I get mad at Stan Nowlan and Howard Heap from time to time. Fifteen years ago their work titled Reliability Centered Maintenance became the focus of my life when I first discovered the impact that RCM could have on manufacturing reliability. Since that time, I have authored somewhere around twenty articles on the subject, been a featured speaker at nearly three conferences a year and last year I even completed a book on the subject, describing what I see as the most effective way to complete a RCM analysis as well as the impact it can have on equipment and process reliability (Reliability Centered Maintenance using RCM Blitz). For those who have taken the time to become educated in what a good RCM analysis is all about, the know power of this tool and where it applies. I know from experience, Reliability Centered Maintenance can and will deliver incredible results.

So, why am I mad at Stan Nowlan and Howard Heap?

Well, they are the two men responsible for putting the “maintenance” tag on what should have been called Reliability Centered Everything.

For those who are in the know when it comes to RCM forgive me while I attempt to enlighten those who believe the word “Maintenance” somehow makes RCM incomplete. From the time I first began to learn what RCM was and how it should be applied I understood one thing to perfectly clear, the process does not work nearly as well without a cross functional team that includes representatives from Maintenance, Engineering, and Operations. This cross functional team is required because we need to understand the failure modes that could result from the context and environment in which we operate our equipment. One should note that the word operate or operator has been used more in this paragraph than the word maintenance. This makes me wonder from time to time why old Nowlan and Heap didn’t call their process Reliability Centered Operations  or Reliability Centered Manufacturing?

The second thing I learned as I studied up on RCM was the importance of discussing all likely failure modes; this would include failure modes that result from improper design, operation or maintenance as they applied to the components that make up the system. These failure modes should be discussed in terms of how each of the failures could impact our business and RCM decision logic should be applied to mitigate each failure mode by developing a corresponding maintenance task.

So, as we look at the process of analyzing failure modes we will discuss failure modes that could have been engineered into the equipment in the design phase. Excuse me, why did they not call this Reliability Centered Design?  OH MY GOD!  What were they thinking of course this should have been Reliability Centered Manufacturing Design!

As the team works to develop tasks for mitigating failure modes we will assign maintenance tasks to the various trades as well as equipment operators. Hello, pardon me; did you say we will assign maintenance tasks to the operators? Are you sure this is not Reliability Centered Operations? This is just down right confusing, are talking about equipment operators or maintenance mechanics?

Believe it or not even the original Reliability Centered Maintenance methodology assigned maintenance tasks to the equipment operator. The operators they were referring to were the pilot and co-pilot, each is assigned several maintenance tasks in the form of an operator check lists that are completed each time they operate the equipment. The equipment operators at manufacturing facilities around the world should also have similar tasks that put in place to ensure the equipment is fit to function as well as other tasks that look to detect potential failures based on operating or process conditions. The difference between Reliability Centered Maintenance and other tools that look to involve the operating crew in set up, change over and maintenance is when we assign tasks in RCM the operator is well aware as to why this task needs to be completed and the potential consequences to our business if we elect to not perform the task.

Thanks to Nowlan and Heap lots of things these days are becoming “Reliability Centered” today. I performed a Google search and discovered we have Reliability Centered Sales, Reliability Centered Lubrication, Reliability Centered Design, Reliability Centered Risk Management and Reliability Centered Engineering. The lastest trend is Reliability Centered Manufacturing indicating that some of us in the world of manufacturing are apparently so shallow we can’t see that both RCM’s are really the same thing.  The reality is while they all claim reliability centered something other than maintenance, I happen to know that everything they are trying to sell or do is already covered by Reliability Centered Maintenance.

While I don’t wish to be any older than I am today, I sure would love to have had the opportunity to meet Stan Nowlan and Howard Heap. Our meeting would start with me asking for two signatures on my well read Nowlan and Heap RCM document and once that was completed I would ask the question that might satisfy the masses who are afraid of the word Maintenance.

“Guys, why didn’t you call it Reliability Centered Everything?”

If you are interested in learning more about Reliability Centered Maintenance or RCM Blitz™, GPAllied is offering public courses in locations around the world. Please click on the RCM Blitz link for more information.

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