Failure Investigations & RCA Facilitation
How long does it take your engineers to conduct a root cause analysis on failed equipment? Do you suspect the whole process could be more streamlined and efficient?
When mobile equipment or fixed plant machines fail, the subsequent investigation and root cause analysis (RCA) is obviously vital to the continued success of a mining operation. The many theoretical approaches to RCAs are effective but can be somewhat impractical and leave engineers unnecessarily bogged down in detail. In fact, by the time an engineer can complete an RCA, other issues are likely to have arisen that are equally important.
Partnering with Kepner Tregoe, we utilise a methodology called Problem Solving Excellence but it’s the way we apply this methodology that’s our point of difference. Our experience lies in our ability to get to an RCA outcome. In fact, our first step in a failure investigation is to look closely at the maintenance execution rather than launching straight into an RCA. The ownership of a failure should lie with the maintenance execution team and the reliability engineer’s role is to provide support only when required.
At Bluefield, our RCA process is based on the principle that there are only a limited number of indirect and direct causes for a breakdown. There is never just a single cause of failure though, and so the process requires us to work through a chain of causes, being just thorough enough to find the issues without losing valuable time on complicated tick-box processes that delve too deeply.
We begin with the direct cause and identifying the failure mode - this also means retaining and analysing the failed part. We then look to the indirect causes and identify the actions and conditions that existed or were absent in allowing the failure to occur. These indirect causes will generally always involve:
- inadequate strategies or tasks
- inadequate maintenance execution of tasks
- improper operation;
- or a technical defect (or a combination of these factors).
Too often an ineffective failure investigation will stop here, believing that the root cause has been identified.
However, it’s actually only at this point that we confront the root causes of the failure and this can often be a difficult task for teams. It addresses issues such as individual capabilities, organizational capabilities, systems of work and resources and the inadequacies of those elements that may have contributed to the failure. These can often be systemic issues that are deep-seated, difficult to quantify and take a lot of work to rectify. Having an external third party like Bluefield work with you through facilitating and managing your failure investigation and RCA can make the process more objective and more readily accepted by your team. By looking more broadly at the root causes and asking the question “what else are we missing?” you’ll turbocharge your learning and continually improve the quality of your maintenance execution. And the long-term benefits to your organization will be invaluable.
If you are interested in learning more about how Bluefield can work with you to assist with Failure Investigations and RCA Facilitation then contact us for more information.