functions

One of the key aspects of the RCM Mindset is that the maintenance developer must start to see the world around him in functions – even something as simple as sitting at your desk will turn into a lesson in functionality. Almost every item at your desk is meant to perform a function that will enable you to complete your daily tasks. Below is a list of equipment and the functional failures that can occur.

  • Sitting at a typical office desk
    -Telephone – receiver cord becomes intermittent
    -Stapler - jams due to incorrectly loaded staples
    -Computer - overheats due to dust that you never clean off the back
    -Monitor – couldn’t see the decimal point due to a dirty screen
    -Desk drawers - drawer jams
    -Printer – can’t print because you never ordered the replacement ink
    -Pens – fails due to using them as a pry bar and to open your juice box.

All of the above functional failures could be avoided by a small amount of time and effort invested in preventive maintenance. With regular preventive maintenance all the desk functions will be available when needed resulting in the user to be able to perform there daily tasks.

4. The Path of the Maintenance Developer

It is important now that we’ve decided that the need for equipment maintenance exists and all that is left is to make sure the people we choose to perform the maintenance development are suited for the task. There will be an investment made in both time and money in training a maintenance developer so a process must be performed to be sure that we determine qualified individuals.

The first step is the Initial Screening Process (ISP) (see Figure 4). When interviews are set up – we need to assess the candidate maintenance developer for the following:

Figure 4 – The Path to Maintenance Development

  • Has been formally trained in the RCM philosophy – this is a good starting point but as we’ve seen – being trained doesn’t mean you know what you’re doing or that you have a maintenance mindset.
  • Previously developed Preventive Maintenance - another good point. The person should be able to talk to the experience and relate the details of the maintenance they developed.
  • Have they performed actual PM tasks on assets – there’s the talent of being able to develop maintenance and then there’s the person who’s actually performed PM on equipment. They have seen, first hand, the result of bad maintenance development. Maintenance is sometimes developed and the developer never lets the maintainer know the relevance of why they’re doing the maintenance. If the maintenance developer relates why the maintenance is needed – it adds value to the actual task. This will result in the maintainer performing the task with diligence and purpose.
  • Open a discussion of examples of PM in their lives – finally, we need to understand the type of person we are planning on training.

If our candidate has good cognitive skills and they have a whole life maintenance mindset – then they’re a good potential maintenance developer. At this point, our future maintenance developer should be brought into the Maintenance Developer Program (MDP).

It is crucial that management realize that they should not automatically accept and train the staff you already have on site. This could be a disaster to the maintenance program that you are taking care to develop. Its fine to run staff through the ISP – but if they don’t pass – don’t give them the job anyway. Some individuals were never meant to develop maintenance. They simply do not process the RCM Mindset and never will.

Maintenance Developer Program

Now that our maintenance developer trainee has entered the Maintenance Developer Program, it’s time to attend formal RCM training. There are many different types of RCM that is taught and management should perform research to determine which method is right for their application. No matter what type of RCM you have chosen to perform, everyone needs formal training – including management. Unless management understands the RCM philosophy and processes an RCM Mindset, the program is doomed to failure.

Mentoring Program

One of the most important aspects of the RCM Mindset is for the novice maintenance developer to know that there is someone there to help him along the path of developing good maintenance. The person he will rely upon to lead him will be his mentor. The novice maintenance developer will have many questions and without the guidance of an experienced RCM practitioner – the results could possibly be faulty maintenance which will impact cost and schedule down the road. The figure below represents the information flow which should take place between the mentor and the new maintenance developer (see Figure 5).

Figure 5 – Mentor Program Flow

The end result of a well planned and executed mentoring program will be both applicable and effect asset maintenance.

RCM2 – Closing Thoughts

After reading this document it should be clear that if any maintenance program is to succeed, we must first focus on the fact that the human factor can not be overlooked. Without the knowledge and mindset well established in our maintenance developer, then the program will only deliver substandard maintenance procedures. When this happens, management will conclude that establishing a maintenance program based on RCM was not worth the investment of time and money. On the other hand, when management and developers all have a true RCM Mindset, the results of utilizing an RCM philosophy will return a maintenance program that will conduct maintenance on the right equipment and at the right time.

Michael Rezendes
Zumwalt Class Destroyer

Reliability-Centered Maintenance Lead
Logistics Engineering
Raytheon Technical Services Company LLC

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