Thursday, August 10, 2017

Take Your Medicine

If they had cancer and I had the cure in a pill, they still wouldn’t eat it.

This was the response a colleague gave me on my inquiry with respect to his presentation at a trade show. The cure he was talking about is a concept that reliability professionals have been relying on for decades: Reliability Centred Maintenance (RCM).

However, most frustratingly for my colleague, attendees were listening but were totally unwilling to take their medicine.

Reliability Centred Maintenance is the conceptual framework that allows maintenance managers to create the most cost effective maintenance strategy for their operating environment.
It is the same concept employed across the world that has resulted in exponential improvements in air travel safety.



For the record, here are the seven RCM questions:
1.       What does it do (determine expected performance for operating environment)?
2.       How can the asset fail (define modes of failure, such as reduced braking ability or reduced output)?
3.       What causes the failure (define causes such as heat, friction, short circuit, crack)?
4.       What happens when the asset fails (brakes can’t stop, tank leaks etc.)?
5.       What are the consequences of each failure (safety/production risks)?
6.       How can we predict or prevent failure (maintenance monitoring or actions)?
7.       If you can’t be proactive, what else can be done?

In the hands of a trained practitioner, these questions can optimise the maintenance strategies of an entire organisation, and ensure that you renew/replenish critical components before they fail. Additionally, through a proactive education campaign, this can ensure that maintenance managers also understand the consequence of running their equipment too hard.

Two of the primary upshots are, less unplanned maintenance due to reduced failures, and, reduced downtime due to predicted appropriate spares holdings and service scheduling.

They all sound like positives right? Sure, but as any good professional knows, every function has a cost. The cost of RCM is primarily incurred when investing in the right resources and people to help your organisation.

In line with the hopes and dreams of managers that want something for nothing, the cost of handing an RCM book to your maintenance manager and assuring them that “he/she’s got this” is far, far, lower than getting a consultant in to do the job for them.

Unfortunately, initial cost is only one side of the equation. The truth of the matter is that you WILL NOT get the same value out of your investment, from someone trying to learn and implement RCM principles from scratch.

As I learned during my short tenure with an Asset Management consultancy, mature practitioners don’t need to recite the seven questions. The logic behind the questions becomes instinctive, and once you have that instinct, the road to optimisation is the only logical path.

And therein lies the problem for my colleague (being that he was overtly mature). What was logic for him may as well have been written in binary for the audience. They could only see the cost, which can be a very bitter pill to swallow.   

The benefit of getting the right people to optimise maintenance will be seen, not only in plant uptime and availability, but in the culture of your maintenance organisation. This is a long term benefit that continues to pay dividends long after the initial investment has been repaid many times over.




Of course the consequence of the third option (doing nothing) is death so…... 

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