Surface Warfare Magazine
Sharing stories and news from Sailors across the U.S. Navy’s Surface Forces
Condition Critical
Establishing Criticality Codes for Maintenance
U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Fleet Maintenance Division

When it comes to scheduling maintenance in the Navy, every day someone decides what’s going to get done and what will not. This happens at every command, at every level. In some cases, we have formal processes for managing these decisions, but in the case of planned maintenance system (PMS) requirements, we simply direct the ships to the work, tell them the minimum standard is 80%, and encourage them to try to complete all of the tasks.

So, what do you do when the PMS requirements far outnumber the available resources to get them done?

How do you decide what maintenance has to get done and what can wait?

This decision making process became quite fascinating to me after I had the misfortune of going over the side while wearing an inflatable life preserver that didn’t inflate because the maintenance hadn't been performed prior to putting the vest in service.

Certain maintenance should never be delayed.

One of things we are trying to do with the Future of PMS, a six year program focusing on modernizing the current PMS, is to give ship’s force the information needed to make informed decisions for deferring maintenance when conditions dictate. This information will be provided on maintenance requirement cards (MRCs) and will explain, in clear language, what the maintenance is intended to do and, perhaps more importantly, what the impacts to safety or mission accomplishment are if it doesn’t get done.

This can be a touchy subject for the engineers that establish maintenance requirements. They use a process called Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) for determining these requirements and the bar is pretty high for establishing a PMS action to prevent failure. Once engineers arrive at the conclusion that PMS is necessary, they’ve already determined that there is a real risk of failure and that the failure has consequences that are unacceptable. Now, we are asking them to go a step further and provide some insight on just how critical these requirements are to help you, the Sailor, decide what has to be done now and what can wait.

We envision some sort of criticality coding that takes these factors into account:

  • Consequence of late performance to personnel
  • Ship safety
  • The operational risk of failure under current conditions


This is information we want to make available to you at the equipment MRC level so that if you only have a week to perform three weeks’ worth of “in-port” maintenance, you can understand the risks of not performing certain tasks. Then together with your leadership, you can develop a plan to complete the maintenance.

In addition, we see those tasks having the highest degree of risk with special alerts that will notify the commanding officer and potentially off-ship personnel that critical maintenance is overdue and requires leadership’s attention.

It’s important to note the requirement to perform PMS will not change with these new proposed criticality codes. Accomplishment scores would continue to be degraded for not performing all required maintenance. However, at least you would have the knowledge to make better scheduling decisions. For example, if there ever comes a situation where you have to choose between performing the proper life preserver maintenance or inspecting the weight test tag on the towing hawser, the preserver would have higher criticality. In the end, criticality codes are all about prioritizing maintenance, accomplishing maintenance, and improving the decision making process along the way. Surface Warfare Magazine

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