Several years ago, someone told me that he was planning to tattoo the letter "P" over a scar on his ankle. I was intrigued by this and asked some questions. The person stated that "P" was his favorite letter in the alphabet. I asked more questions. He explained that most good things in his life begin with the letter P. The person listed a host of items that he thought were good.

After some reflection and travels, I came up with my own list of "P" words that can be applied to the maintenance and reliability improvement process. Proactive, planning, precision, predictive, preventive, protective, process and Point P are some of these "P" words.

My favorite P is Point P, as in Point P on the P-F Curve. You may be aware of the P-F Curve and its philosophies from RCM books and literature. The figure on this page shows a typical P-F Curve. Point P is where a defect enters a machine. At some time in the future, this will cause a functional loss of some kind. As a defect lingers in a machine, the machine functionality decreases over time. At some point in the future, Point F, total failure of the machine occurs.

Why do I say Point P is the important point? Isn't keeping equipment from running to failure, Point F, the most important point? Preventing machines from reaching catastrophic failure is important. However, if that is the entire focus of your M&R process, you're missing the larger rewards of increased equipment health, reliability, product quality and reduced cost that can be captured by focusing on Point P.

Focusing on Point P has several significant advantages over other approaches.

  1. It prevents collateral damage to equipment, reducing cost of repair with less spare parts and labor.

  2. It allows an organization to plan the work, which results in less time to repair, which in turn saves labor costs.

  3. It allows you to schedule the work at the best, most convenient time, saving process and equipment downtime and subsequent production losses.

These advantages are the obvious benefits and do reward the organization.

I believe the overwhelming advantage of focusing on Point P is sometimes lost or misunderstood. The major advantage is for the organization to understand what the exact defect is and its cause when it enters the machine and then proactively eliminate the cause(s). Once determined, apply the same solutions to similar machines and situations. The power is that these activities eliminate the existence of Point P for a particular failure of a particular class of machines. This results in the machine functioning properly and creating more production, and better quality and efficiencies. That is where you can make/save money. Plus, the machine doesn't need to be repaired. This equates to lower costs over time.


So, what point is your company or facility focused on? You can find out by the questions that are asked as defects are uncovered. Questions such as "How long will the machine run before catastrophic failure?" and "How much time do we have before failure?" signal that the organization is focused on Point F. Questions such as "What causes the defect to enter the machine?", "Why is the defect present in the machine?" and/or "What can be done to eliminate the defect from this machine and entering other similar machines?" point to one focused on Point P.

Tim Goshert is the worldwide reliability and maintenance manager for Cargill, one of the world's largest food and agricultural processing companies (more than 1,000 facilities worldwide). He is responsible for the company's global reliability and maintenance initiatives and is chairman of the company's Worldwide Reliability and Maintenance Steering Committee. Tim is an active member of the Society of Maintenance & Reliability Professionals (SMRP) and serves on its board of directors. Contact him at or