What is RCM, and how to successfully implement it?

Reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) is an industrial maintenance technique based on the analysis of system functions, consequences and failure modes of process assemblies or components. This method consists in seeking the most cost-effective maintenance technique while limiting the risk of failure and providing an optimal context for the maintenance technician.

Easy to implement, RCM differs from current practices and standards because it is essentially based on common sense and organization; it results in the creation of a project group involving different departments, and the use of well-known maintenance analysis tools. Applicability and profitability are at the heart of this approach, which aims to rationalize each maintenance decision.

RCM is more broadly part of a lean maintenance strategy.

What is RCM? Definition and implementation

Born in the aeronautics sector in the 1960s and later generalized to other industries, RCM involves the use of various tools well known to maintenance professionals, including FMECA (Failure Modes, Effects and Criticality Analysis) and the decision tree. It also uses other tools such as criticality matrices, different process validation techniques and a solid spare parts management strategy.


Hang on, it is not as hard as it seems.

As its name suggests, RCM focuses mainly on the equipment’s reliability when defining preventive maintenance activities, and on maintaining design reliability. This notion is at the heart of the preventive or predictive planning strategy.

Before even starting the RCM analysis, the following questions should be asked:

  • What are the normal operating and performance standards of the piece of equipment?
  • How does the piece of equipment not meet these standards?
  • What are the causes?
  • What are the consequences?
  • How to anticipate these failures?
  • What action can be taken to overcome the lack of a proactive solution?

Once these questions have been studied, the implementation of an Reliability-centered maintenance approach consists in 7 main steps:

  1. System selection and information collection
  2. Definition of the system’s limits
  3. Description of the system, functional scheme
  4. Definition of functional failures and system functions
  5. Failure mode and effects analysis
  6. Creation of a logical decision tree to prioritize the needs of the function via failure modes (see below)
  7. Selection of an appropriate, applicable and effective preventive maintenance task.

The decision tree is an essential tool in the Reliability-centered maintenance process: it defines the tasks that will protect the equipment (safety and functional capabilities).

Read this article: Best Management Tools to Master Industrial Maintenance

Reliability-centered maintenance thus provides maintenance operators with a framework that allows them to monitor, analyze, anticipate and better understand their assets, with the aim of achieving a planned, achievable and profitable maintenance strategy. In addition to the analysis tools mentioned earlier, other management tools can be used to plan and share operations, such as your computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). Thanks to its integrated big data tool, Mobility Work CMMS helps you determine the most critical and penalizing equipment in your machine fleet thanks to customizable indicators: equipment most frequently affected by breakdowns, most recurring problems, most expensive equipment, etc. The real-time analysis of all your maintenance data in the form of customizable criticality matrices helps you confirm your analysis.

Watch our video tutorial: How to analyze my maintenance’s criticality in my CMMS software?


Mobility Work CMMS’ analytics tool provides a dynamic interface and helps you make the best decisions through real-time analysis. Here’s the criticality matrix "maintenance technician/labels".

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The 4 pillars of Reliability-centered maintenance

Preserving the function of the system

This principle may seem surprising because it favors the system function over the equipment itself, which is what preventive maintenance recommends: it makes it possible to know the expected result, and thus to consider the preservation of this result as the main objective to be achieved.

Identify failure modes

In response to this first objective, which places the preservation of the system in the first position, it is necessary to identify the specific failure modes leading to the loss of function or functional failure of the piece of equipment, which are sometimes difficult to detect and of a different nature. Analysis tools come into play at this stage.

Prioritizing functional requirements

It is then necessary to determine the order or priority assigned to the budgets and resources allocated: indeed, not all functional failures and by extension their failure modes and associated components are equal. Their level of importance must therefore be assessed.

Selecting suitable preventive maintenance tasks

Once the failure mode and priorities have been determined, appropriate preventive maintenance actions should be implemented. Each action must be applicable and effective and can be planned in your CMMS. Mobility Work maintenance management platform helps you make the transition from curative to preventive: labels to categorize tasks, possibility to share information about equipment within the community, task planning, rapid analysis using the analytics tool, etc.


Schedule your maintenance routines following an RCM analysis using the calendar feature of Mobility Work CMMS. Yellow tasks are scheduled tasks.

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Why adopting the Reliability-centered maintenance ?

Identifying failure modes and their consequences for each critical piece of equipment helps to ensure its sustainability: the main objective of RCM is therefore cost-efficiency. This strategy aims to reduce equipment life cycle costs and increase production capacity, as it ensures that the machine operates properly under optimal reliability and availability conditions.

Reliability-centered maintenance method also helps reduce industrial maintenance costs by adopting a preventive or even predictive routine rather than a curative maintenance strategy: the idea is rather anticipating degradation before it becomes too complicated and costly to repair. Other extra costs can also be avoided by this method (workforce, energy costs, production losses, etc.). This approach thus makes it possible to achieve a balance between cost and maintenance efficiency. Maintenance expenses are therefore better invested.

It is also worth mentioning human benefits: improved working conditions due to a better organization, a less stressful environment and therefore fewer risks, increased motivation (better understanding of processes and therefore better asset management, direct involvement of all stakeholders at several hierarchical levels, teamwork). Following the completion of the Reliability-centered maintenance analysis, all data is compiled, which makes it possible to document the requirements related to the specific design and maintenance of all key assets. Documentation can be stored directly in your community-based CMMS Mobility Work, accessible to all the company’s departments.

While traditional improvement approaches already address these types of issues, the particularity of Reliability-centered maintenance lies in the step-by-step framework it provides, which allows all issues to be addressed at the same time, as well as involving all stakeholders. 

In conclusion, RCM is based on precise organization and standards: the use of a next-gen maintenance management solution such as Mobility Work CMMS supports you in planning interventions, managing document, generalizing best practices and quality standards, measuring KPIs and decision-making.

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