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RCFA – A Great Tool, But How Proactive Is It?

June 1, 2011
(Reliability Engineering)

In the reliability improvement field, we often come across organizations that talk about being proactive, but then rely on root cause failure analysis (RCFA) as a primary method for improving their maintenance programs. This is not to say that RCFA is not an important analytical tool, but if RCFA is driving improvement, it’s important to recognize that a failure must have already occurred! To be truly proactive, it is critical to examine equipment before it fails using failure mode identification techniques like RCM and FMEA. A common second mistake is that companies relying on RCFA will then apply the findings to all similar assets, regardless of operating context. This can drive costs up needlessly and reduce management’s belief in your reliability efforts.

Tip Provided by:Adam Grahn - Principal, Business Development
The Asset Performance Group Inc. (APG)
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Comments (2)

  • I and others teach an RCA course for both public and private offerings. We teach several representative but non proprietary tools, each used according to the best fit for the type of opportunity to be investigated. Some of them are clearly applicable for use in a proactive mode and we emphasize again and again during the course that they should be used for such at every opportunity. The end goal is that they will get out of the business of using the tools to analyze "events" and migrate into analyzing improvement activities that do not necessarilty reflect any overt failure. The various methods for performing RCA are no different than the tools in a mechanic's tool box. They can be used to prevent failures, and they can be used to put the pieces back together after an event. What they are most often used for is based on the culture and leadership. Are they reactive or proactive? There are very few tools that are inherently reactive by design (a crash axe comes to mind). It is people who are reacrive or proactive.

    1) Posted 12:43 pm, 08 June 2011 by Sam McNair

  • RCFA can be very proactive when the approach of defect elimination is adopted in stead of analysing root causes. Winston Ledet's article on "The ABC's of Failure" ( is very relevant and shows how the fixing of defects that have not resulted in failure yet, but contributed to another failure, can be proactive in reducing the amount of failures that could be experienced.

    I have seen many root causes analysed where no solutions were put in place to prevent failure from recurring.

    2) Posted 5:55 pm, 09 June 2011 by John Kruger

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