FREE copy of the Uptime Elements Implementation Guide once you subscribe to Reliability Weekly

Think about all the initiator causes of failure that are not really related to maintenance. Initiator causes are those events, possibly microscopic, that initiate decay shown by the P-F curve. Examples of initiator causes might include heat, dirt, or overloading.

Figure 1 shows a P-F curve, with the arrow pointing to a potential failure that is precipitated by some initiator. This initiator can be microscopic, such as a piece of dirt, or macro, like a steel slab hitting the rollers off-center. Once the potential failure is realized or initiated, the march to destruction is inevitable. The only unknown is how long it will take. At this point, the only thing of interest is how soon the march to destruction can be detected.

Potential failure shown on a P-F curve. Figure 1: Potential failure shown on a P-F curve. Copyright 2016-2018. NetexpressUSA Inc. d/b/a

Most often, the cause of the initiator is one of the five big sources of defects that lead to breakdowns. According to Winston P. Ledet, a consultant and workshop instructor on proactive manufacturing and maintenance and coauthor of the book, Don’t Just Fix It, Improve It!, these defects are:

  • Defects carried in on raw material - 21%
  • Defects in operation of equipment - 29%
  • Defects in the repair of equipment when maintenance is performed - 21%
  • Defects due to spare parts, materials and consumables used in repair - 8%
  • Defects due to equipment design or selection - 21%

As you can see, 29 percent of the defects are due to maintenance causes and the rest are due to a small group of outside causes.

Because the sources are both inside of maintenance and, more commonly, outside of maintenance, it is correct to say:

  • You can never preventive maintenance (PM) your way to reliability.
  • You can never plan your way to reliability.
  • You can never schedule your way to reliability.
  • You can never invest or buy your way to reliability.
  • You can never scan using any technology to reliability.
  • There is no silver, gold, or platinum bullet that will give you reliability.

The reason is simple: Since the source is outside of maintenance, then it is likely that the solution must also be outside of maintenance. No pure maintenance solution will address even a simple majority of the causes of reliability problems. While this is true, it is not the whole story.

While the cause of the defect is outside of maintenance, mitigation of the defect is certainly inside of maintenance. For example, if a hidden rock comes into a sawmill inside a log, the defect’s source is outside of maintenance, but the detection, mitigation and resolution is certainly within the scope of maintenance.

A multilayered defense is necessary. This approach is called defense in depth. If defects that are bad enough to disrupt reliability can come in from five sources, you must:

  • Know your defects;
  • Spend time eliminating defects that are present (i.e., defect elimination);
  • Spend time eliminating sources of defects (i.e., root cause analysis);
  • Spend time designing systems and procedures to detect, filter and mitigate the effects before they impact reliability (i.e., failure mode and effects analysis, preventive maintenance, asset condition monitoring, standard operating procedures, etc.).

This ability can be a competitive advantage. For example, an East Coast manufacturer makes small stampings. The company is very good at doing this, but even with skill, it is difficult to make much money since the material cost is 70 percent of the cost of goods sold (COGS). The manufacturer also had problems when the steel coils purchased were not pristine. Defects in the raw material were the biggest problem. Gradually, the manufacturer adapted the stamping tooling to accommodate the most common defects (i.e., variance in thickness, flatness, slight rust, etc.). To add insult to injury, sources in China and Asia were opening up, so there was already pricing pressure.

The manufacturer realized those common defects could be turned into a competitive advantage. Since its tooling could work with a wide range of defects in the coils, the company started to intentionally buy defective coils. The tooling could make good parts from coils that were slightly rusty, warped, too narrow for others, or designated scrap by larger manufacturers. Since the manufacturer could work with secondary coils, it dropped its COGS by 50 percent. This allowed the company to both compete and make an excellent profit. Today, the manufacturer is selling a selection of its products in China to be incorporated into their products.

Joel Levitt

Joel Levitt, CRL, CPMM, CRL, CPMM, is the President of Laser Focused Training. Mr. Levitt has 30 years of experience in many facets of maintenance, including process control design, source equipment inspector, electrician, field service technician, maritime operations and property management. He is a leading trainer of maintenance professionals and has trained more than 17,000 maintenance leaders from 3,000 organizations in 25 countries in over 500 sessions. Since 1980 he has been the President of Springfield Resources, a management consulting firm that services all sized clients on a wide range of maintenance issues. Prior to that Mr. Levitt worked for a CMMS vendor and in manufacturing management. 

He is also a frequent speaker at maintenance and engineering conferences and has written 6 popular maintenance management texts and chapters of 2 additional reference books. He has also published dozens of articles on the topic. Mr. Levitt has served on the safety board of ANSI, Small Business United, National Family Business Council and on the executive committee of the Miquon School. He can be reached at or visit

Upcoming Events

August 8 - August 10, 2023

Maximo World 2023

View all Events
80% of newsletter subscribers report finding something used to improve their jobs on a regular basis.
Subscribers get exclusive content. Just released...MRO Best Practices Special Report - a $399 value!
Defect Elimination in the context of Uptime Elements

Defect Elimination means a lot of things to a lot of people. Uptime Elements offers a specific context for defect elimination [DE] as a success factor on the reliability journey [RJ].

Internet of Things Vendors Disrupting the Asset Condition Management Domain at IMC-2022

Internet of Things Vendors Disrupting the Asset Condition Management Domain at IMC-2022 The 36th International Maintenance Conference collocated with the RELIABILITY 4.0 Digital Transformation Conference [East]

Asset Management Technology

The aim of the Asset Management technology domain is to assure that IT/OT systems are focused on creating the value from the assets and that the business can deliver to achieve organizational objectives as informed by risk.


TRIRIGAWORLD AWARDS honors excellence in space optimization and facility management, A event to further advance asset management

IMC-2022 Who's Who: The World's Best Run Companies

The International Maintenance Conference (IMC) provides a fresh, positive community-based curated experience to gain knowledge and a positive perspective for advancing reliability and asset management through people, their managers, the strategy, the processes, the data and the technology. The world’s best-run companies are connecting the workforce, management, assets and data to automate asset knowledge that can be leveraged for huge beneficial decisions.

Uptime Elements Root Cause Analysis

Root Cause Analysis is a problem solving method. Professionals who are competent in Root Cause Analysis for problem solving are in high demand.

Reliability Risk Meter

The asset is not concerned with the management decision. The asset responds to physics

Why Reliability Leadership?

If you do not manage reliability culture, it manages you, and you may not even be aware of the extent to which this is happening!

Asset Condition Management versus Asset Health Index

Confusion abounds in language. Have you thought through the constraints of using the language of Asset Health?

Seven Chakras of Asset Management by Terrence O'Hanlon

The seven major asset management chakras run cross-functionally from the specification and design of assets through the asset lifecycle to the decommissioning and disposal of the asset connected through technology