What Is RCM? (Reliability Centered Management)

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RCM or Reliability Centered Maintenance is one of the techniques used to develop a maintenance plan to keep a plant up and running. Like all maintenance plans there are positives and negatives associated with the process.

Initially, this system was developed for the aviation sector, where the high costs associated with the systematic replacement of parts threatened the airlines profitability. This technique has since been transferred to the industrial field after its successful use through the aviation industry.


RCM was firstly documented by FS Nowlan and H.F. Heap in a document published by the Department of Defense of United States in 1978. Since then, RCM has been used to formulate strategies for managing physical assets in virtually all areas of business throughout the industrialized world.

The process defined by Nowlan and Heap has been the basis for the RCM process but in subsequent years the process has continued to be refined and improved. RCM is now a broad category of maintenance that incorporates a large number of failure analysis methodologies in a number of different scopes different than Nowlan and Heap’s original definitions.

As a result of international demand for a set of minimum standards for a failure analysis process that can be called “RCM” a document was created in 1999 that set the standards and practices for the process. SAE JA 1011 standard which was later expanded upon in 2002 by the SAE JA 1012 standard have created a benchmark in RCM. These rules are not intend to be a guide or a manual of procedures, but merely set out, as noted, criteria that should satisfy a methodology that can be called RCM. Both standards are available at www.sae.org website.

To see a range of RCM examples and increase your knowledge of RCM we recommend continuing your reading at Inspection Engineering.