December 20, 2015

The value of CARE in Reliability Centered Maintenance

With ever-expanding complexity in business, and tightening controls on costs, how does a maintenance manager ensure that his or her budget is being used as effectively as possible without sacrificing reliability? What tools, programs, or just plain tricks are available?


Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) is no trick; it is a planned, systematic approach to optimizing the reliability of a given system through maintenance. This method is defined by the technical standard SAE JA1011, Evaluation Criteria for RCM Processes, which sets the minimum criteria that any process should meet before it can be called RCM. This begins with specific seven questions that are worked through in the order listed below:

  1. What is the item supposed to do, and what are its associated performance standards?
  2. In what ways can it fail to provide the required functions?
  3. What are the events that cause each failure?
  4. What happens when each failure occurs?
  5. In what way does each failure matter?
  6. What systematic task can be performed proactively to prevent or diminish—to a satisfactory degree—the consequences of the failure?
  7. What must be done if a suitable preventive task cannot be found?

RCM is not a mechanism that can improve a system. The inherent reliability of a system is established by its design. RCM acts as a mechanism that establishes a cost-effective maintenance program, with the intention of optimizing the reliability of the system.


The FMEA is central to an effective RCM program, and encompasses questions one through five above. Once your system is understood, it’s essential to understand how the various elements of the system might fail and the effect this might have on its overall reliability. Failures that result in significant effects to safety, environment, production or cost should be made a priority. The FMEA for any given system depends on the characteristics of the system, plus how the overall system works, is used and how its dependability affects the organization using it. Performing a good FMEA is complex, but is a valuable exercise in optimizing the use of any system.


Maintenance optimization really takes form in question 6 – which asks what maintenance tasks should be performed to prevent or diminish the consequences of a failure. Complex systems that have moving parts need to be maintained appropriately. But what constitutes appropriate maintenance?  Does simply changing lubricants and wear parts on a schedule provided by the system manufacturer constitute an optimized maintenance program, or are these fluids and wear components being changed out well before the end of their useful life?  How does one know?

Of course, the answer for most lubricated systems is used oil analysis.  Not only does an oil analysis indicate the condition of the lubricants used in the equipment, but it also tells  you the condition of the equipment itself. Cleanliness of the system, component wear, even unusual hidden operating conditions, can be diagnosed with oil analysis. Of course this is dependent on the results being reliable, interpreted correctly and used to provide meaningful direction to your maintenance program. Many major organizations use oil analysis in conjunction with other tools to establish and control a Condition-Based Maintenance (CBM) program. This helps ensure maintenance is performed only where and when it’s needed, saving money, and maximizing equipment availability—without compromising reliability.


Oil analysis monitors the health of your systems, just like a blood test helps monitor your personal health. And like a blood test, it’s not just the results that matter, but the interpretation of the results and how they affect your treatment plan. Understanding your oil analysis results and determining what to do about it, is key to a successful CBM program. Many organizations train their personnel in oil analysis interpretation in order to maximize their CBM programs, but these skills may be lost to employee mobility and turnover. Fortunately, another option exists.


Fluid Life’s CARE program (Condition Assessment & Reliability Evaluation) ensures that your oil analysis program is being utilized to its maximum. This established, disciplined program uses cutting-edge software tools and trained reliability specialists to monitor and interpret your analysis results, provide advice on corrective actions, track work order creation and completion, and close the loop on problem conditions.

Your CARE specialist will work as part of your maintenance team, meeting regularly with you to review reliability alerts, action items and outstanding maintenance actions. You’ll receive assistance in determining your program’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and help developing action plans and maintenance initiatives. Finally, your specialist will help  you establish the return on your oil analysis investment, ensuring you are maximizing your results while minimizing your maintenance budget.

Implementing a comprehensive Reliability Centered Maintenance program will improve equipment reliability, availability and productivity, while reducing maintenance costs. Even if you are just getting started, the CARE program is ready to help you optimize your fluid analysis investment.