Planning for Success: Facilitators

The facilitator is a skilled individual who ensures that the RCM review group follows the process correctly. While the group members have to know the equipment well, the facilitator needs to be absolutely confident in his or her ability to apply RCM. As well as having the right technical skills, the facilitator needs to be able to make certain that everyone's opinion is represented in the group's consensus decisions.

The success or failure of an RCM analysis probably depends more on the abilities of the facilitator than those of any other single individual, so it is vital to ensure that the right person is sitting in that seat. Producing a high quality analysis on schedule depends on a number of key facilitator skills.

Applying the RCM Process

The facilitator must know the RCM process in detail, and the group needs to have complete confidence in his or her technical judgement. This includes anticipating technical problems and understanding issues that arise rarely, particularly where they affect safety and environmental risks. It doesn't mean that the facilitator has to be an RCM superhuman, but he or she must be able to judge when to seek advice from RCM or other technical specialists outside the review group.

Bringing the group to consensus decisions

Achieving consensus on difficult decisions can be challenging. A good facilitator not only needs to understand RCM, but may also need to coach the group so that everyone shares that understanding. He or she has to coax all relevant maintenance and operating information from the participants, not only the information that they immediately volunteer.
Consensus is about achieving genuine agreement, not about winning an argument with the review group.

General engineering understanding

A facilitator needs to know RCM inside out, and needs a good engineering background, but doesn't necessarily have to know every detail of the equipment or process. In fact, a facilitator who trusts his or her own knowledge of the system more than that of the review group can be tempted to effectively carry out the analysis along, demotivating the group members and causing them to disengage from the process.
A facilitator can add value to the process by suggesting new maintenance techniques, including condition monitoring and failure-finding. It is important that the group doesn't miss opportunities to remove ineffective maintenance, select more effective maintenance policies, or to consider on-condition techniques in place of time-based overhauls.

Keeping the analysis moving

A slightly bored review group can distract itself at an astonishing pace. An experienced facilitator keeps the analysis moving at an engaging pace, and knows when to "park" issues for action outside the analysis meeting.

Challenging the group

Review groups are sometimes happy to accept existing maintenance schedules, so RCM becomes a process for rubber-stamping the status quo. Since the purpose of RCM is improve maintenance, the facilitator needs to challenge the group. The facilitator could consider ways

  • To identify and remove ineffective maintenance
  • To use condition-based maintenance techniques more effectively
  • To consider seriously the risks associated with the maintenance of protective systems