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We Remember John Moubray, Originator of RCM2 – Reliability Centered Maintenance


Today, it is still hard to believe that in the 1980s, “reliability” was just a colloquial word used universally, but not explicitly applied to physical assets in industry.

Already in the early 1960s, the conventional propeller engine planes flying at 10,000 feet altitudes and 180 miles per hour were being succeeded by jets at 30,000 feet and speeds of 600 miles per hour. The accident rate was considered intolerable. Stanley Nowlan, on a team with Howard Heap, wasresearching the failure and accident causes on airflights. That research leadto reliability centered maintenance (RCM) in the airflight industry (1978 report). This better understanding of the underlying failure established a new paradigm that led to a drastic reduction of failures and consequent airflight accidents.

In the 1980s, with the ever growing mechanization and automation of industry, not only in aviation, but also in industry and facilities, downtime and the high costs of equipment and maintenance became a growing concern, with safety and environmental issues raising serious worries, too.

John Moubray realized the benefits of adapting by translating the airindustry RCM into a universally usable technique to establish reliable maintenance strategies wherever machines, equipment or, in fact, any physical asset is required RELIABLY. Thus, he structured RCM2!

John not only restructured RCM into universal applicability, but most importantly, he set up the training needs to assure proper understanding of the underlying concepts and the possibility of real implementation on the floor.

In the 1990s, John would personally run a dozen public RCM2 three-day training courses in different cities in the United Kingdom. The need forfacilitators to run the RCM2 analysis sessions was solved with the 10-day RCM2 facilitator course.But most of all, John took very good care in training the RCM2 practitioners who, in turn, would then spread the training to the 10-day and three-day levels worldwide.

Rapidly, the technique became international. John edited the first RCM2 book in the UK in 1991. It was later translated into several languages as RCM2 spread worldwide.

Initially, the training courses were on photoslides, manufactured in the attic of John’s home in Lutterworth on expensive and sophisticated computer-linked slide reproduction equipment. The old-timers among us remember when we had to travel the world with huge suitcases to accommodate the slidemagazines for the projectors.Plus, before the book was available, text and exercise manuals had to be collated into binders as the course progressed and brought along in our travels.

Practitioners were personally trained by John. This would happen in his hometown of Lutterworth at the Greyhound Coaching Inn, where would-bepractitioners would reside for three weeks as in a boarding school. Sessions were all day long, where much was learned, but it was good fun, with interruptions only for good meals and some hours to sleep, with only Sundays off.


Figure 1: Have a glance at the RCM2 practitioner training room at the Greyhound Coaching Inn in the last decade of the last century

The Greyhound was, and still is, an authentic 18th century coaching inn, refurbished into a hotel. Lutterworth, John’s hometown after he left his original home in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and before he moved with his family to the United States in the early 2000s, was founded in Roman times in the 13th century. In the graveyard on the church grounds, you will find tombstones with 13th and 14th century dates!


Figure 2: The town of Lutterworth

Every other year, John would organize RCM2 events for the Aladon Network practitioners, choosing interesting sites for these venues. He would have 20 to 30 of us for assistance. I remember the first one in San Francisco, California, in 1992, with Stan Nowlan present and being honored by John Moubray as the father of RCM. Other meetings were held in Hong Kong, Reykjavik and Curacao, with the last one in Asheville, North Carolina, where John set up home with his family when he moved to the United States.

It is sad destiny that John Moubray passed away prematurely and unexpectedly at age 54 on January 15, 2004, while running an RCM2 practitioner course at the Greyhound Coaching Inn. We mark his 10 year passing this year.

Quoting John Moubray: “Humanity depends on an ever increasing extent on the wealth generated by highly mechanized and automated businesses. We also depend more and more on services, such as an uninterrupted supply of electricity or trains which run on time. More than ever, these depend in turn on the continued integrity of physical assets.

“Moreso, equipment failure has led to major accidents and environmental damage, not tolerable in our current times, which therefore must be understood and prevented.”

Those of us who knew John were privileged to have him as a mentor and friend. It is hard to fully value how much of his creativity and knowledge he transferred to us. His legacy to the world of maintenance reliability is to be highly valued.

--- Henry Ellmann is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Ellmann, Sueiro y Asociados, Management and Industrial Engineering Consultants, in Europe and America (North and South). For over five decades, Henry has been a Management Consultant for companies in over twenty countries. He is a Senior Member of the Institute of Industrial Engineers (USA), IAM Institute for Asset Management (UK), SMRP Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (USA). Henry is an RCM2 - Reliability Centred Maintenance - Practitioner and Licensee, trained and certified in Lutterworth UK, 1990 by late John Moubray.

In the late 1970s, John Moubray and I were both fortunate to have known the two key people who successfully developed the RCM methodology – me with Tom Matteson, Vice President of Maintenance Planning at United Airlines (UA), and John with Stan Nowlan, Director of Maintenance Analysis and Tom's chief assistant in the UA program. Hence, we were both on the same page philosophically with RCM’s basic principles. But we never directly knew of each other until the 1990s via our respective publication of RCM books. We did, however, become acquainted over time and finally met for the first time at an SMRP meeting in Nashville.

The fact is, we had more in common in our passion about RCM than differences, which were basically in some of the RCM details. In particular, we both openly felt that some of the derivatives of the original RCM methodology (e.g.,streamlining) were sheer hearsay and said so publicly.

John was, without a doubt, a creative person who made a lasting, positive impact on the maintenance community. We had great respect for each other, and our maintenance community lost a great friend when he suddenly passed away 10 years ago at a rather young age. We all miss him.

--- Mac Smith is an internationally recognized expert in the application of Classical RCM. His Engineering career spans some 55 years including 24 years with GE. For the past 30 years, he has concentrated on providing RCM consulting and education services to more than 75 clients in the Fortune 500. Mac retired in 2013 but continues to support and have a presence in the maintenance reliability industry. He is the author/coauthor of two well-known books on RCM.


Having worked with John for quite a few years as a member of the Aladon Network of practitioners, I remember the moment when I finally got a grip on hidden failures and how to manage them. In nearly all cases, there must be a multiple failure in order for a hidden loss of function to reveal itself. A fire sprinkler system for when there is a fire and a high temperature interlock to shut down equipment if temperature increases to a defined value are both classic examples.

John took a pragmatic approach to managing risk and, in particular, where safety or the environment could be negatively impacted by a failure. In a world of ever increasing complexity where we rely more and more on protective devices, John provided a logical method to manage these hidden failures through the relationship between the mean time between failure of the hidden loss of function and how often we need it to work.

--- Derek Burley spent twenty years working in British Rail signaling as a control and systems engineer. It was while working in this capacity that he became heavily involved with RCM - an involvement that has continued for more than 20 years. Since his move to the US in 1997, he has worked for Cargill and Rio Tinto. Derek founded Blue Sky Reliability Consulting LLC in 2013. The company specializes in RCM training, facilitation services and project support.


When we started, the first thing I did was jump on a plane to the Gold Coast to attend the Maintenance Engineering Society of Australia’s annual conference where John Moubray, the famous reliabilitycentered maintenance guru and creator/author of RCM2 was presenting.

John had just written a paper that was recommending use of rigorous forms of RCM analysis to avoid going to jail, which was a shocking concept to many of us. In essence, the paper pointed out that if you had used some method other than a rigorous RCM analysis process like RCM2 or Classical RCM and your organization suffered a catastrophic failure that resulted in a death, the liability would reach past the corporate shield and place the people who created the maintenance strategy in jail for criminal negligence. No other maintenance strategy development method would stand up to cross examination, however, John assured everyone that RCM2 would withstand even the most intense grilling from even the best attorneys.

At the time, there were dozens of derivative and short form RCM analysis methods being used, but understanding the differences was much lower than it is today. The people practicing these methods were upset, to put it mildly.

Several of the best RCM practitioners in the world were at that Australian conference and I recall the room being filled with what I would call “angry villagers,”demanding that John defend this “outrageous” position. The presentation room was filled with grumbling conversations and rumpled brows when John walked in a few moments before his talk was scheduled to begin. Without looking up at the room, he removed his computer, plugged in the projectors and immediately launched into his presentations with no introduction or pause of any type.

Slowly, as he made his argument, the wrinkled brows turned to interested listening and nodding heads signaling agreement. I was amazed to see this man move the feeling in the room by 180 degrees as much with the power and force of his strong personality as with the well delivered logic from his presentation.

I was lucky to enjoy a bottle of wine and some awful karaoke with John that evening and I will always recall learning the power of combining a strong, confident delivery with a well-thought-out defensible argument.

--- Terrence O’Hanlon, CMRP is the Publisher of®, RELIABILITY® Magazine and Uptime® Magazine. He is a Certified in Asset Management by the Institute of Asset Management and is a Certified Maintenance & Reliability Professional by SMRP. Terrence is the acting Executive Director of the Association for Maintenance Professionals (AMP). He is the executive editor and Publisher of the 5th Edition of the Asset Management Handbook.

Mr. O'Hanlon is also a member of the Institute of Asset Management, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, The Association of Facilities Engineers, Society of Maintenance and Reliability Professionals and the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers.

When we tell stories and process them using reflective dialogue, we create the possibility for changes in others and ourselves.

To me, this statement sums up the late John Moubray and his contributions to developing and refining the reliability centered maintenance philosophy around the world. He had the capacity to express himself like no other person I know, through all his RCM training courses he developed, specifically his RCM practitioner training and the associated papers he wrote.His influence not only enabled us to rethinkour approach to modern day maintenance strategy development, but also allowed us to recognize the versatility of RCM. He taught us to become responsible custodians when transferring the RCM philosophy to various organizations around the world, especially when it comes to individuals or organizations that more often than not raise alternative views or stimulated (sometimes heated) dialogue in terms of streamlined approaches.

I was very fortunate to have known and worked for John in the late seventies as a management consultant. From that day forward, he has had a major influence on my understanding of asset management and my career as a reliability practitioner. Together, we set up the first maintenance conference ever to be held in South Africa in 1983. One of the presenters at that conference was none other than Stanley Nowlan,who wrote the report entitled Reliability Centered Maintenance with Howard Heap. This was his beginning.

--- Peter Stock is an exceptionally experienced and skilled project manager, consultant and training course instructor in the field of reliability centered maintenance(RCMJ.

Peter has played a major role in the successful RCM initiatives at ArcelorMittal USA, Dofasco Steel, 45th Space Wing at Cape Canaveral, NASA's Johnson Space Center, Alyeska Pipeline Services Company, BP Alaska, Holland America, Princess Cruises, El Paso Pipeline, Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. Veolla Water North America, US Navy, Eastman Kodak and many other organizations within the US, Canada, Australia and South Africa.

His extensive knowledge of best reliability practices has been applied to his numerous roles as project manager and training instructor, through which he has trained numerous people at various levels from management to reliability practitioners to facilitators and review group members.

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