Free Course Video #3:

This video is from Lesson 2 of Module 4 of the course, Developing and Improving Preventive Maintenance Programs (PM100).

Key points

In this lesson, we talk about when you do an RCM study, both in terms of time as well in terms of what systems and equipment you should consider doing RCM on.

The key points I want students to take away from this lesson are:

What you’ll learn

This lesson is part of Module 4 of the course, in which we unpack what is probably the most famous or infamous acronym in our profession – RCM or Reliability Centered Maintenance.

This module is an introduction to RCM and will not make you proficient in doing RCM analyses or turn you into an experienced RCM facilitator. As you will see RCM is a relatively simple concept, but it takes a lot of experience, expertise and a lot of effort to apply it effectively.

The reason I introduce RCM so early in this course is that it is in many ways the Gold Standard when it comes to maintenance program analysis. It is the benchmark against which all the other approaches are compared against, and more often than not, other approaches are derivatives from RCM.

Some of the other things we discuss in this module are:

  • Learn what RCM is and when to use it, so that you can make informed decisions on whether to deploy RCM or opt for other PM improvement approaches
  • Learn to the key success factors so that if you deploy RCM you achieve the results you need
  • Become an informed buyer so that you can adequately select service providers. Caveat Emptor!
Please note: if you are interested in the course in one of these languages either with subtitles or with a voiceover in your native language, please contact me directly. We are working hard on getting the course translated into all these languages, but this will take some time.
Video Transcript - LESSON 4.2

When to do RCM

All right, welcome to lesson two of module four, in which we’re going to talk briefly about when you should be doing an RCM study.


Now there are two key points that I want you to take away from this lesson. The first is that ideally RCM should be started during the design of your plant or equipment. And the second is that, and we’ve talked about this before, RCM is a lot of work, so I strongly recommend you only use it for the most critical, most complex systems in your plant.


So the central question in this question is when should you do RCM? Well, simply put the best time to do RCM is during the design, and I don’t mean during the design phase of a minor upgrade or a simple replacement project. You want to apply RCM during the design phase of large, complex, critical projects, and it’s important that you do this very early in the project life cycle, because remember, when you’re using the RCM decision diagram, that may well drive you towards some redesign. And unless you come to those conclusions early in the project life cycle, you have no chance of getting any of those redesign requirements except to buy the project.


Now there are many diagrams out there that depict the life cycle of large capital projects, and that’s not really in the scope of this course, and that’s not what we’re already talking about. So I’ve taken the one that I’m the most familiar with based on my experience, and it basically talks about the different phases being identify, assess, select, define, execute, and operate. I’ve also depicted the front and loading phases FEL-1, -2, and -3, which might be more familiar terminology to some of you.


The point is that terminology doesn’t actually really matter. You want to start doing your initial reliability reviews and your RCM analysis in the concept phase of the project, and so in this diagram that will be around FEL-2 or select. This can be tricky because you often don’t have enough detail to redo a full RCM, but unless you start at this time and start flushing out key maintenance issues and assumptions in the structure of your preventive maintenance program. Unless you do that at this phase, you’re going to be too late.


So in my experience, you’ll typically find that this then becomes a bit of an iterative process. You start in the select phase during concept and you progressively add more detail to your analysis and to your maintenance program as you move from your concept design to feed and then eventually into detail design and execution. And we’re venturing into what in some industries is referred to as operational readiness, which is all about making sure that the organization is ready to operate large complex projects when they come on stream and that the project has delivered everything that is required for the organization to be successful. But it’s really important to iterate that you want to be doing your RCM, you want to be doing preventive maintenance program development very early on in that project life cycle.


And that’s the reason I want to share this one last slide before we leave this topic, and it talks about the value of making the right decisions early in a project. And chances are, if you’ve been involved in major capital projects, you will probably have seen something like that. If not, it’s worth going through this. So what you see here is a set of green and red lines that basically show the value delivered by a project as it progresses through the various phases in the project life cycle, right? So at the top you see those project phases of identify, assess, select, define, execute, and operate, and on the left hand you see an axis of increasing value.


And basically what is being shown here is that the green line, the line that reflects good decisions, shows that good decisions made early in the project phase deliver a lot more value than good execution at the back end of the phase. And so sure, a good execution is key to success and is really, really important, but a badly executed, well-defined and well-designed project will almost always deliver a lot more value than a well-executed, but poorly defined and poorly designed project. And that’s exactly what this graph shows, right? So the red line with the poor decisions, no matter how good your execution is, it doesn’t come close to the green line with good decisions, whether it was good execution or poor execution.


All right, now when you look at these graphs, you need to keep in mind that in essence the same applies for decisions that impact maintenance. And so you want to be making your decisions around maintenance and the design and how you set up your maintenance around the concept phase. That’s when those decisions drive the biggest value. Now I’m not going to dwell any further on this, but I thought it’s an important thing to mention when we talk about when to do RCM, right?


All right, so what if you are in an operating plant where the design phase is long gone. You can’t do it anymore during defined phase. What would be the second best time to do RCM? Well, in that case, it would be right now, or maybe never. Now that’s a little bit flippant, but let me explain a little bit more. I’ve already said this before, and I’m going to keep saying it, RCM studies when done right, and let’s be honest, why bother doing them if you’re not going to do them right? Are a lot of work. And I mean, a lot of work.


You could quite easily burn 1,000 to 2,000 man hours to do an RCM study on a single but reasonably complex system. Now that in itself is not actually a problem as those 2,000 hours could generate huge value for the business, but it certainly highlights the fact that it’s not economical to do RCM on everything, nor is it required or viable or even practical or possible. Because if you have to spend that amount of man hours, that amount of effort on a system, chances are you do not have the resources to do it on everything.


And so you want to only consider doing RCM on the most critical and complex ‘bad actors’, and we’ll talk a little bit about that in a minute, but before I just want to make one distinction because this is where I really prefer Mac Smith’s book on RCM over Moubray’s, because Max Smith is very clear in his book about the need to apply RCM only on what he calls the worst behaving systems in your plant. And he basically tells you to go and do a Pareto chart analysis, and that’s what we’ll talk about later too, and use that to identify your badly behaving systems and focus your RCM there.


And in fact, Max Smith offers a couple of modified RCM approaches in his book that you can use on the majority of systems in your plant that are not ‘bad actors’ and he refers to him as you’re well behaved systems. So this is one of the strengths I see in Max Smith’s book over Moubray’s book. But if you can afford it, I would actually recommend you buy yourself a copy of both. They’re really, really good reference books, and if you are a maintenance and reliability practitioner, I really think you should have both of them on your bookshelf.


All right, now let’s analyze that statement a little bit more, that we only conduct RCM in the most critical and most complex of our ‘bad actors’. And the first part is a reference to the most critical and complex, and the point I want to make with that statement is that you don’t want to be doing RCM on every ‘bad actor’ just because it’s a ‘bad actor’. If you have a relatively simple system that is causing you issues, you may well be able to come to a solution on how to resolve that without all the effort and rigor the RCM requires.


Now sometimes you can fix persistent ‘bad actors’ with relatively simple tools, simply by making sure the systems actually get the focus and attention they deserve. And the second part of this statement is that we should be looking to apply RCM on our ‘bad actors’. Right? We are not looking to do RCM on everything, we’re looking to do it on the systems that are causing us the most pain. We’re identifying those ‘bad actors’ by looking at those systems that cost us the most in terms of both preventive and corrective maintenance, and we’re going to look at those systems that are causing the most pain in terms of production losses or downtime.


If you generate a couple of Pareto charts by system that tell you the total cost on an annualized basis for maintenance, both preventive maintenance and corrective maintenance, and you create another chart of the production losses or downtime by system, then put those two charts next to each other and you will have a very good idea of where you would want to start a potential RCM study. And again, keep in mind that just because a system is on the ‘bad actor’ chart does not mean you have to do an RCM, but I would turn it the other way around. If a system is not a ‘bad actor’, you do not want to be doing RCM. There are better, more efficient tools out there for you to use.


And so back to that slide that I showed earlier where it said that the second best time to do RCM is either now or never, and that goes back to the statement that if it is a complex, critical ‘bad actor’, you want to be doing RCM probably now. If it’s not a critical or a complex system, you may never want to do RCM because there may be better tools out there that you can use. And if it’s not a bad actor, you certainly do not want to be engaging an RCM study to optimize the preventive maintenance program. There are more efficient, more cost effective, less time consuming processes that you can use for systems that are not complex, not critical, and not ‘bad actors’.


And so basically what I usually say is that if you are an immature plant with reasonably historical data, you want to start improving your preventive maintenance program with a more lean, more practical approach, like preventive maintenance optimization, or PMO. And that’s something we’re going to discuss in module five of this course.


All right, so that brings me to the end of this lesson. We talked briefly about how ideally you should be doing RCM during the design of your plant and equipment, and we touched on the fact that that really should be in the concept phase of the design process, and then you iterate as you go through the project life cycle. And we also saw that because RCM is a lot of work, you really should only be using it for the most complex, critical ‘bad actors’ in your plant. And if it’s not complex or critical, RCM is probably not the tool to use. And certainly if it’s not a ‘bad actor’, RCM is probably not the tool to use.

PM100: Developing and Improving Preventive Maintenance Programs

Achieve higher reliability and availability whilst doing less maintenance. Acquire the knowledge and tools you need to create a highly effective and efficient Preventive Maintenance Program.

This course includes:
Leave a comment below telling us what types of maintenance you use and why. Have you had great results with one specific type of maintenance let us know: