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M-News Edition 17
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M-News - the Maintenance Newsletter

Edition 17, August 2001


In this edition...
Web Site News - Important Announcements Concerning This Newsletter
Feature Article - Maintenance as a Quality Process
Feature Article - Tips for Blower Maintenance
Feature Article - Asset Management - a basic introduction
Feature Article - Metal Fatigue Failure
Survey Results - PM Task Selection
Current Survey - Maintenance Outsourcing
Book Review - Book Review - The Root Cause Analysis Handbook, by Max Ammerman
Recommended Books
On the Lighter Side - Engineering Humor

If you wish to receive notification of future copies of this newsletter by email, please register at If you have any feedback on the newsletter, or have something to contribute, please send me an e-mail.

Web Site News - Important Announcements Concerning This Newsletter

What a bumper issue we have for you this month - the biggest yet! There are three important announcements from the Plant Maintenance Resource Center this month:

  • First, the Plant Maintenance Resource Center has published its Privacy Policy, which formalises our committment to the previously unstated policy of protecting your privacy at all times, and introduces our committment to ensuring that you receive no unsolicited email, either from us, or from any of our partners and business suppliers. You can read the full policy at Any comments will be welcome at
  • Second, as a result of the introduction of this privacy policy, THIS WILL BE THE LAST NEWSLETTER THAT YOU RECEIVE FROM US via email, unless you have previously specifically requested to receive it, or you let us know that you wish to continue to receive it, by registering at Don't miss an issue - register now!

Feature Article - Maintenance as a Quality Process

Jeffrey Lewis, President of QMS Consultants, Inc. has provided this article which views Maintenance as a process - a Quality Management Process. Describing Maintenance in terms of the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle, Jeffrey calls for practitioners to promote reliability through an improvement process, driven by the characteristics of Quality Management Systems maintenance management. This article can be read at

Feature Article - Tips for Blower Maintenance

Ashish Bartia, who provided an article on the Repair vs Replace decision for Pumps a couple of months ago, this month gives us some practical tips for Blower Maintenance. This article is available at

Feature Article - Asset Management - a basic introduction

In this article, John Woodhouse, of The Woodhouse Partnership Ltd, gives a basic introduction to the concepts behind Asset Management, and asks the question - is this another catch-phrase, another 'management initiative' or just re-working of good old common sense?. 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 - Metal Fatigue Failure

In this article, Mike Sondalini, editor of Process Plant & Equipment UP-TIME, gives a basic introduction to the mechanism of metal fatigue failure. Metal fatigue occurs when parts break at a weak point after a period of time in service due to cyclic forces producing fluctuating stresses. An introduction into accepted theories is provided and relevant design practices to reduce metal fatigue are presented and explained. You can read the full article at Note that you will need to have the free Adobe Acrobat reader installed to be able to view this file.

Survey Results - PM Task Selection

This survey closed on June 30. The results have been compiled, and key findings include:

  • 56% of respondents indicated that they had a formal approach to PM Task Selection.
  • 60% indicated that they were currently using, or had previously used, Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) approaches to PM Task development. A similar number also indicated that they were using, or had previously had used, PM Optimization approaches.
  • Statistical Analysis/Weibull approaches were rarely used, and may not be as well understood.
  • Consultants are used in about one third of cases, and provide a wide range of services, including training, facilitation, collecting and analysing data, and making recommendations regarding PM tasks.
  • Specialist PM Task Development software appears to be quite widely used, with 44% of respondents indicating that they used such software.
  • Overall, more than 50% of respondents considered their current approach to PM Task Development to be only satisfactory or poor. However, those that were using formal approaches were much more satisified with the results, with 50% considering the results from their approach to be Excellent or Very Good.
  • RCM and PM Optimization approaches appeared to be considered to be similarly successful
  • 38% of respondents indicated that they had heard of the SAE standard for Reliability Centered Maintenance - JA1011, however only 15% of respondents have read the standard, and almost 50% of respondents did not know whether their current approach to PM Task Development complied with the SAE standard for RCM.

You can read full analysis of the results at

Current Survey - Maintenance Outsourcing

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

This edition of the newsletter is supported by Assetivity

Operations, Maintenance and Reliability Consulting from highly experienced consultants. Specialising in Maintenance and Reliability Audits/Reviews, Operations and Maintenance Improvement Planning, PM Optimisation, Stores and Procurement Improvement, Outsourcing and Contractor Management.

Visit for more details.

Book Review - The Root Cause Analysis Handbook, by Max Ammerman

Following on from my review of Root Cause Analysis - Improving Performance for Bottom-Line Results by Robert and Kenneth Latino in Edition 14, and last month's review of Dean Gano's outline of the Apollo method for Root Cause Analysis, this month we review yet another book on Root Cause Analysis - Max Ammerman's book, The Root Cause Analysis Handbook. The Root Cause Analysis approach outlined in this book appears to be best suited to those who use Root Cause Analysis to investigate single, catastrophic failures, rather than repetitive, chronic failures. Max Ammerman's background is in safety and accident investigation, particularly in the Nuclear Power industry which explains this perspective.

The book is relatively short, at 135 pages, and most will find it to be easily readable. After a short introduction, each of the chapters follows the nine steps in Ammerman's Root Cause Analysis process, namely:

  • Define Problem/Collect Data
  • Task Analysis
  • Change Analysis
  • Control Barrier Analysis
  • Event and Causal Factor Charting
  • Interviews
  • Determine Root Cause
  • Develop Corrective Actions
  • Report

Throughout the book, an example is used, of a high voltage electrical switch that was found to have been incorrectly switched, causing a potential safety incident. This example illustrates the process at work, although I, personally, found the event, and the analysis, to be somewhat simplistic in nature.

There are a number of elements of Ammerman's approach that makes it appropriate only for investigating single events, rather than chronic, repetitive events. These are:

  • the change analysis step, which asks the question "what was different this time, from all the other times that this task was carried out without an inappropriate action or equipment failure", and
  • the Event and Causal Factor charting (ECFC) step. Unlike most other Root Cause Analysis processes, the core of the ECFC is not a logical cause-effect sequence, but a time-based sequence of events (with causes and effects attached). In practice, this seems a rather complicated charting method, which runs contrary to the subtitle of this book, which is "A Simplified Approach to Identifying, Correcting, and Reporting Workplace Errors".

Many root cause analysts will also tend to shy away from Ammerman's use of the word "error", as it implies human failure, rather than any deeper systemic or equipment design-related causes. And Ammerman seems to imply, throughout his book, that there is a single "root" cause for every failure, which those who have read Gano's book will see to be simply not the case, in most situations.

Nevertheless, there are some useful techniques illustrated in here, which some may find to be useful in certain situations - for example, Ammerman's outline of Control Barrier analysis is a useful way to identify the various administrative and physical control barriers that are in place which are supposed to have prevented the particular event being analysed from having happened. There is also a very useful chapter on Interviews, which contains many practical tips to ensure that interviews are both time-efficient, and achieve their desired results.

In summary - this book contains some interesting techniques, but would be of most relevance to those who wish to conduct root cause analysis on single, significant events. For those who wish to become experts in Root Cause Analysis, it is a useful addition to the library, but overall, if you were to buy only one book on Root Cause Analysis, I would recommend either Gano's outline of the Apollo method, or Latino and Latino's outline of the ProAct method in preference to this book.

You can purchase this book from The Plant Maintenance Resource Center, in association with, at Latino and Latino's Root Cause Analysis - Improving Performance for Bottom-Line Results can be purchased from, and Gano's Apollo Root Cause Analysis - A New Way Of Thinking can be purchased from

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

There was an engineer who had an exceptional gift for fixing all things mechanical. After serving his company loyally for over 30 years, he happily retired. Several years later the company contacted him regarding a seemingly impossible problem they were having with one of their multimillion dollar machines. They had tried everything and everyone else to get the machine to work but to no avail. In desperation, they called on the retired engineer who had solved so many of their problems in the past. The engineer reluctantly took the challenge.He spent a day studying the huge machine. At the end of the day, he marked a small "x" in chalk on a particular component of the machine and stated, "This is where your problem is". The part was replaced and the machine worked perfectly again. The company received a bill for $50,000 from the engineer for his service. They demanded an itemized accounting of his charges.The engineer responded briefly:

One chalk mark $1.

Knowing where to put it $49,999

It was paid in full and the engineer retired again in peace.

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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