When Failure is Not an Option, Go with RCM Protocols

Although reliability-centered maintenance is nothing new, progressive data centers are increasingly exploring this protocol when wanting to completely eliminate the possibility of failure. Commercial airlines and military operations have been trying to develop RCM since the 1970s, according to various reports. The commercial nuclear power industry followed shortly afterward.

Even Disney, with its millions of visitors relying on the amusement park for entertainment, turned to RCM protocols in 1997.

When Failure is Not an Option, Go with RCM ProtocolsThe appeal of RCM, when done right, is obvious, according to Lifeline Data Centers’ Rich Banta, who recently spoke at the 2016 Data Center World Global Conference in Las Vegas. Banta, co-founder of Life Data Centers, speaks from experience, having implemented RCM at its colocation centers in Indiana.

“RCM is the gold standard for systems that cannot fail such as passenger aircraft, fighter jets and weapons systems,” Banta said. For the data center, he said, RCM improves the bottom line by eliminating downtime and superfluous maintenance and improving uptime and reliability.

He also pointed out that RCM is not a prescriptive standard like Tiered Infrastructure Maintenance Standard (TIMS), although it can be an important component of a TIMS program. Instead, it is a dynamic and flexible framework.

Here’s a definition that Banta offered in his presentation of RCM: “A structured framework for analyzing the functions and potential failures for a physical asset (such as a generator, UPS system, or HVAC system, etc.) with a focus on preserving system functions, rather than preserving equipment. RCM is used to develop scheduled maintenance plans that will provide an acceptable level of operability, with an acceptable level of risk, in an efficient and cost-effective manner.”

However, because RCM can be extremely difficult to implement, it can be a barrier to data centers and other operations adopting it, Banta said. Also, supporters of TIMS may be confused about the relationship between TIMS and RCM, he said.

In addition, there have been instances of it not being implemented correctly. “Many methods sprung up that tried to reduce the difficulty of the RCM approach,” Banta said. “The result was the propagation of many methods that called themselves RCM, yet had little in common with the original concepts. In some cases these were misleading and inefficient, while in other cases they were even dangerous.

According to the “Guide to the Reliability-Centered Maintenance (RCM) Standard”, in order to apply RCM successfully, the process shall ensure that the following steps are performed in this order:

  1. Determine the operational context and the functions and associated desired standards of performance of the asset (operational context and functions).
  2. Determine how an asset can fail to fulfill its functions (functional failures).
  3. Determine the causes of each functional failure (failure modes).
  4. Determine what happens when each failure occurs (failure effects).
  5. Classify the consequences of failure (failure consequences).
  6. Determine what should be performed to predict or prevent each failure (tasks and task intervals).
  7. Determine if other failure management strategies may be more effective (operational and/or design modifications).

For more information about the benefits of RCM protocol, contact Lifeline Data Centers. We can take you on a tour of our facilities and share more about why we consider it an important protocol for our colocation operations.

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Rich Banta

Rich Banta

Managing Member at Lifeline Data Centers
Rich is responsible for Compliance and Certifications, Data Center Operations, Information Technology, and Client Concierge Services. Rich has an extensive background in server and network management, large scale wide-area networks, storage, business continuity, and monitoring. Rich is a former CTO of a major health care system. Rich is hands-on every day in the data centers. He also holds many certifications, including: CISA – Certified Information Systems Auditor CRISC – Certified in Risk & Information Systems Management CDCE – Certified Data Center Expert CDCDP – Certified Data Center Design Professional