Does Your Work Order Data Capture the Three "C"s?

Dec 19, 2018 1:26:53 PM

Is your work order data helping your reliability engineers take action? If you're not capturing the three "C"s then there are some improvements you could make. 


In the retail environment (think, OEM dealers), the three "C"s are essential, and a part of every work order or service report completed by a technician. Sometimes they have other names, but "3Cs" is easy to remember: 

  • Complaint 
  • Cause 
  • Correction 


In retail, the dealer or distributor is often bound to provide this information to the OEM as part of their sales agreement, and for the payment of warranty claims. 

The OEMs need this information if they have a robust FRACAS (Failure Reporting and Corrective Action System) to track field problems and make product improvements. 

The 3Cs should be considered an essential part of the data that your reliability engineers need as well. Before your OEM can help you with a field problem, you need to have defined and clarified the issue yourself. 

While reviewing data at the work-order level may not be something your reliability engineers do daily, it is necessary when attempting to drill down on issues for root cause analysis.  

If your master data and work order damage codes do not facilitate quick and easy analysis, then assessing the text content of the work orders is the only way to identify failure patterns. 


Implementation of 3Cs has benefits on two fronts: 

  1. There is solid guidance to the technicians about what information they should provide on the work order (not just a rambling story) 
  1. There is consistent data for reliability engineers to identify failure patterns 


The three "C"s are simple to understand: 


COMPLAINT: this should be the problem reported by the machine operator - before anyone has inspected the machine - to confirm the fault. It should sound like a symptom like you might describe to a doctor, and it should come from one of the senses, such as "see", "hear", "smell" or "feel".  

Examples of helpful complaint statements would be: 

"The air conditioning is blowing hot air" 

"There is oil leaking down the side of the right frame half way down the chassis" 

"There is a knocking noise from the front of the machine on left turns" 

It should NOT be an "over-the-radio" diagnosis; making assumptions on the root cause before inspecting the machine is just guessing. Examples of less-helpful complaint statements that might arise from our examples above might be: 

"Replace air conditioning compressor" 

"Replace the main hoist hose"  

"Replace the left front tie rod" 


CAUSE: in my opinion, this is the most important information for your reliability engineers and the OEM. The "cause" should be the fault the technician found that led to the complaint. 

Using our example complaint statements above, the technician might report the cause as follows: 

"Loose A/C clutch power wire rubbed through on compressor bracket and shorted to ground"  

"Hoist valve plug leaking from brittle O-ring seal" 

"Loose bolt on bottom suspension pin" 

Ideally, your technicians should be trained in basic root cause analysis such as 5-Whys. This would give them the skill set to correctly drill down to the true root cause of the problem. 

Take the first cause statement above: "loose A/C clutch power wire rubbed through on compressor bracket and shorted to ground". 

This statement is still insufficient for defect elimination. Why was the A/C clutch wiring loose? Was it like that from the factory and therefore can we expect the rest of the fleet to have the same problem? Was it incorrectly routed or clamped in a previous maintenance event? In this case the reliability engineer needs to discuss the repair with the technician to better define the root cause. 


CORRECTION: this is simply the action taken to rectify the cause. 

Again, using our example complaint statements, the technical might report the correction actions as follows: 

"Replaced clutch wire back to chassis connector, correctly routed and clamped in harness brackets, A/C tested OK" 

"Resealed with OEM o-ring, washed chassis and leak tested, all OK, returned to service" 

"Cleaned bolt and threads, checked service manual, torqued bolt to specified torque of 500Nm. Opened work order to recheck torque at next service" 

Implementing 3Cs data collection is helped greatly if your work order system prompts the technician to record data in this format. Can you configure your free text area with Complaint, Cause and Correction prompts? Without this, it is difficult to expect your workforce to simply remember to record data in this manner. 


Lack of guidance in work order free text fields can result in the technicians simply recording what they did (correction), not what they found (cause).  In many of the projects that Bluefield works on, we find that while the majority of sites enter complaint codes, barely 30% of the time do we find causes entered.  This makes it impossible for reliability engineers to do meaningful Pareto analysis, and they usually end up constructing Pareto charts based on component type rather than failure modes.  Without understanding failure modes, it is next to impossible to correct defects (see an earlier article here). 

Failing to collect 3Cs will slow your ability to engage OEMs to improve your equipment. As seen from the examples above, the work order text area does not need an essay. Your reliability engineers and OEMs need specific information, and it can be as little as three sentences when applied to a simple repair. 


One final thing – make sure the combination of the 3C’s makes sense and is useful.  In a recent project, we found that the most common combination entered was the Complaint “worn out” and the Cause “wear”! 



By Matt McLeod