RCM is a process used to determine what must be done to ensure that physical assets continue to do what their users want them to do.
RCM is a logical development of MSG 3, a process developed by the North American civil aviation industry in the late 1960s and through the 1970s. The industry recognised that many of its maintenance activities were not only prohibitively expensive but also failed to achieve acceptable levels of safety.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) established a series of Maintenance Steering Groups made up of aircraft manufacturers, aircraft users, and the FAA. The concept of “Reliability Centred Maintenance” was invented, with the emphasis being on reliability.
The RCM process is applied by a selected cross functional group trained in RCM; people who know the equipment the best, the personnel who live with the assets on a day to day basis; operations and production personnel, maintainers and technicians, their relevant first line supervisors, and any suitable technical experts, as required. This group activity means that assets become more reliable because they are better maintained, and less likely to fail due to operator misuse. The combined knowledge and experience of such a group rapidly delivers a powerful business tool.
The first step in the RCM process is to establish the Primary and Secondary Functions of the asset and all the desired Performance Standards for the asset in its present operating context.
Asset users and owners want their assets to perform in a number of different ways. Performance expectations may include, output, throughput, speed; risk, in terms of safety, and environmental integrity; quality, accuracy, repeatability, consistency or customer service.
The next step in the RCM process is for the group to identify all the different ways in which the asset fails to achieve the functions and performance standards - the failed states; and then to consider all the failure modes and effects that are reasonably likely to cause each failed state.
The final part of the RCM process is to assess the consequences of each failure mode and then to identify the most suitable failure management policy to deal with that failure mode and its effects and consequences. Failure management policy options include predictive maintenance, preventive maintenance, failure-finding for protective devices and systems, run to failure (no scheduled maintenance) or one off changes which include physical design changes, spares recommendations, training recommendations or procedural recommendations for personnel in operations or in maintenance.
The RCM process is highly structured and formalised in its application by the review groups. This rigorous structure enables trained groups to establish robust and cost effective maintenance procedures for existing assets, and for brand new assets for which there is little historical operational data or experience.
The RCM process applied by Reliability Management fully complies with the SAE standard JA 1011; the “Evaluation Criteria of Reliability Centred Maintenance (RCM) Processes.” This standard was established in 1999, and sets out the criteria that any process must satisfy to be called RCM when it is applied to any particular asset or system.