As I work with manufacturing clients who have made the decision to train and mentor RCM facilitators, I often hear these words: “This RCM stuff is real good, it makes so much sense, but it won’t work here.  Our management likes to spend money on things like this so they can say “We tried RCM” but they won’t support implementing or performing the identified tasks”.  And just as common as the last phrase I hear is “You don’t understand. Maintenance brought you in here.  The managers in operations don’t believe in this stuff and won’t support it.  Operations owns the equipment and they pay us to fix it.  They don’t want to be told by us when the machine can run and when it needs to be down.  This stuff is good but we don’t have a chance.” The most common excuse: “We’re not ready for RCM. Is there something easier we can do first?”

Welcome to the world of Reactive Maintenance!  A world full of excuses from both sides of the business table.  It makes business exciting, keeps your blood pumping and is full of wonderful highs and dreadful lows.  This is a world full of recognition for saving the day by putting out the fire, and blame for taking a risk that resulted in a failure.


So, how can you implement an RCM Culture in a business where a Reactive Maintenance culture has been a way of life for several years?  I am asked this question several times a year and I always give the same reply: “It’s difficult but not impossible. The speed and acceptance of changing from a Reactive Maintenance culture to an RCM culture depends on your level of resolve and discipline.”  Resolve is a measure of how much you want to change, how strongly you feel about Reactive Maintenance being the wrong way to perform maintenance. Discipline has to do with your willingness to measure how much this Reactive Maintenance culture is costing your business and presenting this information to operations managers.  Resolve and discipline can be a stretch for us maintenance people, we generally don’t like to admit it, but a lot of us happen to like this Reactive Maintenance Culture.  It brings us heaps of attention both positive and negative.  Our skilled trades people are continuously reinforced in this culture both emotionally and financially.  They are told over and over how important they are to our business because they can fix things quick and make us run again.  They are financially reinforced through the overtime that comes with a maintenance culture.  In spite of liking the attention that comes with this Reactive Maintenance Culture, the reality of its downside sets in when, as a maintenance supervisor or maintenance manager, you are asked year after year to reduce the costs of the maintenance budget.  Where will you get this money?  Your culture requires loads of spare parts and lots of people to replace them.  If you remove some parts from your inventory and those parts fail you will take the blame when the machine is down and we wait for parts.  Remove some people to save money and you only increase the stress and overtime for your existing people.  You’re in a catch twenty-two.  How can you possibly reduce maintenance costs in this environmentReliability Centered Maintenance can bring maintenance costs into control and make your equipment more reliable. To make RCM happen in this culture you must have a plan.


Planning a Successful RCM Effort

Step 1 – Measure

            In order to make this culture shift you must have buy-in from both operations and maintenance.  This can only be accomplished with real data. You will have to show people what the Reactive Maintenance culture is costing the business.  The best way to show this cost is through reliability measures.  Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) and Total Effective Equipment Performance (TEEP) measure in terms of good product manufactured versus key manufacturing losses and will clearly show the effects of your Reactive Maintenance culture.  Setting up and performing these measures also accomplishes two important things: it will help to clearly identify the correct piece of equipment to perform an RCM analysis on and it sets up a baseline to show the successful results or your RCM effort.  Now publish the report and display your monthly maintenance costs.  Maintenance costs in a reliable business should be predictable and steady. It is highly important in the early stages of this transition to show how out-of-control and unpredictable your costs have become.  Publish the report and display the percent of time your people spend on Emergency Demand Maintenance, Planned and Scheduled Corrective Maintenance, and Predictive/Preventive Maintenance.  Maintenance planning and scheduling of corrective and predictive/preventive maintenance in a reliable business is easy because it is predictable.


Step 2 – Plan and Educate


Educating people in why you need to make this shift from a Reactive Maintenance Culture to a Reliability Centered Culture is an important step that many people tend to skip.  The general tendency here is to just bring in the consultant and let him or her explain why RCM is important, how it works, and why they should want to do it.  The problem with this plan is the consultant is only on board with your company for a short time.  While the consultant is on-site, your people will believe and participate, but as soon as the consultant leaves, belief quickly fades.  You as a maintenance or operations manager need to prepare your people for this transition.  You need to begin demonstrating your resolve in making this change to your people.  Do this by involving your people in every step of the process from the measures to celebration. 

Start with developing a realistic plan to select a piece of equipment to perform a Reliability Centered Maintenance Analysis on (remember: this selection should be identified by your measuring OEE & TEEP).  This plan should clearly show who will be trained as RCM Facilitators and who will be trained as RCM Participants. When and where the analysis will take place.  Who will be responsible to ensure the tasks from this analysis will be implemented and when it will be completed by (in most cases, I suggest that you be responsible for the implementation of the first couple of analyses).  The plan should show who is going to be responsible for performing your identified Predictive, Preventive and Failure-Finding tasks and if we presently have the skill base to perform these tasks.  Should gaps in these capabilities be found, you would need to also create a plan on how you will educate people to close these gaps.

This is also a good time to do some benchmarking with other companies who have an existing Reliability Centered Maintenance Culture.  The purpose of this is two fold: (1) to get an idea of the consultant you may want to use for training and (2) to get a realistic idea of how long this culture shift will take.

Step 3 – Train

            Training people in how to perform a thorough RCM analysis will require a skilled consultant.  Do yourself a big favor and take some time to do this step right.  Research several firms that provide traditional RCM Training and Facilitation services. (It is important that you use a traditional form of RCM.  There are several short cut RCM methods available, each created for companies who do not have the discipline or resolve to make the culture shift traditional RCM provides.)  The objective of Reliability Centered Maintenance is to develop a complete maintenance strategy that consists of the following:

  • Predictive Maintenance Tasks
  • Preventive Maintenance Tasks
  • Failure-Finding Tasks
  • Redesign Recommendations
  • Consequence Reduction Tasks (Tasks recommended to reduce Mean Time To Restore (MTTR) for failures that can not be predicted, prevented, or eliminated through redesign)
  • Spare Parts Recommendations

Ask each of these companies to provide references for successful RCM implementations.  Check out these references to be sure the company had the training, performed several analyses, implemented the analysis tasks and can show results from their efforts.  While performing this research you should not only be looking for a specific RCM process but a specific consultant.  The consultant you choose should have a high success rate at not only training facilitators in the RCM process but also at training the facilitators to a level that the company was able to make the shift to a RCM culture.  Several companies may offer RCM services but there are only a few people who know the application or RCM well enough to help you make this change.  This person should have extensive experience in not only instructing RCM but also performing analyses across several types of business.  Once you have identified your RCM process and consultant, you can now select your RCM facilitators and schedule the training.

            Your RCM facilitators should be selected from some of the best employees your company has to offer.  While I am often asked to provide a profile for what qualifications an RCM facilitator should have, I still on occasion arrive to provide training only to find a person not suited to lead a line to the cafeteria let alone an RCM analysis.  Your facilitators should have demonstrated the following qualities:

  • A high level of understanding of the skilled trades
  • The ability to troubleshoot and identify failures at specific cause level
  • A thorough understanding of good proactive maintenance practices such as laser alignment, and the importance of proper torque specifications
  • The ability to write a step by step detailed and measurable preventive maintenance procedure
  • Should be highly respected among their peers
  • Have the ability to lead a team through a structured process or meeting while maintaining group control and schedule
  • Have a moderate to high level of computers and databases knowledge
  • Have demonstrated a natural drive to accomplish difficult tasks

Following this list of required qualities I will now add that your facilitators do not need to be a degreed Engineer or Technician.  I have trained highly successful RCM facilitators that were Trades-People, Operators, Mechanical and Electrical Technicians, Industrial Engineers, Mechanical Engineers and Chemical Engineers.  Most important is to be sure the person is comfortable, qualified and has the natural drive help make this change successful.

            Your RCM training should be held in a large comfortable room, if you can dedicate a room just for RCM training and analyses.  As you schedule your RCM facilitator training, plan on training your participants and beginning your first analysis within the nest two weeks.  The training will be fresh in the minds of your newly trained facilitators and they will be excited to start this first analysis.

Step 4 – Perform

            With your facilitators and participants trained you can now begin your first RCM analysis.  This first RCM analysis should be kicked off by you, the RCM sponsor.  The team will have been trained in the RCM process but it is important that you reinforce why we are about to begin performing RCM analyses to determine our maintenance strategy.  Let the team know that you are aware that this process takes time and dedication.  Remember you are still living in a reactive culture and the people about to begin this analysis will still be feeling the draw to show their importance by being called out of the analysis to fight a fire.  People will often ask me “How can we spend this much time talking about this piece of equipment?”  The best response to this question is hard data; show them how much time we spent repairing this equipment due to unplanned failures and what it cost the company for that downtime.  When you have finished your kick off stay with the team for an hour or so and just observe.  From here it’s your consultants’ job to lead your effort, keep your facilitators and team on schedule, and finish the analysis on or ahead of time.  Stop in each day for lunch to answer questions and offer support. Remember the importance of verbal positive reinforcement; it’s important for your teams to hear that you support this effort and their recommendations.

Through this first analysis and the next few analyses where your facilitators are mentored, it is important you set up regular communication meetings with your consultant.  Set aside fifteen to twenty minutes each day to meet with your consultant and discuss the progress of the facilitators and the team.  A good consultant will provide written progress reports on each facilitator along with suggestions on where this person needs to improve.

Step 5 – Report

            With this first analysis completed it is now time to develop your implementation plan and print the analysis results out in report form.  Schedule a one-hour meeting to communicate the findings of the RCM team.  Show the analysis report and implementation plan.  Provide a summary of the analysis findings including the number of failure modes covered, the number of predictive, preventive, failure-finding, and redesign tasks.  Communicate who will be responsible for implementing the tasks that came out of your analysis and when you plan on completing this implementation.  Show the plan for your path forward including; when we will begin performing the implemented tasks, how you will provide the resources to perform these tasks and a schedule for communication meetings to update people on RCM progress.

            Remember communicating the progress of your RCM effort is important in reinforcing that RCM will become the way perform maintenance.  Skipping these meetings sends the message that this effort is not important to you.

Step 6 – Audit and Track Results

            Identifying the correct maintenance tasks by performing an RCM analysis and implementing those tasks into your CMMS only completes two-thirds of the RCM cycle.  Actually performing the tasks completes the cycle. To ensure this final step of the process is being completed at regular intervals you will need to set up regular RCM audits.  Within your personal schedule of the schedule of a maintenance supervisor you will need to set aside time to perform random audits of new maintenance tasks.  The purpose of these audits is to again two fold, (1) it will reinforce that you are serious about making the shift to a RCM culture and (2) will provide you with an opportunity to reinforce the people who are performing the tasks correctly and on schedule.  Don’t make the assumption that because you now have RCM maintenance tasks set up within you, CMMS and people are charging time to them that they are in fact being completed.  Remember your people have been recognized and reinforced for years for fixing things that were broken, for getting operations up and running again.  They will need to be thanked just as often for completing your RCM tasks on time and on schedule and reminded of their importance to the business.

            Tracking your RCM results should be communicated at your regular communication meetings referred to in step four.  You will need to show how much of your first analysis has been implemented, how many of these tasks are now being completed on a regular basis (Audit compliance), your monthly maintenance costs, and most important, the OEE and TEEP measures for the asset you performed the analysis on.

Data proving a successful RCM analysis breed’s acceptance, excitement and a willingness to make this culture shift actually happen.  Report and celebrate this accomplishment acknowledge everyone who had a hand in making this success happen; RCM Facilitators, Analysis Participants, Planners, Trades-People and Operators for performing the tasks, and managers and supervisors for making people available for training, analyses, and tasks.

Keeping Your Effort Going

            Keeping your RCM effort going should be easy once you have shown your first success.  In fact, you will have to avoid the common temptation of moving too fast.  RCM when done well can be like a snowball rolling down hill building in size, momentum, and speed until it becomes uncontrollable and crashes.  Take my advice; moving to an RCM culture should not be a race. Too often companies get excited after the first analysis.  They then set an aggressive schedule to perform one analysis after another and often several at the same time.  When it comes time to implement the tasks from these analyses they have are not prepared to dedicate the implementation resources and the program crashes.  Again, RCM should not be a race. Complete your first analysis, implement the tasks and then begin your next analysis.  A good general rule of thumb once you have proven that RCM works is to schedule the next analysis to start when two-thirds of the tasks from the previous analysis have been completed.   A structured schedule wins this race. Results and direct savings are best achieved by taking the time to identify your next asset for analysis by using your reliability measures from step one.  Again, show people that we are using a process with real data to determine what we will analyze next and not emotion. In doing this you cement the learning from your RCM training and this shows your commitment to doing things the right way. 

In closing, it’s important to remember that Reliability Centered Maintenance is a powerful reliability tool with a proven track record.  It takes training, time, and repetition to become comfortable with the process and dozens of analyses to build your knowledge level to that of an expert.  Working closely with your consultant is the best way to shorten this learning curve.  It’s a good idea to set up set up some regular communication with your consultant and have your analyses reviewed for content and accuracy.  The more you learn and apply RCM the more reliable your business will become, and once this becomes your culture your people will become proactive thinkers providing career lasting benefits to your business.

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3 Responses to How to Perform RCM in a Reactive Maintenance Culture

  1. Mohammad Naseer Uddin says:

    Nice article. Worth reading.

    I would like to add saying that, developing detailed procedures based on RCM analysis is a massive task. RCM analysis only covers What and When part. The remaining How to do and who should do, with what tools, spares, consumables and skill levels set required would be covered in detailed procedures. Could you share some tips for this part of RCM implementation ?

  2. Jones simz says:

    How can I implement rcm on heavy equipment motors?

  3. Asim says:

    RCM mainly to keeps equipments available when needed to produce required quality and quantity. When it came to continuous production line the boundary will be very difficult. Different sectors have different needs and in my opinion this why nearly 19 versions of RCM mentioned although 2 to 5 comply with SAE criteria,

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