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Reliability Centered Maintenance

Reliability Centered Maintenance: what it is and how to implement it

Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) implements a specific maintenance strategy for each component of the asset. Learn about the benefits and how to implement it

If you are a professional in the AECO sector, you certainly know that the design phase is the first, but not the most substantial phase in an asset life cycle. On the other hand, the management and maintenance phase is the longest and most expensive.

To go through it correctly, a good facility management software will be necessary, but also the right strategies. One of these is Reliability Centered Maintenance. But do we really know what it is and how to implement it in our workflow? Let’s find out in this article.

What is Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM)?

Reliability Centered Maitenance (RCM) is a maintenance strategy aiming to optimize the Operation and Maintenance phase of a physical asset.

This maintenance approach was first introduced in the aviation industry and consists of implementing a specific maintenance strategy for each of the parts of the facility. The process aims at identifying the potential problems associated with the various assets and determining the possible solutions so as to ensure continuity of their operation.

Reliability centred maintenance is often mistaken for preventive maintenance. However, there is a fundamental difference: preventive maintenance has a lower level of selectivity and detail than RCM, which makes it less efficient than the latter. When performed correctly, Reliability Centered Maintenance reduces inefficiency by carefully examining every single resource before assigning maintenance tasks.

The purpose of RCM is therefore to ensure that inspection and maintenance activities are focused on improving the reliability and safety of all the assets.

What are the four basic principles of an RCM program?

A successful maintenance program based on Reliability Centered Maintenance will follows these four fundamental principles:

  1. it aims is at preserving the functionality of the asset;
  2. it identifies the failure modes, that is what problems the various components of the asset could face and how these problems could arise;
  3. it establishes an order of “importance” of the faults to which a priority of intervention is assigned;
  4. it defines, for each potential fault spotted, the possible intervention methods and selects the most effective ones.

The RCM process: how to implement Reliability Centered Maintenance?

To implement a program based on Reliability Centered Maintenance, three phases will be enough, that is Decision, Analysis and Act – within which seven steps are distinguished. Let’s delve into this process together.

PHASE I: Decision

In this first phase, a planning based on readiness, needs and desired outcomes is carried out. Within this first phase there are three steps:

  • preliminary analysis: the more multidisciplinary the team is, the more effective this phase will be. An effective interdisciplinary team will include maintenance employees, project managers, O&M experts and executive leadership. This preliminary analysis phase outlines the organizational objectives, the potential obstacles, the budget and the timeline;
  • selection of equipment for Reliability Centered Maintenance Analysis: to select the best equipment for RCM analysis, it will be useful to answer these questions:
    • could the failure be difficult to detect during normal Operation and Maintenance activities?
    • could the failure jeopardize safety?
    • could the failure have a significant impact on operations?
    • could the failure have a significant impact on costs?
  • identification of components and functionalities: this step creates a complete list of the expected functionalities and performance levels of the various assets of the facility, including as much data as possible.

PHASE II: Analysis

This second step focuses on getting a quality output from Reliability Centered Maintenance. It consists of three steps aimed at the detection of

  • malfunctions;
  • the consequences of malfunctions;
  • failure modes.

This last point requires the analysis of the surrounding situation that generated the fault. One of the most common techniques to address this step is Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA). It consists of a step-by-step approach to identify all possible failures in relation to the various life stages of the component that suffered the failure.


In this third phase, the aim is to intervene according to what emerged from the previous phases by updating the procedures and the maintenance program. This third phase will see the development of a single step that is the choice of maintenance methods.

  • Select maintenance tasks: at this point all that remains is to elaborate the most appropriate Operation and Maintenance program based on the data collected in the previous phases. The tecniques used to tackle faults belong to two main categories:
    • proactive activities: preventive and predictive maintenance techniques that aim at preventing the failure of an equipment or a component of the asset;
    • default activities: reactive maintenance activities based on intervening once a fault has occurred.
Reliability Centered Maintenance Implementation Program

Reliability Centered Maintenance Implementation Program

What are the benefits of Reliability Centered Maintenance?

When it comes to choosing which maintenance approach to adopt, the final decision will depend a lot on the characteristics of the specific asset. However, we can say that the implementation of Reliability Centered Maintenance brings the following advantages:

  • increased availability of equipment;
  • reduction of maintenance costs.

A study shows that the adoption of RCM program cuts maintenance costs by up to 40%. Therefore, the cut of maintenance costs and the risk of failures and malfunctions are factors that can lead to the implementation of an RCM program.

A detailed preliminary analysis of the asset and its components is essential to determine the maintenance approach that best suits the case. Equally important is to rely on professional technologies that support technicians with the aim of always obtaining the maximum in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. For this reason, I recommend the use of a professional facility management software that allows you to simplify the maintenance of all types of facilities, planning activities and managing problems in a single platform.