Industry Specific Insights

Shifting From Reactive to Reliability Centered Maintenance

Ryan Chan

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Key Takeaways

  • Reactive maintenance culture can be a money-sink due to loss of asset reliability and poor maintenance budget usage
  • Shifting to reliability centered maintenance addresses these problems by creating a planned maintenance culture
  • Justifying value and planning Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) implementation are extremely important for shifting maintenance culture 
  • Make sure to always communicate value to key stakeholders 


Shifting from Reactive to Reliability Centered Maintenance

At most facilities, reactive maintenance is a fact of life. In fact, it’s a good idea to know how to deal with reactive maintenance. Emergency scenarios and unexpected failures will almost always happen. A facility manager can address the problems of a reactive-focused facility by shifting to reliability centered maintenance. In doing so, a facility manager can implement asset-specific maintenance plans to optimize asset uptime. 

The problem with reactive maintenance

Every facility deals with reactive maintenance. If a piece of equipment gives out, or a motor breaks unexpectedly, it would be helpful to have a plan for reactive maintenance. 

Reactive maintenance workflow

Reactive maintenance refers to the process of repairing assets and restoring them to normal operating conditions after a breakdown or observances of unusual performance. This diagram outlines the reactive maintenance workflow.

Reactive maintenance becomes problematic when a facility performs mostly emergency maintenance. In this situation, a maintenance culture wouldn’t proactively solve issues or address the root causes of equipment failures. A maintenance team should not always be “fighting fires.” Instead, they should address emergencies first. This means they would not dedicate hours to preventive maintenance (PM) or equipment upkeep. In these cases, performing too much reactive maintenance is actually a challenge to productivity and reliability. 

Reactive maintenance presents a problem for planning because a facility can never be sure how much maintenance work it actually needs. In this situation,  the only maintenance work being performed is in reaction to problems that exist. Reliability centered maintenance, in comparison, requires careful planning and scheduling. 

How to shift workplace culture from reactive to reliability centered maintenance

Make a business argument 

It might be a natural impulse to try and change people’s minds by supporting the benefits of reliability centered maintenance. Simply talking about how great RCM is won’t create buy-in from managers. Instead, one of the easiest ways to start shifting maintenance culture is by illustrating two key financial factors: 

  1. How much money you are currently losing due to reactive maintenance 
  2. How much money you can save/gain by switching to reliability centered maintenance

However, it may not be immediately clear how to demonstrate how much money is lost (and how much can be saved). Fortunately, there are a few key metrics you can calculate and point to in a presentation to sway management to the reliability centered maintenance side. 

  • Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE): OEE is a measure of how much good product is being made during planned production time. Use OEE to demonstrate how reactive maintenance contributes to poor equipment reliability, which then translates to low-quality product. 
  • Total Effective Equipment Performance (TEEP): Like OEE, TEEP measures how much good product is being made, but it measures the sum total of all production time (as opposed to only planned time). This makes TEEP a useful metric alongside OEE for determining how effective a facility is.
  • Total Maintenance Costs: It’s also useful to show the overall cost of maintenance in the facility, especially across a timespan like a year or two. Ideally, maintenance cost should be fairly static. In a reactive culture, though, you’ll probably find a drastically fluctuating maintenance cost. Use this as a persuasive arguing point against reactive culture. 

Perform small scale testing and education

Once you’ve got management on board from a numbers perspective, you need to begin justifying the value of an RCM plan to the people who will use and maintain equipment. To do this, it’s helpful to start with a small test-run of a planned reliability centered maintenance plan. 

The timeline of this small-scale test should look something like this: 

  1. Create a plan that includes the performance of an RCM analysis on an asset, the people responsible for RCM maintenance tasks, the education and training necessary to fill knowledge gaps, and the benchmarking required. 
  2. Train employees on how to perform an RCM analysis (acquire a consultant if necessary) and how to fulfill the of tasks required of RCM 
  3. Perform the RCM analysis with the employees, providing feedback and reinforcement during the process 
  4. Create a report on the analysis, complete with an implementation plan, and communicate the results of this report with key stakeholders
  5. Continuously track the results of the analysis, keeping in mind how the asset performs in an RCM plan, how much more effective it is, and how reliability has changed 

This kind of plan might seem long, but it’s a vital step in justifying the value an RCM plan brings to a facility. These kinds of results are real, manifested results of RCM at work. 

Keep open lines of communication with stakeholders

Finally, it’s extremely important to continue to demonstrate and explain the value of the RCM plan to managers and other key stakeholders. 

While the maintenance team will see the changes in equipment reliability and effectiveness after implementing an RCM plan, management doesn’t often have the same experience. Thus, frequent reports and meetings will be invaluable for keeping stakeholders in the loop.

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