A reliability problem

Mark Hawker of Sainsbury's
With August’s announcement of the official programme for CIBSE Building Performance Conference and Exhibition, the countdown to the grand opening begins here. On the 3rd and 4th of November, more than 300 of the world’s leading experts in building services engineering will pack the Queen Elizabeth II Exhibition Centre in Westminster along with top manufacturers and leaders in other disciplines related to the built environment.

Their focus at this iteration of the Conference will be ‘Working Together for Resilient, Efficient and Healthy Buildings’, and attendees will see talks on security, BIM and performance evaluation amongst others, all tied together by the theme of Nick Mead’s presidency: Collaboration, and how it can improve building performance.

In the first of our series of blogs on the upcoming Conference, we spoke to Mark Hawker, Senior Engineering Design Manager at Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd about the session he will be leading on Reliability Centred Maintenance, and the reasons behind choosing the topic.

First of all, why was Reliability Centred Maintenance an important subject to talk about at the Conference?

Maintenance and Facilities Management are the "Cinderella" side of the business - in the kitchen covered in dirt, not considered front of house or at the front of people’s minds. However, it remains a crucial element in the running of any building, because if equipment is not well maintained it will not perform nor last.

Before the 1950s it was assumed that aircraft components had an operational life, and that they needed to be continuously replaced to keep the aircraft running.

40 commercial aircraft crashed for every 1 million take offs.  Through a study of their alarming failure rate, engineers were able to determine the age of these components had little effect on their failure, and that a strategy based on the whole system’s function was more effective than trying to estimate each part’s life span.

The process developed was instrumental in getting this down to 0.7 crashes for every 1 million take offs.    


What is the impact of this on the professional industry?

At many forums I attend there is a tendency to focus on the new sexy shiny stuff that is being developed and not how to maintain it to keep it working.

I raised the subject of Reliability Centred Maintenance as a process originally born in the aviation industry, but it is now used in military, the pharmaceuticals industry, the nuclear industry and in FMCG - I think it’s time for Building Services to draw learnings from what is happening elsewhere.

So who in the industry is it most relevant to?

There are plenty of other industries that use RCM, and have done for years. The real disconnect in building services seems to be between those who build and those who maintain, rather than between specific industries. There can be a focus on implementing the latest new kit, rather than on how it can be maintained.

I perceive that building services as an industry have things they can learn from other industries – like philosophies such as RCM, and that this is partially as a result of those who build and those who maintain not working together enough. Even the latest equipment can fail quickly if its maintenance isn’t done well, so we need to recognise that this is just as important as new technology in maintaining building performance.

The impact will be the same as the other places it is used: Better performance and reliability, lower operating costs, greater efficiency and a greater overall lifespan. It needs discipline in developing and rolling it out, from the RCM analysis itself, to embedding in a maintenance system and training technicians. You expect this level of diligence when you get into a plane or a car – we should expect it when we enter any commercial or public premises. The results in other industries speak for themselves.

For full details of the conference programme and to register your place, visit www.cibse.org/conference.


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