Book Review

Root Cause Failure Analysis
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Root Cause Failure Analysis (Plant Engineering Maintenance Series)

By: Keith Mobley, R. Keith Mobley

Published by: Butterworth-Heinemann
Publication Date: April 1999
ISBN: 0750671580

Our Review

Yet another book on Root Cause Analysis - the book market on this subject appears to be quite cluttered. Actually, the title for this book is somewhat misleading, because of the 308 pages in this book, only 44 pages discuss the Root Cause Failure Analysis methodology. Most of the remainder is made up of Equipment Design Evaluation Guides, and Equipment Troubleshooting Guides, which cover, in a generic fashion, equipment types including Compressors, Blowers, Pumps, Steam Traps, Inverters, Control Valves and others. The intention of the Design Guides is to provide the basic knowledge needed to understand the critical design issues which directly affect reliability. This includes some brief discussion of installation and operating practices. The main feature of the Troubleshooting Guides is a list of probable "failure modes", based on failure symptoms.

As you can probably tell from the emphasis on equipment-related issues, the focus of this book is on identifying equipment-related causes of failure. As such, it takes a very "engineering" outlook of Root Cause Analysis. While there is some, brief, discussion of non-equipment related failure causes (such as inappropriate operation etc.), this discussion is really not satisfactory enough for a book that aims to be a reference book on Root Cause Analysis. Given that recent NOSA statistics have indicated that over 70% of industrial safety incidents, for example, are caused by Unsafe Actions, not Unsafe Conditions - and that aviation safety statistics indicate that less than 15% of air crashes are caused by equipment failure, any Root Cause Analysis approach that focuses almost exclusively on equipment-related causes of failure will not satisfactorily address many, significant failures.

Also consistent with this "engineering" approach to Root Cause analysis is a strong focus on the analysis being conducted by a sole analyst who collects information by interview process and other means, and who then writes a report which "solves" the problem. Implementation issues are not discussed - and the reality is that this approach is a highly ineffective way of creating a "learning" organization so that failures do not recur.

In summary, if you were planning to buy this as your sole guidebook on how to perform root cause analysis, this book has some major weaknesses. It's strongest point, however, are the Equipment Design and Troubleshooting Guides, which may act as a useful reference guide for less experienced engineers.

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