Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) has received a bit of a bad wrap because of perceived difficulties and high cost associated with it. When problems occur, it's usually because managers did not create a plan and carefully review the cost and time investment and the benefits to be derived. As a result, the time invested exceeds the return. This can sometimes be linked to traditional RCM being applied plant-wide, which is simply not a good strategy in most industries. Without a clear plan, it is easy to keep adding on to the program in Christmas tree fashion, only to end up with a very elegant - but expensive - strategy. The system can be so dazzling that people often forget that the objective is to save money. When using RCM, build your plan first and stick to it. This will keep the program in check and targeted on key areas with maximum return on investment. The diagram below gives an indication of how overall program cost varies with preventive maintenance. The second gray bar is where we want to target. If we get too far outside of that area then the total program cost will rise. RCM applied correctly can get us to that point.
Figure 1 - Total Cost Spread with Intersection of Corrective Maintenance and Preventative Costs indicating the Total Cost desired low point.
Key to implementing RCM is to complete an equipment criticality exercise. This ranking of all equipment will help in the selection of what assets to pass through a traditional RCM. One way you might approach this is to use traditional RCM on high criticality items and a more streamlined technique for medium to low criticality. However, you can't leave low criticality items out of the analysis altogether because many absorb hours of maintenance and production time for low or non value-added tasks that must be inspected and refined or removed.
With a properly configured RCM program, a company can realize improved profitability fairly quickly. An example of this would be increased revenue generated by avoiding equipment breakdown and reducing downtime created by non value-added Preventive Maintenance tasks. Here are a few more areas you can expect savings:
• Lower rates of injury • Less equipment failure • Reduced process downtime • Fewer lost sales • Smaller incidents of litigation/fines • Improved profit opportunity
Even today, maintenance is often viewed by management as a cost center. However, a competing viewpoint is that maintenance can be a profit contributor, especially where it can be tied to increased revenue and lower production costs. Reliability Centered Maintenance is a high-performance but complex program. As noted, RCM can be overdone; but if done right, it can add impressively to the bottom line.