RCM Facilitation – Hire and Expert or Develop Your Own People?  

Expert dependant RCM is heavily dependent on external, expert level RCM Blitz™ practitioner.  Your RCM practitioner will work closely with a lead manager from your company to help select assets for analysis, schedule and perform each analysis, and work with your RCM team.

The advantages of hiring in a RCM Expert

I would have to say this is the easiest way to implement RCM Blitz™ and this is why most consulting companies who offer RCM training and services try to sell this model.  The expert practitioner brings the following benefits to your company:

  • The experience of having performed over one hundred RCM analyses (IF he/she is truly an expert)
  • A thorough understanding of the RCM process along with its potential benefits and pitfalls
  • The expert will ensure your RCM team covers nearly all potential failure modes
  • Experts will challenge not only your RCM team participants but your company managers to ensure all failure modes are properly assessed (Companies training internal facilitators have found internal facilitator have a hard time challenging managers on difficult failure modes)
  • Experts are driven to make sure your company has success with Reliability Centered Maintenance, their livelihood and reputation depend on your success
  • This is typically the quickest way to complete the RCM cycle (Select Asset – Plan Analysis – Facilitate Analysis – Implement Analysis Results – Perform Tasks)
  • Your expert will bring with them real life experience on how to make RCM successful at your plant

Potential Problems

While there are several benefits to hiring a consultant/practitioner to head your RCM effort, this model can also have its problems.  The list below outlines what I see as potential problems along with a suggestion of how to keep this problem from derailing your effort.

  • Your RCM Practitioner is not really a RCM Expert – I once reviewed a RCM analysis that was supposedly performed by a RCM practitioner/expert, from reviewing the document it was clear this person had limited experience with RCM and little to no experience as a maintenance professional.  I highly recommend that your company interview your RCM expert just like you were hiring this person on as a new employee, ask for specific examples of where they have applied RCM successfully along with the names of references you can call to verify they indeed have the credentials to drive your effort.
  • Your people have to believe in the expert and the RCM process – This is really the most common problem anytime you use an expert you will find that people are reluctant to believe that not only does this process work but he/she knows how to make it work at your company.  I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the words “I’m sure RCM works, but our company is different…”, each time I’m told this I offer back that I love a challenge, and I have yet to find a company that couldn’t make RCM work.  Start by listing your potential road blocks and work with your RCM team to develop a detailed plan on how “we are going to overcome these obstacles to make sure our first RCM is implemented.”
  • Your RCM effort becomes expert dependent – The problem with your RCM program becoming expert dependent is your progress in RCM will only progress as fast the experts calendar will allow.  When your expert leaves for a week or two and people have questions regarding RCM or implementation, you now have to wait for answers in order for things to progress forward. If your expert is busy training, facilitating and mentoring for other companies as well as yours, your progress may take longer as a result.  The best RCM Practitioners are always busy so if you’re planning on going this route, I would set up fixed dates on the calendar as soon as possible.


Developing your own RCM Expert

Your company should first look to train and develop facilitators and from that group of certified facilitators select one or two people to develop as RCM Practitioners.  Your RCM practitioner will then take on the lead role for your company RCM effort developing a plan for roll out of RCM, training, mentoring and certification of future RCM facilitators.  While I would rank this as the most desired model, I would also note that this takes time and dedication.  I would recommend that a facilitator have at least 10 RCM analyses completed and implemented prior to becoming trained as a practitioner.  Reliability Centered Maintenance is a tedious process it requires a load of patience and even more discipline to become a practitioner, in the end you have to love the process to become a RCM practitioner.

The Pro’s of developing your own internal expert practitioner

  • Your company RCM effort is no longer totally dependent on the expert practitioner
  • In developing internal RCM facilitators your are creating a future RCM expert resource for your company
  • Your internal facilitators are well connected to your company, its goals, and they have a thorough understanding of your critical assets, reliability measures, and were losses are occurring at your plant site
  • Internal facilitators can easily obtain up-front critical RCM information much easier than the external practitioner (Drawings, procedures, OEM’s)
  • Internal facilitators are more aware of who the participants should be for each RCM analysis
  • This is the most cost effective way to create a RCM culture at your company
  • Your internal expert if properly trained will have a world of experience in RCM making it easy to identify assets for analysis, perform the analyses, implement the results, and report the results of each success
  • Your internal practitioner will be a resource for the rest of your company when it comes to Reliability Centered Maintenance and Manufacturing Reliability

Potential Problems with the internal expert

  • Training practitioners too early – I am fully aware of some companies that sell RCM training services that will sign up today anyone who expresses the desire to become a RCM practitioner with no experience in performing RCM.  I can tell you today in all honesty that you can not create a RCM practitioner with 1 month of classroom training.  The experience in actually facilitating several RCM analyses on various types of equipment that best qualifies one to attend practitioner certification. Rushing this process might deliver a person who academically understands Reliability Centered Maintenance but has no life experience in actually facilitating the process and implementing the results.  Fast Track Practitioner training, is very expensive and has a very poor success rate.  If you want a internal Practitioner take my advice and make sure this person is actually capable of facilitating the process, implementing the tasks and showing proven results before investing in practitioner training.
  • You train your Practitioner and then they leave your company – People who are certified RCM practitioners contain a skill set that companies all over the world are in need of.  If you don’t believe me go to SMRP.org or ReliabilityWeb.com and take a look at the all the companies who are looking for people with RCM experience.  If you plan on training a RCM practitioner be prepared to match or better benefits packages offered by other companies in your area.

The last option is the Self Trained RCM Expert

   As I began writhing this chapter I decided to call an old friend who is also a RCM practitioner to see what he thought about these strategies, his advice was to leave the last one out as “it rarely works and when it does they usually made so many mistakes that other people in this company no longer believe in the viability of RCM as a reliability tool.”   While his advice is true, I still have decided to include the Self Trained Expert as the last option.  The reason I made this decision comes from working with a few small yet proactive manufacturing companies.  Small companies have little to spend when it comes to training and while this is true they still have a strong desire to improve reliability and cut costs as a result their people will begin searching the internet for ideas on how to cut costs and improve reliability.  In this search they find tools like Root Cause Analysis, Cause Mapping, RCM Blitz and so on.  As they begin reading about these tools and the results that companies achieve through training, performing and implementing RCM they make the call to inquire about training and the first question the ask is how much does this cost?  OUCH!

For those people who want to learn about RCM on their own there is plenty of information available on the web.  I myself would start with the original RCM document published by Stan Nowlan and Howard Heap this huge document can be obtained on the web for free and while it was first published in 1978 it truly is the basis from which all good RCM methodologies were founded.  Once you have finished I would then recommend you begin to outline the seven steps of RCM and how you plan to go about completing these steps.  To do this I would then use this book or a couple of others written by Mac Smith and John Mobrey as resources.

When you’re ready to get started don’t be afraid to develop a phone or e-mail relationship with a certified RCM practitioner.  Anyone in this business who is worth the dirt they walk on would be more than willing to give you a few minutes here and there for coaching and if you’re looking for a mentor simply page through a few conference presentations for a list of names.

The few advantages of the self trained expert

  • It’s cheap!
  • It’s quite satisfying to learn on your own
  • Understanding and performing RCM makes people marketable

The Potential Problems with this method (This list could be huge, I kept it to the obvious)

  • Time – Be prepared for this to take well over a year before you learn enough to become confident in with the process.
  • Mistakes – Your first several RCM analyses will be loaded with mistakes, you have to hope that none are severe enough to derail your effort.
  • Support – Because you are learning you will be tempted to change the process and others who don’t know the process will also encourage you to make changes.  As a result these attempts to start fail over and over again and before long people give up.  My suggestion is start with Nowlan and Heap, stick to that for your first few analyses and make changes one at a time.

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