Maintenance Troubleshooting

Written by Nicholas Kamuda
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With equipment as complicated as modern-day physical assets are, maintenance troubleshooting can be an arduous task. Conventional maintenance techniques dictate that and extensive backlog of failure modes and fix-it solutions aid in troubleshooting techniques, but recent data shows that this may not be the case. Moreover, modern maintenance engineering practices allow operations teams to not only produce comprehensive maintenance plans without a long history of data, but in some cases, to bypass condition-based troubleshooting altogether.

Since the 1970s, studies conducted in complicated systems of physical assets suggest that many equipment failures are caused by multiple failure modes--numbering several dozen in some cases. The sheer complexity of modern assets prevents many traditional maintenance troubleshooting techniques from being applicable. However, even in modern maintenance practices such as RCM, traditional techniques have value, and should not be overlooked as viable maintenance options.

Maintenance Troubleshooting Vs. RCM

The focus of techniques like RCM is on eliminating the adverse consequences of equipment failure, not on preventing the failures from occurring. After identifying desired functions of a certain asset and all of the possible ways the asset may fail to perform those functions (failure modes), the root cause of the failure modes can be established. RCFAs and FMEAs (for Failure Mode & Effects Analysis) are maintenance troubleshooting procedures for possible causes and effects, not for the failures themselves.

This allows practitioners of RCM to manage multiple failure systems as well as single failure systems. By looking at a chain of causes and effects, RCM style maintenance puts the focus on continues performance and minimized risk, not just the condition of a single asset. After all, failed assets present risks to all aspects of a modern business, not just to an asset's operational life.


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