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M-News Edition 16
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M-News - the Maintenance Newsletter

Edition 16, July 2001

Welcome to the sixteenth 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 - Steam Trap Management Software - providing the basis for "fact-based" decision making
Feature Article - How to Start a Steam System Maintenance Program
Feature Article - Components of a Comprehensive Chiller Replacement Analysis
Feature Article - Work Order Priorities
Survey Results - PM Task Development
Current Survey - Maintenance Outsourcing
Book Review - Apollo Root Cause Analysis - A New Way Of Thinking, by Dean Gano
Recommended Books
On the Lighter Side - Engineering Humor

Feature Article - Steam Trap Management Software - providing the basis for "fact-based" decision making

According to major steam trap manufacturers, compiled data has demonstrated that if there has been no steam trap inspection and maintenance program, upwards of 50% of the steam traps at a particular location may be wasting steam. This article, contributed by Bruce Gorelick, V.P. of Marketing for Conserv-it Software outlines the key considerations in establishing a consistent, regularly scheduled trap maintenance program. it covers aspects such as building the business case for the program, gathering information, why steam trap programs fail, and managing steam trap contractors. This article can be read at

Feature Article - How to Start a Steam System Maintenance Program

Starting a Steam System Maintenance Program might seem like a large undertaking for many facilities; however, the benefits far outweigh any costs and effort involved. Implementing a steam system maintenance program can save time, reduce costs, and improve operating efficiency and product. This article from Field Data Specialists, Inc. covers the key components of a successful Steam System Management Program, including personnel, training, equipment and data management. This article is available at Note that you will need to have the free Adobe Acrobat reader installed to be able to view this file.

Feature Article - Components of a Comprehensive Chiller Replacement Analysis

In M-News Edition 13, Mark Harbin, Compliance Information Services Manager with Environmental Support Solutions discussed what to consider before deciding to convert, retrofit or replace any chiller model. This month, he looks at how to streamline the replacement process to make it as cost effective and easy as possible. You can read more at Note that you will need to have the free Adobe Acrobat reader installed to be able to view this file.

Feature Article - Work Order Priorities

Another article from Daryl Mather's series on Maintenance Planning and Scheduling basics. This month's article outlines an approach to setting Work Order priorities. You can read more at

Survey Results - PM Task Development

This survey closed on June 30, with responses having been received from 41 people. Results are currently being analysed, and will be included in next month's newsletter. Thank you to all who contributed.

Current Survey - Maintenance Outsourcing

The current survey relates to outsourcing of Maintenance and Maintenance contractors. The survey closes on August 31, 2001. You can register your response, or view the results to date at

Book Review - Apollo Root Cause Analysis - A New Way Of Thinking, by Dean Gano

Following on from my review of Root Cause Analysis - Improving Performance for Bottom-Line Results by Robert and Kenneth Latino in Edition 14, this month we review another book on Root Cause Analysis - Dean Gano's book on the Apollo method for Root Cause Analysis. The bottom line is that I really enjoyed reading this book - it gives an interesting, and challenging, perspective to the Root Cause Analysis process, and the Apollo process appears to be very simple and easy to apply, yet likely to be highly effective. In addition, there are a number of insights into the process that would be highly applicable to individuals and organizations, regardless of what process they are using for conducting Root Cause Analysis. This book is highly recommended reading for anyone who is either involved in an existing Root Cause Analysis process, or who is considering implementing such a process - and at US$19.95, this book is extremely good value for money.

The book itself is 192 pages long, and consists of 7 chapters and one Appendix. In the introduction, Gano states that "Because this book challenges conventional wisdom, it may not validate your existing belief system". This is certainly the case, but Gano does an excellent job of fully explaining his point of view, and certainly managed to bring me around to his way of thinking. The first chapter examines the typical ways that most people tackle problem solving, and explains why those methods rarely work in permanently resolving problems. Chapter 2 introduces Cause and Effect concepts, while Chapters 3 to 5 introduce the Apollo method tools. Chapter 6 provides guidance to those people who may be facilitating teams in solving problems, and Chapter 7 highlights the attributes of the Apollo method. The Appendix provides a brief comparison of different approaches to conducting Root Cause Analysis. It is easily read, and everyone from Managers to Shop Floor personnel would gain something from reading this book.

In his book, Gano makes a number of challenging, yet very valid points.

First, he notes that to be successful, problem solving processes have to effectively combine critical thinking processes, with creative thinking processes. Often, the most effective solutions to problems are overlooked simply because people haven't bothered to look for them. The challenge is to unlock the creative potential within all of us - and this starts by realising what barriers we put up (in order to make life easier for ourselves) that block creative thought. Gano outlines 7 common problem solving practices that lead to less than optimal solutions. These include:

  • Stopping Too Soon - often caused by time pressures, and the perceived need to get on with implementing a solution, this leads often leads to the situation where the symptoms of problems are addressed, rather than the causes.
  • The Need to Place Blame - the belief that punishment will improve behavior in adults is not supported by any facts or studies, according to Gano, and assigning blame is rarely effective in generating long-lasting solutions to problems.
  • The Root Cause Myth - with the buzz words "Root Cause Analysis" a great myth has been created, according to Gano. This myth is that there is a single root cause for any problem. This common, but misguided approach assumes that all causal relationships are linear and that all problems are born from a single source. Gano uses the example of a fire to illustrate the fallacy of this thinking. To commence, a fire must have three items present - an ignition source, combustible material, and oxygen. Removing any one of these elements prevents the possibility of fire - so the root cause of the fire will depend on which element we choose to try to eliminate.
  • The Illusion of Common Sense and a Single Reality - "common sense" is often used as an excuse for why others do not see thing the way that we see them, and then punishing them for it. In reality, we are all unique, and there are many differences in our perceptions, experiences and belief systems that mean that, effectively, the possibility of us all perceiving the world in the same way is a biological impossibility - and therefore the notion of a common, shared reality is an illusion.
  • Groovenation - this is a term that Gano created to describe the process of justifying our beliefs - and we all do it. We all filter the information that we receive, and tend to place higher value on that information that confirms our existing beliefs, and discount that which conflicts with our existing beliefs.Storytelling - our primary form of communication is through storytelling. While often entertaining, storytelling seldom identifies causes, because they are linear, sequential in time, and do not encourage rigorous analysis of causes.
  • Categorical Thinking - this is caused by the mind's need to order what it perceives, but unfortunately often leads to intellectual laziness.

The Apollo method is simple, with (as with all similar processes) a Cause-Effect diagram at its heart. In identifying causes, Gano makes the point that every effect has at least two causes in the form of Actions (momentary causes that bring conditions together at a point of time to cause an effect), and Conditions (causes that exist over time prior to an action). As simple as it is, the Apollo method is structured in such a way as to maximise the possibility of creative thought, and the generation of effective solutions to problems. In fact, the process is so simple, that it can be effectively used by individuals, acting alone, to address all sorts of problems. Its real power, however, comes from using the power of groups to address problems.

Throughout the book, Gano offers practical tips, based on his obvious experience, for how to ensure that the Apollo process can be made most effective. In particular, the chapter dealing with facilitating groups through the process provides potential facilitators with a number of highly useful tips for dealing with problem solving teams.

The Appendix compares alternative approaches to Problem Solving and Root Cause Analysis. While no "brand names" are used, Gano classifies different approaches into two groups - Categorization Schemes, and Causal Relationship models. It should come as no surprise that he is not in favour of the former approach, where typically a hierarchical outline, checklist or "Cause Tree" is used, from which a Root Cause is chosen. He also briefly addresses the "Fill out a form" model, frequently used by Government, and for safety incidents, of which he is equally scathing - describing it as "pathetically incomplete".

In summary - this book is a rare and valuable combination - it is highly readable, challenges a number of common misconceptions, and yet is highly practical. Well worth reading by anyone interested in Root Cause Analysis or Problem Solving, and at US$19.95, excellent value for money.

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

A pastor, a doctor and an engineer were waiting one morning for a particularly slow group of golfers. The engineer fumed, "What's with these guys? We must have been waiting for 15 minutes!" The doctor chimed in, "I don't know, but I've never seen such ineptitude!" The pastor said, "Hey, here comes the greenskeeper. Let's have a word with him." (dramatic pause)

"Hi Fred. Say, what's with that group ahead of us? They're rather slow, aren't they?"

The greenskeeper replied, "Oh, yes, that's a group of blind firefighters. They lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free anytime."

The group was silent for a moment. The pastor said, "That's so sad. I think I will say a special prayer for them tonight."

The doctor said, "Good idea. And I'm going to contact my ophthalmologist buddy and see if there's anything he can do for them."

The engineer said, "Why can't these guys play at night?"

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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