Using RCM to Solve Lubrication Failure Modes
By Terry Harris, CMRP
The process of RCM analysis has revolutionized some industries to the level of making them the most reliable and in turn the most profitable in the fields. Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) is a reliability tool that has revolutionized maintenance and equipment reliability for many companies across several industries over the last two decades. Companies who have invested in training and performing RCM continue to reap the benefits of safety, reliability, performance, and quality. If we look at the origination of the process we go back the airline industry and the development of the 747 aircraft. This is where its beginning came about with the formation of the Maintenance Steering Groups for determining the best methods of maintenance for each component of the 747 aircraft. Using this process, every possible failure mode was reviewed and a determination of the proper maintenance to address the failures was determined. The result was a huge success, of the 1100 aircraft sold 30 years ago, nearly all are still in service and providing safe, dependable, and reliable service today. The original four 747 aircraft are still flying.
Can our equipment and processes achieve these kinds of success stories and profitability for our industries? We can’t without proper lubrication and we can’t without a way of knowing our lubricants have failed and how they may fail. So why not use the methods of a successful process and look at all the ways our lubricants can fail? When we know the failure modes we can then develop our maintenance plans to prevent, predict, eliminate, or reduce the consequences of the failure. These are common terms in the RCM process.
While most people recognize the success RCM had in the development of a complete maintenance strategy for aircraft, few take time to understand how the process would apply to assets they are charged with managing. To help and improve this understanding let’s apply the RCM process to one aspect of maintenance; lubrication. Equipment lubrication is often taken for granted, viewed as a simple maintenance task and is often delegated to our least skilled trade’s people. If we use the RCM process and look to identify and understand the failures modes of lubrication the product of our analysis will be reduced lubrication related failures which intern will provide improved equipment performance/reliability. When we know the failure modes we can then develop our maintenance plans to prevent, predict, eliminate, or reduce the consequence of the failure.
In performing RCM analysis on many processes I noticed that very few lubrication failure modes were identified in the analysis. They were combined into one or two failure modes on different pieces of equipment. Most times when a lube failure was identified on an unlike piece of equipment the RCM would just pass over it stating it was the same as a similar failure.
The RCM lubrication training program was developed to address all the failure modes of lubrication at specific site process operations. There are easily 100 different failure modes that can be addresses in this analysis. The payback and selling point of this program is that each student gains the fundamentals of RCM and learns about lubrication failure modes and how to correct them.
Let’s discuss the RCM process and the terminology used before we look at the process of defining lubrication failure modes and action plans. These terms will help us understand the process and our path to solving problems and issues. These terms are common in any method of RCM analysis and will be used in this article and associated training that’s goes with this presentation.
Failure Mode describes the specific cause of failure associated with a component or functionality of a process. Failure modes should be written at the root cause level and should not be broad generalities. For example, the failure mode of a bearing may be as follows: The bearing failed due to lack of lubrication. The failure mode would not be: The bearing failed, or the bearing failed due to lubrication issues. Remember; always describe the failure mode in the specific cause or in the root cause form. This makes it easier to find the correct method of eliminating the failure. Descriptive words such as lack of, too much, wrong viscosity are root causes.
Failure Effect describes the first sign of evidence of a failure. It is the first noticeable indication that something has changed in the functionality of a process or component of a piece of equipment. Failure effects can be wear related or event related. In the example we used above for the bearing failure due to lack of lubrication, this is an event based failure. While some might say the bearing wore out, the root cause of the failure was an event that happened to cause the failure. We did not
lubricate the bearing enough or at the correct frequency and it created the failure. Failure effect statements also state what will happen to the process and what step the operator or maintenance may take after the failure has occurred.
The tasks in RCM are your knowledgeable group decisions on how to get to an end conclusion in the RCM analysis. For every failure mode we want to do one of the following tasks. We want to prevent, predict, eliminate, or reduce the consequence of the failure. We must get to the end conclusion with one of these tasks efforts. The RCM decision process is a logic based structured process that gets us to the best possible task to accomplish our goal of prediction, prevention, or elimination. That’s why our efforts pay off in picking the correct members of the RCM team so that the best and most economically correct tasks are selected.
Lubrication Failure Modes:
So what are the Failure modes that we want to use the RCM process on? We can look by example at numerous failure modes and work them though the RCM process. An example may be as follows:
Failure Mode: Lubrication fails due to High moisture in oil.
Failure Effect: High moisture levels in the oil results in premature bearing failure, part wear, excessive foaming and increased oil temperature.
Tasks: What are the tasks to detect this failure?
What are the tasks to eliminate or prevent the failure?
-Install Desiccant breathers
-Investigate better seals
-Write new wash down procedures.
Failure Mode: Lubrication fails due to high temperature.
Failure Effect: High temperature operation of the oil results in premature bearing failures, excessive parts wear, and degradation of the oil.
Tasks: What are the tasks to predict this failure?
What are the tasks to eliminate or prevent the failure?
-Install a method to cool the oil.
-Determine the cause of high temperature.
-Research other lubricants to handle the high temperature.
An RCM analysis that defines these lubrication failures on each and every component is a great way to determine and document each possible failure mode. The structure and discipline RCM brings to your business will intern provide the benefits experienced by the airline industry. There is an excellent training program available that uses the RCM method to determine lubrication failure modes and document the results of the process.
The 100 failure modes of Lubrication Failure Modes and Lubrication Programs can be purchased at the website.
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