Beyond OEM Recommended Maintenance - Taking Control of Your Maintenance Through RCM2

Adam Armstrong
Relken Engineering
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Harrier Maintenance Crew

Asset managers and maintainers are, by nature, a risk-averse crowd. And why wouldn’t they be? One poor decision can result in consequences ranging from the merely costly through to the fatally disastrous, often with a layer of spectacularly bad publicity to ice the whole fiasco off nicely.

When names like Chernobyl, Deepwater Horizon and Piper Alpha spring to mind, it is perhaps no wonder that many asset managers tend not to make stray too far from the Original Equipment Manufacturer’s (OEM’s) recommendations for the development of maintenance regimes. After all, they made it. They should know what maintenance it needs best. That would be the safest thing to do, right? In some workplaces, deviating from the OEM’s recommendations could be considered to be a “courageous” move.

Slavish adherence to the OEM’s recommendations can have its pitfalls. An OEM could be churning out hundreds or even thousands of devices every year to customers across the globe serving in industries ranging from consumer goods through to defence forces. They cannot possibly anticipate the full range of operating conditions that customers will subject their products to. Not unreasonably, the maintenance recommended by OEMs is very often focussed on the minimisation of failures during the initial warranty period, thereby reducing the cost and the risk to the producer. 

Such a regime results in a maintenance burden which is not optimised for a customer that may keep a product in service for upwards of 20 years. Moreover, the OEM cannot take into account the operating context of every single customer, which means that a small failure for one user could be positively catastrophic for the next. By assuming that the OEM regime will automatically be the safest approach, a product user could unknowingly accept a high risk of wider system failure effects. 

Take the hypothetical example of a simple water pump design, which is delivered to two different users. One customer installs the pump in a reticulation system for a fountain. The other customer uses it for a fire suppression system. The consequences of the failure of these otherwise identical pumps are vastly different, yet the recommended maintenance from the OEM is the same regardless. We understand instinctively that this must be nonsense, yet it is a situation that is played out time and time again across many organisations.

RCM2 empowers the user to take control of their maintenance, taking full advantage of the in-house knowledge of plant processes and combining it with a versatile methodology to determinate maintenance actions and intervals. RCM2 gives managers the ability to address their particular operating context and understand how each failure mode matters to them. 

Furthermore, the application of RCM2 gives an organisation the ability to capture the accumulated knowledge of its workforce. Many companies will have operations and maintenance personnel with decades of intimate experience with their equipment, experience that most OEMs would not have access to. Unless the OEM also provides maintenance services, their visibility of product performance in the field may be limited to data on returns and repairs under warranty, inadvertently painting an incomplete picture of a product’s actual reliability upon which OEM maintenance policy is written. 

Frequently, in-house knowledge is lost to the company when highly skilled individuals either retire or move on to seek other opportunities. An RCM2 analysis will establish a deposit of plant information that can be used to inform other personnel, provide a fault finding guide when failures do occur and be a living document to be updated as modifications are made to the plant. 

Does this mean that advice from the OEM is completely redundant? Quite the opposite. OEMs understand their products from a different point of view, a point of view that is equally important to understanding how a product might behave or fail in a given set of circumstances. A wise manager will seek OEM representation in an RCM2 review and combine their knowledge of how a product will fail with the in-house knowledge of the consequences of that failure. 

RCM2’s power lies in its ability to provide a forum for the collaboration of asset stakeholders and capture their combined experience in the development of a defensible maintenance regime based on sound principals. Given the opportunity to participate in such a forum, an OEM may also choose to extend their warranty to include products maintained in accordance with RCM2 principles. 

Our recommendation? Don’t just blindly leave the OEM’s recommended maintenance in place and unchallenged for the next 20 years. The ‘one size fits all’ strategy will cost you in unnecessary or inappropriate maintenance and will lead to lost equipment availability. Learn from your maintenance data. Learn from your people. Learn from your OEMs. Learn to use RCM2 to your advantage and adapt your maintenance to your sources of information and your operating context.