Efficient Plant January 2020 - 6

column | implementations

The RCM
Paradigm
Shift
Dr. Klaus M. Blache
Univ. of Tennessee Reliability
& Maintainability Center
(RMC)

Does our RCM culture need the equivalent of a Roger Bannister 4-min. mile to
finally shift the paradigm from reactive to
proactive?

Based in Knoxville, Klaus M. Blache
is director of the Reliability &
Maintainability Center at the Univ. of
Tennessee, and a research professor in
the College of Engineering. Contact him
at kblache@utk.edu.

6

| EFFICIENTPLANTMAG.COM

T

HE SCIENCE OF reliability
centered maintenance (RCM) is
understood by many companies
today. However, implementation is still a
roadblock for most.
Since the late 1970s, I've heard the catchphrase "thinking-out-of-the-box". The
thinking-out-of-the-box phrase was made
more popular by the nine-dots puzzle created
by John Adair (The Art of Creative Thinking:
How to be innovative and develop great ideas,
2009, ISBN 978 0 7494 5483 8), which is a
related exercise. The challenge was to connect
the nine dots (three rows of three) without
lifting your pen once you start or retracing any
lines. By starting the line outside of the box, it
changes our perception of the problem and the
solution becomes clearer and is easily solved.
Some may still remember Roger Bannister,
who was the first athlete to run a mile under
4 minutes. It was quickly evident that this
4-minute barrier was more of a psychological challenge than a physical impediment.
Six weeks later it was done again by another
runner. Thirteen months after Bannister's run,
three runners ran under 4 minutes participating in the same race.
What's needed is a paradigm shift for RCM.
For several decades reliability advocates have
been providing evidence that challenges the
old way of thinking about reliability and maintainability. Basically, a new framework makes
the old way of thinking and acting insufficient,
less effective, and less desirable. Our perceptions, experiences, and social culture at work
define our reality and guide what we do and
don't do.
Many point to early examples of paradigms, such as when people thought that the
earth was at the center of the universe, then
realized planets orbit the sun, and finally
understood that our sun is only one of a vast
number of suns. Today it's more about things
such as quantum mechanics (where current

rules don't apply), new technologies, artificial
intelligence, bitcoin, and autonomous personal vehicles.
A paradigm shift is not just a small change
or improvement. It changes scientific theory
and our view of reality. Regarding RCM, I
believe there is enough scientific evidence to
show that it's the preferred paradigm.
Changing from reactive to proactive
maintenance practices, however, is a longterm strategy because of culture (leadership,
engagement, and incentives), supporting
processes (including planning and scheduling, materials management, and root-cause
analysis) that need to work interactively. So
it requires business operating principles
(absolutes) that should not be violated. As
more advanced technologies are digitally
connected to support RCM, those that have
supported the reliability/maintainability
best-practice concepts will have a large
competitive advantage.
"In the new world, it is not the big fish
which eats the small fish, it's the fast fish
which eats the slow fish." (Klaus Schwab,
Founder and Executive Chairman of the
World Economic Forum).
It's difficult to be the fast fish without an
engaged workforce applying a robust continuous-improvement process, rewarding proactive R&M efforts versus firefighting emergency repairs, developing cooperation between
operations and maintenance, and involving
all plant departments with clear roles/
responsibilities, to mention a few. Remember
that the focus should be first on improving reliability and eliminating the need for
doing repair maintenance. As these paradigm-changing technologies and concepts are
applied and instilled at an increasing rate, it's
most likely that there will need to be a better/
new business model that encompasses these
concepts. Possibly then will be the time of the
RCM paradigm shift. EP

JANUARY 2020


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Efficient Plant January 2020

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