Case study: Large utility company uses RCM3™ to save money and time – even in a pandemic

When a large electric generation and distribution utility company needed Reliability Centered Maintenance training and analyses on critical systems and assets, they turned to Aladon for support.

Challenge: Critical assets for a large utility company with multiple facilities needed a more cost-effective, standardized and reliable maintenance process across all their assets

The utility company generally used OEM recommendations for maintenance. As always with OEM recommended maintenance programs, the Operating Context is ignored and some of these recommendations were not either not needed or a general waste of time, money, and resources. 

The mindset of relying nearly exclusively on OEM recommendations also meant that employees were reluctant to consider any other maintenance approach, especially when it was completely opposite from OEM recommendations. “We have always done it this way,” or “The OEM knows better” were common refrains. 

Adding to the challenges was the pandemic. Mid-project, the reliability centered maintenance program was interrupted due to travel restrictions, social distancing guidelines, and limited workforce access to the facilities. Meanwhile, electricity was more important than ever, with the entire world spending every day working from home.

Solution: Utility company looked to Aladon for RCM3 training, coaching and RCM consulting

Aladon held several three day sessions training some 200 employees in our renowned RCM3 introductory course. Sixteen of those employees in key positions that were interested in diving deeper into RCM3 participated in an Aladon advanced 10 day Facilitator course in RCM3. 

The utility employees joined the ranks of the 100s of Aladon’s RCM2TM and RCM3 Facilitators around the world. For most RCM service providers, the support ends after completion of the training and/or software delivery. However, Aladon continued to assist the utility’s reliability team in conducting RCM3 analyses, and coaching and mentoring the newly trained facilitators.  The project is ongoing with Aladon providing continued assistance and coaching as required.

The first step in the RCM3 analysis process is to identify the critical assets that would need to be considered for analysis. Sometimes this is obvious and sometimes it is directed by the client. However, organizations have so many assets that meet the criticality (especially when O&M is asked to rank the assets), that knowing where to start and what to include, is the toughest part. Aladon assisted with performing the criticality analysis and our staff’s decades of experience in every kind of industry, made this step easier. 

Aladon assisted the utility company to select the assets based on following robust criticality assessment standards. 

Following the selection process, the utility staff began gathering asset data and drawings at multiple facilities.  The utility Facilitators created the operating context of the critical equipment, which the Aladon coach reviewed with them.  

The next step in the RCM3 process was for the Facilitators to start the analysis. This RCM3 process is well-defined and normally smooth, however, in the case of the utility company, the pandemic hit with several RCM3 analyses partially completed or just started. RCM3 workshops and meetings were canceled, travel seized and there were additional restrictions imposed on the staff members at each facility.

This presented a huge challenge for completing the analyses.

Aladon volunteered to assist in performing the analyses remotely with the best possible input from the SMEs. The SMEs provided the information about the systems under analysis in Microsoft Team meetings and virtual sessions. This was a difficult and challenging process for everyone involved. The Aladon Practitioner was not always familiar with the operation of the systems and could not always understand the explanations, or read the team’s expressions and frustrations. While a virtual session is a powerful tool for meetings (saving on travel time and expense), its limitations were abundantly clear when trying to analyze massive and complicated systems. Distractions were difficult to manage and the process was not very efficient overall. 

It took many calls and Microsoft Teams meetings to clarify assumptions on both sides, provide explanations and feedback but at least, the RCM3 analyses could be completed in the allotted time and not placed on a two-year hold.

Since the lifting of the pandemic restrictions, Aladon has been back on site to finalize the RCM3 analyses and continue the coaching and mentoring of the facilitators.

In addition to supporting the utility’s facilitators, Aladon practitioners were able to provide added value associated with maintenance business processes and the utility’s Maximo configuration and utilization. While neither of these areas were directly related to Aladon’s scope of work, they were two areas familiar to the Aladon team and the utility benefits from it. 

The Aladon Practitioners had to deal with another challenge during the RCM3-based improvement process; the utility company had very little to no failure data recorded. It makes it impossible to measure the success of the improvement process against past metrics if none exist. While the utility’s Maximo was configured with dropdown fields in the work order system for recording Problem, Cause, and Remedy, these fields were not mandatory, nor did anybody ever completed an entry into these fields. The Aladony team had to rely on anecdotal evidence and personnel memory instead of statistical data.  The problem, cause, and remedy data in Maximo will be updated using the failure mode (cause and mechanism) information from the RCM3 analyses.

A further challenge Aladon faced was implementing the RCM3 analyses templates on multiple sites. This was due to the different hierarchy and structure in Maximo at various facilities. Ideally, the utility company could complete an RCM3 analysis at one facility and then “template” the analysis to that process or system at every other facility they operate (provided it is the same or similar), but in this case it wasn’t possible without some intervention due to the different Maximo configurations. 

This was largely due to incorrect or missing maintenance business processes for building and standardizing the Maximo hierarchy and asset classifications across the company. This presented a huge issue in implementing completed RCM3 analyses (templates) to the other facilities. Each facility followed their own methodology of defining system hierarchy and asset classifications and types – the need for standardization became very clear.  Aladon realized that updating the hierarchy and asset classifications in the Maximo structure would be beneficial moving forward, saving time and money.

The impact of the RCM3 analysis implementation process became apparent immediately 

The following two changes in the utility company’s use of Maximo would be key to making the implementation of RCM3 recommendations easier across all the sites operated by the utility: 

  1. Modify and clean up the Maximo asset hierarchy structure 
  2. Enforce the entering of Problem, Cause, and Remedy codes into Maximo.

The RCM3 program is and remains successful and based on the recommendations made by the utility facilitators, many recommendations led to maintenance time and money savings. Two significant findings led to changing of the frequency of doing functional checks on relief and safety valves on the high pressure fluid filled (HPFF) cable pumping skid and breaker overhaul. 

Functional test of the relief and safety valves on a high pressure fluid filled (HPFF) cable pumping skid:

The functional check of relief and safety valves was performed every six months, taking 19 hours for each skid. This added up to 76 total hours over a year for the two skids. The RCM3 team reviewed the history and found that no failures had been found or recorded during the past 10 years (20 checks). The RCM3 analysis team suggested based on the reliability of the valves and the required availability, that the task frequency be extended to annually instead, which represents an annual labor savings of 38 hours. 

Doing the functional check less often would also reduce the risk of inducing a failure (failure pattern F).

Overhaul on a breaker:

The utility company was overhauling certain breakers every 10 years based on the OEM recommendations. The OEM recommendation stated to test the breaker periodically and overhaul the breaker every 10 years or after 3,000 operations. After reviewing the Operating Context, the RCM3 facilitator determined that the breaker operates less frequently and would probably never reach 3,000 operations. The testing was more frequent than the actual operation. With this in mind, the utility company (with the blessing of the OEM) agreed to push back the overhaul to every 12 years.

This obviously has a large impact if the breakers in use with similar Operating Context are treated the same, availability increases while cost is reduced. 

Total hours saved: 650 hours

Dollars saved per year:  $650,000 

Contact us to find out more about how Aladon can help your organization.