The Art of Implementing RCM

RCM StudyI am passionate about RCM. .. always have been and for the foreseeable future I think I always will be. (Until something better comes along) For me it takes in a lot of what is great about what I do as a consultant in this area. I get to introduce new concepts and themes to people, I get to help them improve teamwork, understanding and performance, and (if I am lucky) I get to develop a relationship with them that lasts way past the consulting engagement. (Because we share common interests in RCM and Asset Management) So we aren't going to go into the benefits of RCM - there are literally hundreds of articles out there relating to that! Let's take it as a given that we (as a discipline) get it now! But we need to get a whole lot better about implementing RCM. There are lots of arguments about this, a heap of people look to the process and streamline it (often dangerously in my view), others look at the process of analyzing and try to streamline that, and yet others try to get it all done by software and technology - limiting the requirement for human involvement. (Which brings it's own basket of risks of course) That's all interesting stuff and is a discussion for another time... right now I think there are more urgent and pressing issues relating to the implementation of RCM. Namely - lack of managerial support ! We hear about this all the time. It shows up on surveys, speakers talk about it at conferences, and we even see it in courses. Then there are all sorts of "tips" on how we need to "sell" it to management, generally trying not to step on anybodies toes etc... (BAH!) But HOW are managers supposed to support? What is it precisely that they should do to give support to the RCM initiative? Standard answers revolve around Pick the right people for facilitators and teams", or "make sure that the resources have enough time to do the work", or even to the point of "set aside dedicated resources". All great advice, all things we have heard before, and all very difficult in an environment where daily requirements of cost-effective production are pulling at the supervisors and managers of any industrial endeavor. So, what else can they do? Something that really grates me when implementing reliability methodologies (DARNIT!) is the difference I see between RBI implementations and RCM implementations. And it annoys me NOT BECAUSE I don't like RBI - I do, but because of the double standards that are set. Let me explain...
  • RBI is about inspection, it is tied into the management of physical assets and is... normally... performed and executed by the inspectors themselves.
  • So RBI is... amazingly.. a cost center! (Well done to them!)
  • But when it comes to RCM what do we do? We assign it to a few "specialists" maybe train a handful of others, then manage it like a limited life project.
  • So RBI, good idea, Cost Center... RCM, good idea, Limited Life Project
If we are serious about RCM (and we need to be) then it is not a limited life project, it is part of "the way we do business around here". What does that mean practically? It means that it forms part of every discussion that has to do with maintenance - production, tons (whatever), incidents, downtime/uptime, safety, environment, team development, talent management, prerequisites for promotions, work processes, justification of engineering spend, and so on... a BIG list. Implementing RCM, as Moubray was fond of saying, is about changing the way that people think - so we can change the way they act. RBI is an integral part of every inspectors role and of their thinking, RCM needs to be an integral part of every maintenance technician (and managers) thinking, activities and decisions. When we are able to claim it as part of day-to-day duties, when it becomes part of the "way we do business around here" then we are winning!