Visualising the end result – an Asset Management Strategy

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Background to Lean RCM

In 1978, a report written by two United Airlines engineers ending a 4-year study of reliability became the blueprint for a revolutionary approach to maintenance within the aircraft industry. The technique that resulted, referred to as Reliability Centred Maintenance (RCM), radically changed the way aircraft were maintained and as a result aircraft safety increased by orders of magnitude coincident with a significant reduction in maintenance costs. MSG3, (Maintenance Steering Group 3) the aircraft maintenance standard derived from their original report, is an operating license requirement for all aircraft operators today.

Lean Manufacturing is an improvement method originating in the car industry in Japan and promotes high-productivity through the elimination of process waste and continuous improvement. The term Lean was born in the 1990’s from the Womack and Jones bestseller “The Machine That Changed the World: The Story of Lean Production”. The book revealed how the Toyota Production System (TPS) had transformed a small post-war Japanese car company into the most successful car company in the world. In the 1980’s a Toyota took just 17 hours to be built whereas, a Mercedes spent that time in the rework area alone.

Lean manufacturing and RCM are complementary philosophies that form a powerful combination to change the organisational culture and establish a process for continuous reliability improvement. Lean philosophy, based on people and processes, transform the culture and the way assets are viewed. RCM establishes a rigorous foundation for an asset management strategy. EMS Cognito adapted these methodologies and integrated them into a system called Lean RCM.

Lean RCM in Practice

A new and optimised operating and maintenance regime where:

  • Plant operators have responsibility for regular cleaning, inspection and lubrication activities
  • Preventative maintenance tasks for plant operators are easy to do right and efficient to implement following a policy of No time-No tools-No training
  • Tools, equipment and consumables for preventative maintenance and day-to-day operation are identified, labelled and stored close to the point of usage
  • Maintenance Technicians have responsibility for condition-based maintenance activities such as monitoring and interpretation of changes in process conditions, vibration analysis, ultrasonics and thermography
  • Plant operators perform the majority of tasks with a frequency of 30 days or higher whereas the maintenance technicians perform maintenance tasks at longer intervals
  • Preventative maintenance tasks are procedurised with straight-forward instructions, photographs and the use of visual management that corresponds with labelling on the equipment
  • Equipment normal operating conditions are identified and marked on equipment to make fault detection simple and quick
  • Minor equipment modifications are in place to allow inspection of the components whilst equipment is operational and early detection of faults
  • Operational procedures are introduced to reduce or eliminate the risk of human error while carrying out operational tasks, inspections and maintenance
  • Asset critical spares are identified and justified through the Lean RCM analysis process
  • The Lean RCM analysis becomes a comprehensive documented risk analysis of the company’s asset base, identifying the key functions and standards of performance of the assets, the potential failures which could arise and the methods for eliminating or reducing the risk of occurrence of these failures
  • Maintenance technicians develop their skills and competence in Lean RCM, Root Cause Analysis and advanced condition monitoring techniques and are rewarded or promoted for their increased knowledge and contribution to reliability as a result
  • Much greater teamwork and understanding between operations teams and maintenance teams in the identification and eradication of faults before they become breakdowns
  • The implementation and management of preventative maintenance tasks and any subsequent corrective maintenance requirements is done using visual management systems and is owned at site level

And visualising the end result:

  • The ratio of the annual maintenance spend divided by the capital asset replacement value (Maintenance spend/Year/CARV) approaches 5 to 2% – world-class levels
  • Elimination of more than 60% of traditional maintenance tasks
  • Operators have responsibility for 75% of preventative maintenance tasks
  • 80% of preventative maintenance takes place with equipment operational and in production
  • A reduction in maintenance costs of 40-50%
  • Maintainers spend more than 25% of the time and continuous improvement activities


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