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Create your most efficient maintenance strategy with RCM

Maintenance constitutes a notable portion of operating costs for asset intensive industries. Management in these industries need dynamic maintenance strategies that provide measurable, qualitative results to justify the expense. This is typically measured in terms of uptime or reliability.

by Joy Singh

The challenge with establishing a successful maintenance strategy based on OEM recommendations or purely on personnel is the lack of installed operating context (operating conditions, culture, and environment), equipment specific history, and a structured approach. Formal methods of effective maintenance plan development, such as RCM, utilize a structured approach. RCM starts by capturing the operating context of an asset to identify and establish site specific nuances. This operating context forms the basis for the maintenance plan which is developed by utilizing the following 7 questions:


  1. Functions and desired performance standards, i.e. expectations of the asset by its users.
  2. Functional failures, i.e. ways in which the asset can fail to fulfil the expected function(s).
  3. Failure modes, i.e. causes of each functional failure.
  4. Failure effects, i.e. direct effect of the failure on operations.
  5. Failure consequences, i.e. quantified impact on HSE, profitability, etc.
  6. Proactive tasks and intervals, i.e. actions to prevent the consequence or predict the failure.
  7. Default actions, i.e. for cases where a proactive task is unable to prevent/predict failure, e.g. run to failure, failure-finding, and/or redesign depending on consequence severity.


The RCM methodology also leverages the assets’ breakdown history along with the experience of the various personnel interacting with the asset frequently. This approach results in the creation of an effective maintenance program, integrated with the concept of “rights”. RCM strives to ensure that the right work is done at the right time by the right people in the right way. This is achieved by capturing all necessary information required to complete a maintenance task, and then creating task bundles to maximize execution efficiency.

The RCM process provides several benefits to management, including:

  • Increased Safety and Environmental Compliance – the first component of assessing failure consequences is to identify and quantify any impact of the asset failure on personnel health, safety, and the environment. This results in the creation of a maintenance plan which minimizes health, safety and environmental consequences of an asset failure, and initiates a redesign in cases where HSE consequences cannot be mitigated through a proactive maintenance task.
  • Manpower Utilization and Forecasting – the output of a well facilitated RCM should deliver bundled maintenance tasks that include details such as manpower, materials, tool requirements, and the method and duration required to complete the task.  This clarifies the base work load for the maintenance team and enables forecasting of manpower requirements.
  • Improved Coordination and Scheduling – a documented maintenance plan with task frequencies allows for proper planning and scheduling of maintenance work. This in turn allows for better coordination between operations and maintenance teams.
  • Enhanced Cost Efficacy – implementing a maintenance plan with tasks that are focused on preventing failures before they occur and mitigating their consequences improves the effectiveness of maintenance, cost, ing and overall reliability.
  • Spare Parts Optimization – by assessing equipment failure to the depth that RCM facilitates an understanding the consequence of failure, a list of critical spare parts is typically created and provided to the materials management team for stocking. This enables reduction in the Mean Time To Restore (MTTR) based on Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) and historical data collected during development.

While the initial investment in resources, time and cost to develop a robust RCM plan can seem like a deterrent, the payback more than offsets the cost of development. RCM can help improve HSE performance, create organizational efficiency, and control wasteful maintenance spending while reducing re-work and maintenance preventable downtime. The value of downtime directly and strongly impacts business profitability. Profitability is key to business survival and any avenue to improve profitability must be considered, especially in periods of low margin.






Joy Singh

Joy Singh is a senior consultant with T.A. Cook in North America. He has over 10 years of experience in a wide variety of industries. Joy currently provides consulting services for asset-intensive businesses in the refining and chemical processing industry. His work supports his clients in organizational development, leadership training, maintenance optimization, planning and scheduling, work execution and operational excellence.