RCM and FMEA – Driving Maintenance Strategy in the AEC industry

This article detailing the distinct differences between RCM (reliability centered maintenance) and FMEA (failure mode and effects analysis) maintenance strategies got us thinking about how we can further these maintenance strategies within the AEC industry.

While the maintenance world often mistakenly uses these terms interchangeably, they are separate frameworks. One is a as a means to decide how to maintain your equipment (RCM).

The other is a method to determine how equipment can fail and its impact (FMEA).

To build an effective maintenance and planning strategy, organizations should examine and apply both methodologies early in the design process. Ultimately, these approaches need to be thought of as an exercise in continuous process improvement (see FMEA image above). As an asset or a system enters certain phases of its useful life, maintenance strategies will change. Examining your RCM and FMEA strategy ensures that you are performing the necessary tasks in the overall mission of maintaining the function of the asset.

Use of RCM and FMEA in the early phase of a project has great potential when used in concert with BIM. Having the flexibility to change design, visualize the impact of these changes, and document these decisions is extremely valuable.  Given the collaborative nature of colocation or IPD, the benefits can (and should be) even greater.

Here are a few things to be gained from using these strategies:

  • Make informed design decisions
  • Establish failure priorities, severity, and impact of failures
  • Understand programmatic impact of failures
  • Identify mitigation tactics and strategies
  • Development of the organizations maintenance and reliability strategy before the building is built

Tying this all back together – The article points out the differences of these two strategies and why it is still important to use both as a means to develop and foster maintenance strategy.  Applying these strategies (RCM and FMEA) in the design process is a unique way to address total cost of ownership and have a meaningful impact on the maintenance and planning goals of the organization.


  1. Interesting discussion. With BIM and Lifecycle Data Management and Information Integration, the ability to fold lifecycle implications into early planning and design decisions seems increasingly possible and valuable. Recognizing the value of the BIM process in setting Owner’s up with useful tools and information, as projects migrate from design and construction to operation is also interesting. I look at what dProfiler is doing with early cost profiles (cost collectins) and wonder if a similar approach could work with these lifecycle, maintenance and risk management considerations. Say hello to Ashwin for me. Greg Thompson, AIA, LEED AP

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