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What is Reliability Centered Maintenance?

Patrick Roland
Patrick Roland

Reliability centered maintenance is an efficiency theory commonly used in improving the functionality of machinery. By following its seven-step review process, a machine's function, potential problems and possible solutions can be better understood. The goal of this maintenance is twofold: to prevent future problems and to increase profitability. Many industries, from manufacturing to nuclear power plants, utilize this process.

The process of reliability centered maintenance aims to increase cost effectiveness and machine uptime and to attain a greater understanding of the level of risk at which a company is operating. In short, this method provides standards for a safe, minimum amount of maintenance for a particular industry. This new way of thinking about equipment repair was created in the 1960s and 1970s by engineers with the United States Department of Defense and United Airlines as they began seeking out more scientific ways to think about maintaining machinery such as jet airplanes.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

The first step of reliability centered maintenance involves researching equipment to determine what the specific function each piece of machinery is expected to perform, such as an automated drill press being expected to make 500 holes per minute. The next step in the process is determining how a particular machine can fail, such as a drill bit breaking or even underperforming by making only 100 holes in a minute. Engineers often must theorize about what caused this failure in order to complete the third step of reliability centered maintenance. The fourth step is determining the immediate consequences of the failure, such as how long it takes to repair a broken drill bit.

The final three steps of the reliability centered maintenance process involves even more speculation than the first four. The fifth step is determining further consequences of the failure, such as a loss of income, a loss of market share and missing production deadlines. The sixth step focuses on prevention by determining what steps can be taken to proactively diminish this failure from occurring, such as a preventative maintenance schedule to routinely replace drill bits before they break. The final step in the reliability centered maintenance process is more of a doomsday plan, asking what possibly could be done if no solution to the failure is discovered. These default actions should lessen the impact of these failures.

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