When something goes wrong at your facility, your first reaction may be to direct immediate efforts at correcting the problem. However, repairing the issue without investigating the root cause of the failure often leaves high probability for future failures. Minor failures with low impact on safety, environment, or regulatory requirements may be resolved with rapid problem-solving techniques, however, for failures with significant impact, it is worth the time and effort to investigate the direct cause of the failure in order to prevent future occurrences.

Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is a systematic method of investigating and identifying true causes of problems. RCA helps facilities to prevent future instances of asset failure by tracing the root cause of events with safety, health, environmental, reliability, or production impacts, rather than simply correcting the proximate or immediate cause of the failure. By performing an RCA, facilities are able to implement changes in procedures, processes, or design that can prevent similar failures from occurring unexpectedly.

Determining the root cause of a failure requires a knowledgeable team, objective evidence, the investigation of a variety of potential causes, careful analysis of the facts, the commitment of management and staff, and the insight born of experience with RCA. An RCA done too quickly is often poorly done, leaving out crucial information, or rushing to judgement based on assumptions rather than objective facts.

In the occurrence that a facility does have an unexpected failure, Pinnacle’s team can facilitate an RCA, in which we perform lab testing and metallurgical evaluation to determine the most probable cause for the failure. Replication, metallography, x-ray analysis, qualitative assessment of remaining life and damage of components in high temperature service can also be performed, depending on the type of failure.

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