CH2M HILL’s Jim Oldach and Sam Paske discuss reliability centered maintenance (RCM) programs and Preventive Maintenance Optimization (PMO)

By Jim Oldach and Sam Paske, members of CH2M HILL’s Asset Management Team

This post is one of an ongoing series of Access Water posts about asset management best practices. Read the first few and stay tuned for more asset management insights over the coming weeks.

McGraw-Hill Construction’s recently released study of asset management practices of US and Canadian water utilities, a CH2M HILL-sponsored research project, examined the extent to which water utilities have adopted 14 leading asset management practices, and which of these practices are of most value to implementers. More advanced practices, for example reliability centered maintenance (RCM), were found to be less widely adopted than other practices, even though—in the experience of many of our clients— application of these practices can increase the reliability of plants, equipment and other infrastructure, while generating substantial financial savings.

Many of our clients struggle with a backlog of corrective and preventive maintenance work that is difficult to manage. These organizations struggle to complete periodic preventive maintenance (PM) tasks because high priority repair work (often due to unexpected failures) gets in the way. Missed PM tasks in turn increase the rate of failure, leading to more repairs and a vicious cycle. The root cause of this problem is preventive tasks that do not effectively prevent the right failures.

Leading utilities are using tools like RCM and Preventive Maintenance Optimization (PMO) to get out of this trap. RCM is an advanced methodology to both prevent or control infrastructure failure through proactive efforts (including PM) and avoid costly reactive maintenance. PMO is an effort to reduce the workload associated with PM of plant equipment without increasing the risk of failure to an undue level. Failure is defined as the inability of a component to perform its function(s) as defined by the users of the system. The function of a piece of equipment can range from providing a specified flow rate to a process to preventing human injury.

RCM and PMO prioritize maintenance activities that provide the most benefit to the organization by reducing the risk of critical failures that impact process function or impair safety. They also reduce the common traditional tendency to “love our equipment to death.” Studies have shown that up to 50% of the time, performing intrusive PM tasks may actually increase the chance of failure. A PM program is “optimized” when the least amount of resources are devoted to PM that will provide an “acceptable” level of risk of failure. If “acceptable” is defined as the lowest overall cost associated with failure (to include corrective maintenance, safety consequences, loss of operations, environmental damages/fines, etc.) then the PM program is optimized when the total costs (PM costs + Failures/CM costs) are minimized (see the chart above).

PMO reviews the existing maintenance program to:

- Delete maintenance tasks that provide little value.

- Extend or reduce PM interval based on type of task, equipment usage, environment, and industry guidelines.

- Reassign tasks to Operations that would be better served by having the Operations Department perform the task during routine surveillance.

Once maintenance resources are freed up from performing low value work, those resources can be devoted to completing the more valuable PM and Predictive Maintenance (PDM) tasks, supporting the RCM effort, doing failure analysis, corrective maintenance, etc.

CH2M HILL has worked with many clients to implement RCM and PMO programs with outstanding results in many cases. Cincinnati Metropolitan Sewer District’s Plant Maintenance Unit has been able to substantially reduce costly reactive maintenance, and anticipates being able to save as much as $1m/year in 2013 compared to 2011. Columbus Department of Public Utilities has also realized significant benefits in successfully applying the three principals above. CH2M HILL’s consultants work shoulder to shoulder with the maintenance organization to help build commitment and vision among staff to specific improvement goals, recognizing and encouraging innovation, and training staff to apply advanced maintenance methods and strategies. The figure above illustrates the basic elements of Cincinnati’s PMO program, as adapted by the utility from “RCM – Gateway to World Class Maintenance” with our partner Anthony “Mac” Smith.

You may be wondering if PMO methods and concepts can offer benefits to facilities beyond plants, pumps and other mechanical and electrical assets. The answer is a resounding, “Yes!” Organizations are applying PMO concepts to road maintenance, fleet equipment, facilities assets (such as HVAC systems) and more. To learn more, please contact us!

Mr. Oldach is a skilled reliability centered maintenance (RCM2) practitioner and asset management expert. His more than 25 years of infield maintenance and asset management experience spans multiple industries including wastewater, gas, and electric utilities, hospitals, and nuclear facilities. For CH2M HILL, he provides asset management, reliability and maintenance consulting / support services to commercial, municipal and industrial clients. Mr. Oldach is based in Syracuse, New York.



Sam Paske, P.E. is a senior management consultant and program manager with more than 17 years of experience in a broad range of expertise in utility operations and technology. He has specialized experience directly supporting executives, senior management and line of business teams in meeting complex regulatory, financial and operational challenges. Mr. Paske’s background includes a mix of organizational development (the people), best practice implementation (the processes), and technology solutions (the tools).