Reliability-centered maintenance: Then vs. now

March 21, 2019
The RCM3 process changes the way that protective systems are managed and, of more importance, how risk is quantified and mitigated.

When I first learned about reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) in the 1990s, I never thought that one day my career would center around it, nor that I would never stop learning about RCM and its powerful philosophy. A philosophy works by asking very basic questions about all things and the connections between them. RCM is more than a methodology or a process; it is a philosophy. When you study RCM, you realize how things really work and how they are connected.

The power of RCM and what it can achieve is often underestimated. In the 40 years since RCM was first applied in the airline industry, it has been applied to almost all types of industrial assets. As RCM practitioners, we have learned much about how and where to apply it. Over the years, true RCM has drawn criticism for taking too long and tying up too many resources. For me, a properly executed RCM process is the only way to ensure that an asset will continue to do what its users want it to do (intended function) in its present operating context.

The SAE JA1011 standard defines the criteria that any process must possess to be called RCM. The RCMII book by John Moubray was a key reference in the standard and has sold more than 100,000 copies. Aladon’s RCM2 methodology has been applied globally on more sites than any other RCM process, and The Aladon Network trained more people in RCM than any other organization. That collective knowledge and collaboration of the Aladon Network led to the development of the RCM3 methodology.

RCM3 is a risk-based approach and is profoundly different from the RCM process defined by the SAE JA1011 standard. RCM3 is not only more advanced and aligned with the international standards for physical asset management and risk management, but also it allows users to fully understand and quantify the risks associated with owning and operating assets.

The RCM3 methodology is based on the initial work introduced by John Moubray in 2003 and is a continuation of many years of rigorous development and testing. In the process of improving the hugely successful RCM2 methodology, we have come to realize the absolute brilliance and pioneering work of John Moubray. People who know RCMII will recognize the terminologies and process. The RCM3 process, however, changes the way we look at the importance of the operating context, how protective systems are managed, and of more importance, how risk is quantified and mitigated.


The major difference between the two processes is the treatment of failures. In RCM, the major distinction was between hidden and evident failures. Proactive treatment of evident failures (routine maintenance) was considered first before default actions (run to failure or redesign) were selected.

In RCM3, the focus is still on the distinction between hidden and evident failures, but there’s now clear differentiation between intolerable and tolerable risks. This has a profound impact on how decisions are made—the proactive risk management strategies are now more comprehensive, and more decisions are made during the analysis. The time it takes to perform an RCM3 analysis is affected by the treatment of identified risks. The RCM3 facilitator now focuses on the mitigation of intolerable risks (as defined by the organization’s risk framework) during the RCM workshop and treats tolerable risks (if this can be done in a cost-effective way) outside the RCM analysis meetings, using the expertise of individuals rather than the whole review group, thus saving time and money.

Marius Basson is president of Aladon and is a member of The Aladon Network, a global community of reliability professionals whose members are certified by Aladon in the delivery of RCM-based equipment reliability methodologies. This article is drawn from the new book RCM3: Risk-Based Reliability Centered Maintenance, available at, and is copyright © 2019 The Aladon Network.

This new work begins by outlining how the requirements of Industry 4.0 place additional pressure on maintenance departments, as well as on the techniques and technology they use. It further introduces the progression from maintenance management to physical asset management, the applicable standards and an overview of the RCM3 process and the requirements for starting a successful RCM-based reliability program.

The book then shows how the RCM3 process should be applied, how assets should be selected, and what RCM3 achieves when applied correctly. RCM3 is not viewed as a standalone process. True benefits can only be achieved if integrated with other improvement initiatives such as reliability-centered design (RCD) and root-cause failure analysis (RCFA).

Enjoy your RCM3 journey!

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