Get more from your assets: How RCM helped a medical device company

By Steve Gahbauer, Contributing Editor   

Facilities Maintenance General Machinery and Equipment Maintenance Manufacturing maintenance manufacturing RCM

Successful performance improvement initiatives drive cost savings.

RCM improves maintenance strategies. PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK

For any progressive plant, the goal is always to perform maintenance more efficiently and aim for world-class reliability. It takes effort, but it’s achievable, as illustrated by a global medical and pharmaceutical device company.

The case study was presented by Jason Ballentine, the general manager of engineering operations at ARMS Reliability, a global consulting firm based in Austin, Tex. It specializes in helping industry derive more benefits from their assets, avoid unplanned downtime, and reduce operating costs. Ballentine presented the study at the MainTrain maintenance, reliability and asset management conference, convened in Ottawa by the Plant Engineering and Maintenance Association of Canada (PEMAC).

He said the successive improvement initiative at one of the unidentified manufacturer’s facilities, was based on choosing a machine or line performing below desired levels and using reliability-centred maintenance (RCM) to improve maintenance strategies. This approach involving a single machine at a single facility saved $150 million over 10 years as operations and maintenance personnel united to improve efficiency and reliability. They reduced downtime, idle time and labour reallocations.

There were challenges, of course. An important, intricate machine was frequently down, causing decreased production, increasing emergency and corrective labour costs. ARMS Reliability was charged with completing a study to risk-optimize the maintenance strategies for 40 asset types. The company gathered a cross-functional team of more than 20 experts consisting of maintenance, reliability and operations members, plus personnel from other sites.


Bonus benefits

ARMS Reliability began by gathering failure and maintenance information for the machine from a variety of sources, including key site personnel, machine operations and maintenance documentation, site drawings and the SAP ERP system. It also held a series of in-person, onsite facilitation sessions to collect remaining data. Once all gathered information was validated, ARMS modelled various maintenance scenarios comparing different strategies, spares and holding options, and generated budget predictions over a 10-year period.

The models, completed using the RCMCost module of Isograph’s Availability WorkBench, simulated three scenarios: run to failure (RTF); current maintenance practices, showing the effectiveness of the company’s existing planned maintenance strategy for the machine; and optimized maintenance, demonstrating what would happen with optimal tasks performed at optimal frequencies.

A “bonus” benefit of the study was how the team-based approach brought together maintenance and reliability personnel, plus site operations, directors and management, to discuss issues. With the involvement of operations professionals, the process became a platform for communication, new awareness and understanding between these groups. It helped propel the company toward a world-class reliability program via plant-wide buy-in.

The cost comparison showed optimized maintenance has potential for huge cost savings by redirecting the workforce toward tasks that are valuable to the company, and away from wasted efforts; by stocking low-cost, long-lead-time spares to dramatically decrease machine downtime; and by training operators wherever recurring incidents delay start-ups and produce machine trips.

Ballentine said the recommended solution consisted of two simple steps: catch belt failures just before they happen by turning monthly inspections into a daily task; and eliminate the wait time for spares by always stocking extra belts.

ARMS Reliability’s RCM study provided the medical device company with a quantified new maintenance strategy expected to save 91% in costs over the current strategy in the next 10 years in a single facility. It showed performance initiatives work.

RCM in seven steps

Reliability-centred maintenance (RCM) is a process used to ensure systems continue to do what’s required under the present operating context. It’s defined by the technical standard SAE JA1011, Evaluation Criteria for RCM Processes that sets out the minimum criteria a process should meet in this order:

  1. What is the item supposed to do and 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 to diminish to a satisfactory degree, the consequences of the failure?
  7. What must be done if a suitable preventive task can’t be found?

Source: Wikipedia

Steve Gahbauer is an engineer, a Toronto-based business writer and a regular contributing editor. E-mail

This article appears in the April 2019 print issue of PLANT Magazine.



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