Reliability-centered maintenance

June 9, 2006
That, and a lot of related ideas.

Let's start at the top. RCM is a sensible concept. Analyze the consequences of something going awry. If it's no big deal, then spend your maintenance dollars elsewhere, where a mechanical failure surely would make a mess of things in a hurry.

Aladon LLC, Asheville, N.C., gives a rather comprehensive overview of the RCM concept in Reliability-Centered Maintenance: An Introduction, a paper posted at The 13-page document provides much food for thought and serves as a starting point for what's to follow.

Indeed, RCM is a nice idea, but the devil is in the details. In his article, The RCM trap, Christer Idhammar, president and CEO of IDCON Inc., Raleigh, N.C., argues that rushing into a full-blown RCM initiative might not be such a good idea. The payoff, he says, is in being able to do the basics well before complicating matters. You can read his rationale at

NASA certainly is aware of the RCM concept. In a six-page paper centered on the space shuttle orbiter titled Preventive Maintenance Strategies Using Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM), it provides a good grounding in the basic features and benefits of RCM. The paper is, to some extent and considering this audience, preaching to the choir when it argues the virtues of effective maintenance practices. If you're interested, go to for the details.

The Manage Mentor Web site offers advice on what should be done to make your RCM program successful. The article Reliability--Centered Maintenance gives a broad view of the topic by defining two failure types and offering a five-step approach to keep you on track. Read all about it at

Root cause analysis

Art Schneiderman, an independent consultant on the management of processes, makes a compelling argument for performing rigorous root cause analyses. The mathematics underlying the concept favor those practitioners who use creative brainstorming to unearth every possible cause for failure with a higher probability of success. For example, Schneiderman says that selecting five possible causes still leaves you with a 33 percent chance that none of them are the genuine root cause. Use that mouse of yours to root you way over to
to get the explanation.

Benchmarking RCA

Several times a year, people phone to ask about maintenance and operations benchmarks they can use for a new assignment. In May 1997, this column highlighted Web resources about benchmarking. Then, as now, this column's reason for being is to provide you with relevant, zero-cost, meaty, registration-free Web resources. By that yardstick, we hit gold with the next Web citation.

The Plant Maintenance Resource Center, Winthrop, Wash., wondered what industry was doing about root cause analysis, how it was used, why it was used, its success rates and other such musings. The outcome, 2001 Root Cause Analysis Survey Results, is an eight-page document based on 146 valid responses. It chops, slices, dices and reassembles the numbers to yield a variety of interesting relationships. Go to to see how you folks compare to the survey respondents.

The same Web site also posts links to articles about failure analysis. This material is found at

Sample RCA worksheets are available at The sample is aimed at a sentinal event, which is a major problem in a hospital, but it's adaptable to the needs of the plant professional.

Failure modes and effects analysis

FMEA is a structured way to think about and analyze what can go wrong with mechanical and electrical hardware and systems. It seeks to identify every possible point of failure, not just the one you happen to favor at the moment.

To get a general idea of what this means, visit to read Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA), an article by Kenneth Crow, DRM Associates, Palos Verdes , Calif. The four-page article describes the types of FMEA, where they're used, the benefits and more.

You also should examine what The U.S. Coast Guard has to say about the matter in its complete, three-volume e-book, Risk-Based Decision Making Guidelines, which is available for you to use in improving the operations in your plant. To find the section on FMEA, use your dead-reckoning skills and pilot your trusty mouse to After the page loads, float down to Volume 3, the link to which is found in the left frame. Then, cruise to Chapter 9: Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA). Before you get too involved and sink the initiative, read about FMEA's limitations.

FMEA Info Centre

This portal site seeks to be a "non-commercial Web-based inventory dedicated to the promotion of Failure Mode and Effect Analysis." Consequently, it appears to link to all things FMEA. Visit this site to learn about FMEA books, consultancy, downloads, examples, introductions, publications, abstracts, research, software, standards and discussion groups. To start your exploration, go to You'll find it pretty much self-explanatory.

Getting to the downloads is a two-step process. First, click on "Downloads." This takes you to an intermediate page, the purpose of which is to allow you to subscribe to periodic notices about updates to the download section. Make the second click (where is obvious) to gain access to articles, white papers, case histories, worksheets and software.

Failure Modes And Effects Analysis, 8th Edition, by R. R. Mohr, is almost a recipe for establishing a FMEA initiative. Posted by the Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the 38-page document offers definitions, uses, process details--it's all here for your inspection. Go to and get started.

Sample FMEA worksheets are available at The sample is aimed at environmental problems, but they're adaptable to the needs of the plant professional.

Fault trees don't bear low-hanging fruit

We have lofty discussions about reliability and maintenance and such. The consequences of a mechanical failure in your plant, however, is probably insignificant compared to what could happen at a nuclear power station. Our tax money at work has produced something of value. Fault Tree Handbook (NUREG-0492) is a textbook for a safety and reliability short course presented to Nuclear Regulatory Commission personnel and contractors. Make no mistake, this is a real book. The PDF file has 209 pages. It covers the basic concepts of fault tree analysis, its elements and how the tree is constructed, the qualitative and quantitative evaluation techniques and example problems. This prodigious work is found at If you don't have a T1 line, it will take some time to download. Get it started before you leave for lunch. It might be done when you return. Instead of printing it, save it to your network server so everyone can access it.

Free tree software

Thanks to the kind folks at the Department of Computer Science, School of Engineering, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va., you have access to the Galileo Fault Tree Analysis Tool. This dynamic modular fault tree analyzer is composed of the Galileo tool software, your Visio software and Microsoft Office. It integrates the three into a system that decomposes complex trees having both static and dynamic aspects into independent subtrees that are either static or dynamic and that can be solved more efficiently. Click on over to, where you will find the downloads. Be sure to read the entire page, especially the part about the permitted uses of the package.

Balanced scorecard

The BSC is a way to get everyone in the organization focused on the metrics that quantify what top management has identified as the proper direction for the company. The problem is that if the metrics are wrong, there can be unintended consequences. A good overview of the concept is given by Integrated measurement systems: Balanced scorecards and organizational development, an article posted to the Web site operated by Toolpack Consulting, LLC, Teaneck, N.J. The six-page piece is found at

Arthur M. Schneiderman, whose site was highlighted above, also weighs in on the BSC with another article, How To Build A Balanced Scorecard. In it, he offers a nine-step process that he says ensures the identification of a manageable and actionable set of BSC metrics that directly link to an organization's strategic objectives. He then suggests translating strategically chosen stakeholder segment requirements into a prioritized list of internal process improvements. Finally, he explains that searching out leveraged internal process measures is key in achieving a successful BSC implementation. This material can be found at

BSC software

How about some free software to support your BSC initiatives? The good folks at Dialog Software offer you a package called Dialog Strategy. The freeware version is available at

If you're a big fan of BSC, you can subscribe to a free e-zine on the subject. Bergquist Consulting, a consulting and publishing company in Haugesund on the Norwegian West Coast, publishes Balanced Scorecard Newswire. The site doesn't say how many issues come out each year, but it certainly can't hurt to visit and give it a try.

The amount of material on the Web that deals with balanced scorecards is almost overwhelming. When you have some time to kill, check out the following sites:
Guide to a Balanced Scorecard Performance Management Methodology -
Balanced Scorecard Resource Centre -
Balanced scorecard methodology -,,sid19_gci347160,00.html
The Balanced Scorecard Institute -

Key performance indicators

Nothing about KPIs for plant management and engineering surfaced during the research for this column. That's curious. Don't you folks use KPIs? Or is it a big secret that can't be posted to the Web?

Anyway, we'll simply move on using what we have. Plant maintenance and a restaurant both provide service functions. That's why you should investigate an article that shows how KPIs are applied to the six key performance areas that make eating establishments successful. Key Performance Indicators, by Ken Burgin & Associates, Australia, delves into each and shows the thinking that managers use to derive relevant KPIs. Let your mouse munch its way to for the five-page article. It might get you thinking.

Also, I realize plant management and engineering is far from online sales and marketing, but it might be worthwhile to read Key Performance Indicators Can Lead to e-Business Success, an article by Scott Cotter, Visual Insights, Naperville, Ill. In it he discusses strategy and the key performance indicators that would help the sales effort. Clever folks that you are, it wouldn't be that difficult to use a parallel approach in your concerns for the building envelope, infrastructure and asset reliability. Click over to for a good read.

If you want guidance on the characteristics of a good KPI, visit another Australian site, Establishing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is a brief article posted by the Queensland Government Department of Public Works.

Does your plant use Weibull production plots to track reliability and production rates? That might be a topic for a future column. Anyway, Weibull plots are used to estimate the cumulative probability that something will fail as a function of some applied stressor, such as increased production, temperature or the like. Barringer & Associates, Humble, Texas, posted an article that shows how to extract KPIs from the plots. If you cruise over to, you'll find Key Performance Indicators From Weibull Production Plots. Also, this Web page offers an Excel file that contains a Monte Carlo simulation of the problem. How one man was inspired to revitalize other maintenance departments

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