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M-News Edition 14
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M-News - the Maintenance Newsletter

Edition 14, May 2001

Welcome to the fourteenth edition of M-News. This is a free newsletter on topics of interest to Maintenance professionals, brought to you by the Plant Maintenance Resource Center.

We aim to bring you the latest news and views on what is happening in the world of Maintenance. If you wish to receive notification of future copies of this newsletter by email, please register here. If you have any feedback on the newsletter, or have something to contribute, please send me an e-mail.


In this edition...
Feature Article - Asset Management at the Millennium
Feature Article - Maintenance Task Selection
Feature Article - What Shutdowns, Why and When?
Survey Results - Maintenance Salaries
Current Survey - PM Task Development
Book Review - Root Cause Analysis, by Latino & Latino
Recommended Books
On the Lighter Side - Engineering Humor

Feature Article - Asset Management at the Millennium

This article, contributed by Cyp F.H. van Rijn discusses the absence of a theoretical background of asset management, and introduces SPARC, a decision support tool for maintenance engineers which was developed by Shell, and has been used for redundancy / availability optimisation, equipment selection, risk analysis, maintenance strategy and maintenance manning level optimisation. This article can be read at

Feature Article - Maintenance Task Selection

This 4 part summary from the plantmaint Maintenance discussion forum discusses alternative approaches to Maintenance task selection, including RCM, PM Optimisation (PMO), RCMCost, and others - it also touches on Total Productive Maintenance (TPM). Read it to hear some of the arguments for and against some of these alternative approaches. It starts at

Feature Article - What Shutdowns, Why and When?

Planned shutdowns are an enigma for many organisations. Much effort has gone into the efficient planning and delivery of the work involved, but relatively little guidance exists for determining what work is worth doing in the first place, and how this should be clustered into appropriate packages to share shutdown opportunities.This article, contributed by John Woodhouse of the Woodhouse Partnership (, describes some recent advances in quantitative evaluation of shutdown programmes. It looks at the bundling of tasks - the logistics of delaying some activities to coincide with others, and the compromise economics of shared downtime costs versus the performance and risk impact of premature or deferred work. The paper is illustrated by three case studies, taken from different industries. This article can be read at You will require the free Adobe Acrobat plug-in to be installed on your computer to read this article.

Survey Results - Maintenance Salary Survey

This survey closed on April 30, and the results of this recent survey are still being analysed. A summary will be provided in the next issue of M-News. However, if you wish to view the unanalysed results, point your browser to

Current Survey - PM Task Development

By request from respondents to recent surveys, the current survey relates to the development of preventive and predictive maintenance programs using such techniques as Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM), PM Optimisation, RCM Cost, RCM Turbo and others. This appears to be a "hot" topic at present, with debate surrounding the selection of techniques showing no sign of dying down. The survey closes on June 30. All submissions are totally confidential. Please feel free to tell others of this survey. You can register your response, or view the results to date at

Book Review - Root Cause Analysis, by Latino & Latino

This book outlines the ProAct approach to Root Cause Analysis, developed, taught and implemented by the authors and their organisation, Reliability Center, Inc. There are a number of important principles explained in this book, that will assist those wishing to undertake Root Cause Analysis in their organizations, regardless of which "brand" of Root Cause Analysis they adopt.

The first chapter of the book introduces the key concepts relating to Root Cause Analysis, and outlines the ProAct approach. Before moving on to the detail of the ProAct approach, the second chapter of the book deals with the very important issue of creating an environment within which Root Cause Analysis (or indeed any significant change initiative) can succeed. There is a lot of common sense in this chapter, which revolves around the roles of Senior Management, the RCA "Champion", and the RCA "Driver" in the Root Cause initiative. This chapter of the book is available to be viewed online at

The third to ninth chapters detail the ProAct approach, with the tenth chapter containing some details regarding the ProAct software which is available to support this process. The book concludes with some case studies outlining the findings and benefits that some organizations have obtained from applying the ProAct approach.

The ProAct approach classifies Root Causes into three categories - Physical Roots, Human Roots, and Latent Roots. According to this book, Physical roots are the tangibles that can be seen, and are often the stopping point for those organisations that claim to do Root Cause Analysis. Human roots are those which involve human errors of commission or omission. Concluding root cause analysis at this level results in RCA being branded as a "witch hunt", with the obvious resulting lack of participation in the process by those who may feel hunted. However, says the book, most undesirable outcomes are a result of human errors. In order to avoid repetition of those errors, it is important to delve deeper into the "latent" causes regarding organisational systems, procedures, policies etc. that led to employees making an incorrect decision. The book maintains that the true root causes of any error or failure are these latent causes.

The book also explains James Reason's "Error Chain Concept", which "describes human error accidents as the result of a sequence of events that culminate in mishaps. There is seldom an overpowering cause, but rather a number of contributing factors, hence the term error chain. Breaking any one link in the chain might potentially break the entire error chain and prevent a mishap". The book quotes Flight Safety International as stating that the fewest number of links in aviation accidents was 4, with the everage being 7. The authors state their experience with industrial applications as being that the average number of errors that must queue up to be 10 to 14. This has significant implications for the level of detail required for successful Root Cause Analysis in Industrial applications.

All Root Cause Analysis techniques have, at their heart, some form of logic diagram, and ProAct is no exception. This section of the book, however, contains a number of valuable tips that assist in making sure that the logic diagram is successfully applied.

One other point that is well made in the book, and which, in my experience is one of the most frequent failings of those organisations that apply RCA techniques, is that the RCA analysis is not complete until its recommendations are implemented. Once again, the book makes some valid, practical tips on how to maximise the chances of having recommendations successfully accepted and implemented, and monitoring post-implementation results.

Overall, a highly recommended book on RCA, although it is significantly more expensive than many other, similar books on this topic.

You can purchase this book from The Plant Maintenance Resource Center, in association with, at

Recommended Books

Some of the books that have previously been reviewed on this site, and which we strongly recommend are listed below. Ron Moore's book, Making Common Sense Common Practice is particularly recommended as representing excellent value for money.

For details on all of these books, and many more, visit

On the Lighter Side - Engineering Humor

Q: What is the difference between a Mechanical Engineer and a Civil Engineer?

A: One designs weapons, the other designs targets.

I hope you have enjoyed this newsletter. All feedback, comments and contributions to future editions are very welcome (as are enquiries about sponsorship of this newsletter).

Alexander (Sandy) Dunn
Plant Maintenance Resource Center

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