Category: Equipment/Equifactor®

Root Cause Tip: Equipment difficulty… did the equipment break or wear out?

August 28th, 2017 by

Teaching TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis and Equifactor® for the last 10 years, I often get this question…

“The tool/component broke while we were using it. Why can’t we just select Equipment Difficulty on the TapRooT® Root Cause Tree®?”

Simple, you have to pass the test below first

NOTE: If the failure was caused by:

  – improper operation;

  – improper maintenance;

  – installation errors;

  – failure to perform scheduled preventive maintenance;

  – programming errors;

  – use for a purpose far beyond the intention of the design; or

  – a design that causes a human performance difficulty

then the failure is NOT an Equipment Difficulty, but rather the failure is a Human Performance Difficulty

Trust me! If a tool, piece of equipment or product breaks, you know the manufacturer, vendor and supplier are going to push back to see if it was used properly and meets the warranty. Shouldn’t you ask first? We say yes!

During my 18 years in aviation in fuel systems troubleshooting and executive jet assembly, we used to have a phrase…

“Our mechanics or assemblers that grew up on the farm are our best and worst mechanics. They can get anything mechanical to work.”

Now there are signs that tools might not be the right ones for the job or that the job was not designed with good Human Engineering in mind. First test… look into the toolboxes in the field.

✔Are the tools modified
✔Are the tools old and worn
✔Are there tools from home

Okay, so tools are easier to see being misused, like a screw driver being used as a scraper or a pry bar, but what about equipment/components being used like a…

✔ Compressor
✔ Switch
✔ Valve
✔ Bottle

Now we must dig a little deeper in our TapRooT® Root Cause and Equifactor® Analysis. We start by mapping out our SnapCharT® (Sequence of Events with supporting Conditions) using system schematics to ensure we know what occurred with the equipment, people and system being operated. A knowledgeable system operator can elaborate on events and conditions such as:

✔ Energized open, mechanically closed
✔ Dynamic or static energy
✔ System work arounds and deficiencies

Why you may ask is this knowledge vital? If an operator knows how the light turns on when you flip a light switch on, then when system does fail, it is easier to start and understand the SnapCharT®.

To pass the first two tests while facilitating TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis, whether for a low to moderate level issue or a major incident, bring along that knowledgeable operator or engineer that can answer the following…

improper operation;
improper maintenance;
installation errors;
failure to perform scheduled preventive maintenance;
programming errors;
use for a purpose far beyond the intention of the design; or
a design that causes a human performance difficulty

Good luck and be safe! Please get rid of those unsafe tools and processes.

LEARN MORE in our 2-day TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis Training.

Enhance Your Equifactor® Skills in Houston

October 20th, 2016 by

Equipment problems can be difficult, but fixing them is vital for safety in the workplace and efficiency in production. Where do you start? Find the root cause of the failure. But how? Come to a TapRooT® Equifactor® public course to learn how to find that root cause, develop effective solutions and implement them successfully. Our systematic process is reliable, and your equipment should be, too.

Well, good news! TapRooT® is offering this course in Houston on November 3. You can learn how to optimize your equipment and enjoy a city with a big personality. Houston lives up to the western character that many assume they’ll find, but that’s not all it is. You’ll find cuisine of all kinds, sophisticated downtown shops and industrial powerhouses of all kinds. Visit and see for yourself!

Join TapRooT® in Houston for this local public course.

Inquire about an Equifactor® onsite course for your company.

Equipment Reliability: What Happens as Pumps Wear Out?

October 11th, 2016 by

Equipment reliability - Pump wear

When we are faced with the prospect of installing a new pump, we have to take a look at several factors to decide what the best course of action will be. For example, we have to look at:
– Fit for purpose
– Initial cost
– Life-cycle maintenance costs
– Electrical efficiency
– Ease of maintenance
– etc.

An additional consideration is how the characteristics of the pump vary over time.  It is fairly straight forward to calculate flow rates and pressures using the specs of a new pump.  However, how do these specs vary over time?  As the pump wears, how will the characteristics of the pump change, and how will this affect the overall fitness of the pump for the service environment?

Here is a nice article that describes how pump nameplate characteristics will change as the pump wears, and what to expect as the components wear.

Equipment Failure: Mechanical Seal Basics

October 3rd, 2016 by

Mechanical seal

 

Modern pump systems are moving more and more away from traditional pump packing, and more towards mechanical seals.  There are many advantages to using a mechanical seal instead of pump packing.  However, using these seals brings along some additional potential problems.

Before we can look at these additional issues, we first need to make sure we understand exactly what we mean by a “mechanical seal.”  Here is a quick refresher on how these seals work.  Next week, we’ll look a little more deeply into the advantages and disadvantages of these systems.

Equipment Failure: Crane Gearbox Failure

September 30th, 2016 by

Equipment Failure - Broken Gear

While performing a lift using a tower crane, a failure of the gearbox cause about 1.000 lbs of hook and rigging gear to fall to the ground, narrowly missing workers in the area. Here is the report.

The investigation revealed several issues, most relating to proper inspections of the gearboxes to identify defective gears.  While again this appears to be a straight equipment failure, we would also want to know:

  • How did the deficient gear end up in the gearbox (it was the wrong material)?
  • Are we looking for repeat failures (this had happened before)?
  • How close were the workers in the vicinity?
  • What was the preventative maintenance plan for this gearbox?  Was it required be the vendor?

Lots of other directions a good investigation will lead you.

 

Equipment Failure? Delta Airlines “Computer” Failure

September 6th, 2016 by

equipment failure 2

Last month, Delta Airlines experienced an equipment failure that caused their reservation system to shut down, Media reports indicate close to 2,000 flights were canceled. This is only a few weeks after Southwest Airlines experienced a similar computer failure, causing numerous flight delays and cancellations.

Reports continue to indicate that this was an equipment failure, due to a small fire in a power supply in there server room.  Here is their description:

“Monday morning (August 8) an uninterrupted power source switch experienced a small fire which resulted in a massive failure at Delta’s Technology Command Center. This caused the power control module to malfunction, sending a surge to a transformer outside of Delta, resulting in the loss of power. The power was stabilized and power was restored quickly. But when this happened, critical systems and network equipment didn’t switch over to backups. Around 300 of about 7,000 data center components were discovered to not have been configured appropriately to avail backup power. In addition to restoring Delta’s systems to normal operations, Delta teams this week have been working to ensure reliable redundancies of electrical power as well as network connectivity and applications are in place.”

Keep in mind that the “uninterrupted power supply switch” is actually known as an “uninterruptible” power supply (UPS).  This normally swaps you over to another power source if your primary source fails.  You may have a simple UPS on your computer systems at the office, providing battery backup while power is restored.  In Delta’s case, their UPS system attempted to switch over, but configuration issues prevented a significant number of their devices from actually shifting over.

Additionally, other reports indicate that the reservation system is an extremely antiquated system, linked into other airlines’ (also extremely antiquated) systems.  They have all patched together and upgraded their individuals systems to the point that it is almost impossible to upgrade; it really requires a complete replacement, which would be EXTREMELY difficult and expensive to replace while still being used for current reservations.

So while this is discussed by the airlines as an equipment failure, I think there are more than likely multiple causal factors, of which only one (the initiating problem) was a burned up component.  Without knowing the details, we can see several Causal Factors:

  • A UPS caught fire
  • This small fire caused a large surge and widespread power loss
  • Other equipment was not properly configured to shift to backup power
  • There is no backup in the event of a loss of the primary reservation system
  • The reservation computer system has not been upgraded to modern standards

I always question when a failure is classed as “equipment failure.”  Unless the equipment failure is an allowed event (Tolerable Failure), it is much more likely that humans were much more involved in the failure, with the broken equipment as only a result.

Optimize Your Equipment Reliability with an Equifactor® Course!

September 1st, 2016 by

gears

Equipment problems can be difficult, but fixing them is vital for safety in the workplace and efficiency in production. Where do you start? Find the root cause of the failure. But how? Come to a TapRooT® Equifactor® public course to learn how to find that root cause, develop effective solutions and implement them successfully. Our systematic process is reliable, and your equipment should be, too.

Knoxville is not only the home of the Tennessee Vols but also headquarters of Tennessee Valley Authority and lifestyle media company, Scripps Network. This large city right in the heart of Appalachia is surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains giving you an astounding view anywhere you go, especially in the Autumn.

Take a trip to Knoxville and join TapRooT® for this local public course.

Food: 

Stock and Barrel: This rustic, fun restaurant offers the best burgers in the area. Voted by locals.

Calhoun’s on the River: Enjoy eating with a great view? Calhoun’s serves great barbecue right on the Tennessee River.

Litton’s: A Knoxville favorite! One of the best hometown restaurants serving homestyle burgers, fries and dessert with friendly service.

Attractions: 

Market Square: Full of restaurants, bars and boutiques, there’s no better place to enjoy a night out in Knoxville.

Maple Hall Bowling Alley: The trendiest bowling alley you’ve ever seen that is located underground. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.

World’s Fair Park: Located next to University of Tennessee’s campus, this famous park was built for the 1984 World’s Fair. Fun area for the kids!

Old City: This area of Knoxville has been brought back to life and is better than ever. Located near Market Square, you can get a feel for all Knoxville has to offer in one place.

Ready to register for this Knoxville Equifactor® course? Click Here

WANTED: New Equifactor® Equipment Troubleshooting Tables

August 29th, 2016 by

equipment troubleshooting table

We’re pretty excited about the new TapRooT® VI software service that we released this year. It has some terrific features that are a definite upgrade to the older Version 5 software.

As part of the conversion over to TapRooT® VI, we did an in-depth review of the Equifactor® equipment troubleshooting tables. We found we were able to streamline those tables to make them even easier to use. We dropped some redundant items, standardized some of the terminology, and generally mde them easier to use. Additionally, TapRooT® VI allows you to take the items from the Equifactor® table and drop them right onto your SnapCharT®. It’s a feature we’ve been asked about for quite a while, and the TapRooT® VI architecture finally let us add this enhancement.

I am currently looking for new ideas for tables you would be interested in seeing added to Equifactor®. What general categories of equipment would you like to see developed and added to the system? Some we might be able to do; some aren’t really very conducive to putting into a table format. For example, I was asked to develop tables to troubleshoot PLC problems. While this would be great, there are unfortunately hundreds of different models and types of PLC’s out there, and a simple set of tables would be really tough to do.

Another idea was for hydraulic system troubleshooting. Again, this might be to broad a category. However, I am researching the possibility of doing more specific tables on things like hydraulic cylinders and motors. These might be specific and generic enough that we can put together a useful set of tables.

So what would you like to see? Let me know, and I’ll be happy to take a look.

Severe Pump Damage Due To Inadequate Analysis

August 22nd, 2016 by

Cavitation

Here is a great example of damage to large pumps resulting from a poor understanding of the operating environment. When coupled with inferior manufacturing techniques, rapid failure of critical equipment can occur.

Pump Life Cycle Cost Analysis – Numbers Matter!

August 15th, 2016 by

LCC Graphic

When designing spacecraft, there is a humorous (yet amazingly accurate) list of laws to keep in mind to ensure you are not going down the wrong path when developing spacecraft and their associated systems. Akin’s Laws of Spacecraft Design are a set of well-known nuggets that can be adapted to everyday life. But the one that I want to mention here is Akin’s Law #1:

1. Engineering is done with numbers. Analysis without numbers is only an opinion.

When you are looking at your pumping systems, and trying to decide on the best maintenance or repair strategy for a particular pump failure, you may have several options. For example:

– Should I just replace the failed pump with another identical pump?
– Should I replace it with a more efficient design?
– Is the current pump optimized for the system design?
– What other options are available for this repair?
– Why did it fail in the first place?

Iceberg

Life Cycle Cost analysis can be done after almost any failure to help you decide on the best repair strategy.  This analysis includes things like the costs of the initial purchase, installation and commissioning costs, energy and operation costs, and maintenance costs.  You can perform a relatively accurate cost comparison for various repair / replacement options so that you can make an educated decision on the best course of action.  Pump Life Cycle Costs: A Guide to LCC Analysis for Pumping Systems is the result of a collaboration between the Hydraulic Institute, Europump, and the US Department of Energy’s Office of Industrial Technologies (OIT).  It is definitely worth a few minutes to read through this and get a basic understanding of how to calculate the LCC of a particular installation or repair.

There were a couple of take-aways for me, neither of which was particularly surprising, yet both of which are important to keep in mind:

  1.  Energy consumption is often one of the larger cost elements and may dominate the LCC, especially if pumps are run more than 2000 hours per year
  2.  The cost of unexpected downtime and lost production is a very significant item in the total LCC and can rival the energy costs and replacement parts costs in its impact.

Pie Chart

Which drives home the importance of a good root cause analysis to ensure that your failures (and therefore your downtime) are minimized, as the costs of these failures can rapid skew the entire LCC analysis.  Don’t live with repeat or avoidable failures.

 

Tips for Maintaining your Air Compressor

August 9th, 2016 by

Compressor Maintenance

A new air compressor can be a significant investment at your facility. While most people assume that they are performing adequate maintenance on their equipment, I am often surprised by how many companies are not performing or tracking even the most basic maintenance.
Here are some fairly simple yet important tips on maintaining your air compressors, courtesy of Ingersoll Rand. Bounce these tips against your preventative maintenance plan and see if you’re fully covered.

Bearing Failures: Keep Them Clean!

August 1st, 2016 by

Contaminated Bearing

According to the chart below, almost half of all pump bearing failures are due to lubricant contamination.  In the chart, you can probably add the “Corrosion” cause to this, since bearing corrosion is most likely due to a poorly sealed bearing.

Failure Chart

Credit: SKF

Heinz Bloch has written a great article on the importance of keeping up with bearing seal technology. He notes that only 10% of rolling-element bearings ever reach their expected end of life. While we seem to put a lot of effort into ensuring we have the right bearings with the proper lubrication, we then do a poor job of maintain those bearings. Imagine if your bearings actually lasted until the calculated end of life!

Heinz Bloch will be leading 2 sessions at our Global TapRooT® Summit in San Antonio this week. I always look forward to his talks!!

Tappan Zee Crane Collapse: What We Know

July 25th, 2016 by

Crane boom collapse

Last week’s collapse of the 235 foot boom on a crane building the new Tappan Zee bridge is still under investigation. There are apparently 3 separate investigations in progress, and as expected, not much information has been released.

The boom came down across all lanes of traffic on the old (still active) portion of the bridge. Amazingly enough, there were only 4 minor injuries, and it cause direct damage to a single vehicle. If you’ve ever driven across that bridge (I was on it just 30 days before the incident), you understand how lucky we were not to have any fatalities.

What we know so far:

– There was almost no wind, and this has been eliminated as a cause.
– The crane was being used to drive piles into the river bottom using a 60 ton vibratory hammer.
– There is a “black box” on the crane which will supply data on the boom angle, weight, etc.
– The operator says he knows what caused it (it wasn’t him).
– This is a new model crane with several safety features designed to eliminate human error.
– This is the only crane of this model being used on the project.
– The crane operator is licensed, with over 30 years of experience.

Tappan Zee Before

This seems to be a good start to an investigation. And as expected, there are a lot of questions (and “expert” opinions) about what happened.  Some of the questions that might be asked:

  • Was the crane properly inspected and certified?
  • What was the condition of the vibratory hammer?
  • Was there any sense of urgency that may have caused someone to make a mistake?  The contract specified $120,000 per day fine of the project finished late.
  • Was there an adequate review and approval of the safe zone around the crane operation?

It’s important not to just ask the hard questions, but also to give the hard answers.  For example, one option that could have been in place (20/20 hindsight) would be to close the operating section of the bridge during construction.  While this would definitely have been 100% safer, does it actually make sense to do this?  Were there adequate safeguards in place to allow continued use of the old span?  The answers here might be yes, and it was perfectly appropriate to operate the old bridge during contruction.  I’ve seen hundreds of construction projects that have cranes in near proximity to the public.  In fact, almost every downtown construction project has the potential to cause injury to the public if a crane collapses.  Some of the criticism I’ve seen written about this accident (“Why wasn’t the old span closed during this constructiuon project?”) is too simplistic for the real world.  The real question should be, “Were there adequate safeguards put in place for the level of risk imposed by this projct?”  We don’t know the answers yet, but just asking these questions in an unbiased investigation can provide useful information.

Crane Collapse

It appears that there is plenty of information available to the investigators. I’m very interested to see the results after the investigations are complete.

Water Hammer – What is it, and how we can prevent equipment damage?

July 20th, 2016 by

water_hammer

If you’ve ever heard your pipes rattle in your house after flushing the toilet, you’ve experienced water hammer. While this is just a noisy occurrence in your home, it can cause major damage in industrial situations.
We talk about water hammer during our 5-Day TapRooT® course as a great root cause analysis example. It’s a fairly easy concept on the surface, but it’s actually a fascinating phenomenon. I found this great article that discusses the causes of water hammer and describes some ideas to keep in mind that can prevent or at least mitigate the consequences.

Equipment Failure? No, the Sloth Did It!!

July 6th, 2016 by

Worker: But boss, I swear I didn’t shut that valve!

Boss:   Well, who do you think shut it? Aliens? Gremlins?

Apparently, it was just a sloth!


Gear Coupling Troubleshooting and Reliability

June 28th, 2016 by

Coupling

Gear couplings have been around for a long time. And yet there are still frequent equipment failures due to improper selection, use, and maintenance of couplings.
Keep in mind that a coupling problem can manifest itself in subtle ways. A broken coupling is pretty obvious. However, you could see symptoms such as:
– Increased vibration readings in the equipment
– Overheating of shaft bearings
– Unusual resonances in your vibration data
– Overload and overheating of motors

The Equifactor® module of the TapRooT® VI software service has some great troubleshooting tables, one of which is focused on gear couplings. Once you determine that you have a coupling issue, you can look up the symptoms you are seeing and determine what could be causing that symptom.

Coupling

I also found a nice article describing problems you might have with a coupling, and how to maintain the reliable operation of a gear coupling. Take a look and let me know what you think.

Which Pump is Best? Evaluating Pump Curves

June 13th, 2016 by

PumpCurve

There are quite a few variables that must be taken into account when selecting the correct pump for a particular application. For centrifugal pumps, the pump curves for a specific pump contain a lot of data. Here are some ideas to help you decide which pump would be best for a particular application, based on the pump curve for various pumps.

Equifactor® for the Win!

June 10th, 2016 by

We love how this client recognizes the value of equipment troubleshooting training!  Don’t miss our Equifactor® 2-day course, a Pre-Summit Course scheduled for August 1-2, 2016 in San Antonio, Texas!

Equipment Maintenance and Troubleshooting – Calculating pump run time and duty cycle

June 9th, 2016 by

image

When discussing pump maintenance, we often forget about the electrical side of the equation. Mechanics think about the mechanical side, and we’ll let the electricians worry about the power side. However, it is critical that we take a more holistic view of the entire pump system to make sure we’re not exceeding manufacturer specs when we are using our equipment.

There are several measures we need to keep in mind when we look at equipment lifetime calculations. For example:
– # start/stop cycles in a given period
– Run time after starting
– Overall duty cycle

I read this interesting article about why these items are important.  The author also had a calculator spreadsheet that helps you figure out appropriate run times for pumping out a sump or tank.  That calculator is here.

Electrical Equipment Troubleshooting – Don’t Be Scared!

May 31st, 2016 by

schematic

I found this article about troubleshooting electrical failures in heavy equipment. It discussed some pretty concise nuggets of info I thought were pretty interesting. In many cases, troubleshooting an electrical fault is more a case of figuring out “What is working?” as opposed to “What is broke?”.

Special 2-Day Equifactor® Equipment Troubleshooting + TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis

May 27th, 2016 by

In just two days (right before the 2016 Global TapRooT® Summit), learn how to troubleshoot equipment failures along with the essentials to conduct a TapRooT® root cause analysis incident investigation.  Then stay for the 3-day Summit!  LEARN MORE!

 

 

Equifactor® Equipment Troubleshooting Basics

May 25th, 2016 by

afterburner-inspection-897513_1280

Equifactor® is designed to be used to help your equipment maintenance and reliability people figure out the root causes of mechanical or electrical equipment failures.

I thought I’d take the opportunity to take us back to the basics for a moment. I’d like to describe how the Equifactor® Equipment Troubleshooting module of TapRooT® is designed to be used.

What is Equifactor®?

When performing a root cause analysis using TapRooT®, it is critical that you gather the right information for the problem at hand.  This can be safety information, environmental procedures, policies and work instructions for a particular task, etc.  It is usually pretty obvious what types of data you need for the type of investigation you’re performing.

Sometimes, additional TapRooT® data-gathering tools are required for specific types of problems.  Equifactor® is one of those tools.  It is designed to be used to help your equipment maintenance and reliability people figure out the root causes of mechanical or electrical equipment failures.

Why use Equifactor®?

During your investigation, you may find that one of your problems relates to an equipment malfunction.  For example, you might find that a compressor is vibrating above expectation.  You can put this fact into your SnapCharT®, but now what?  What do you do with this piece of information?  To get past this point in the SnapCharT®, you really need the answer from your troubleshooting team:  “Why is the compressor vibrating?”  Unfortunately, if you knew that, you wouldn’t need to put the question on your SnapCharT® in the first place!  You need to know the physical cause of the vibration in order to progress to a more detailed SnapCharT® with Causal Factors.

Equifactor® in detail

This is where Equifactor® comes in.  To help your equipment experts figure out the physical cause of the vibration, they will probably rely on their experience and local manuals for troubleshooting advice.  They’ll look at the possible causes they are familiar with, and hopefully find the problem.  However, we can’t rely on hope.  What happens when they check the items they are familiar with, and the problem is not found?  This is when they can turn to the Equifactor® troubleshooting tables for help.  The tables give a comprehensive list of possible causes of compressor vibration.  Your experts can review these tables to identify all the possible causes that apply to your compressor, and then use that list of possible causes to devise a detailed troubleshooting plan to identify the issue.  Theses tables give your maintenance team some great guidance on things to look at during their troubleshooting.  These items are quite often things that they have never seen before, and therefore did not think to look for.

Equifactor® – a TapRooT® Tool

Once your team finds the physical cause of the compressor vibration (for example, maybe the wrong coupling bolts were used, throwing off the balance of the machine), we’re not done.  Equifactor® is NOT a separate, independent tool.  It is designed to be used as a data-gathering tool for your TapRooT® investigation.  Therefore, the problem that was found (wrong coupling bolts) is now added to the original SnapCharT®, and we can now move forward with our normal TapRooT® investigation.  I’m pretty sure the bolts didn’t magically install themselves; a human was involved.  We can now discover the human performance issues that lead the mechanics to use the wrong bolts.  We continue adding information to our SnapCharT®, until we can run all of the Causal Factors (one of which will probably be, “Mechanics assembled the coupling using the wrong bolts”) through the Root Cause Tree®.  We can now apply effective corrective actions to the problem.  Instead of blaming the mechanic (“Counselled the mechanic on the importance of using the authorized repair parts during coupling assembly”), we can now target our corrective actions at the reason the mechanic used the wrong bolts (correct bolts not available, common use of “parts bins” to repair equipment, wrong part number on repair order, etc.).

Equifactor® is a terrific tool to assist your maintenance and reliability folks in finding the physical cause of a machinery problem.  It is a tool to assist you in performing your TapRooT® investigation when an equipment problem is part of that investigation.  Learn to use these tables to save you time and effort when troubleshooting your equipment issues.

LEARN MORE about Equifactor®.

CONTACT US about a course.

Common Wind Turbine Equipment Failure Modes

May 19th, 2016 by

Turbine failure

I found this article discussing some common failure modes for wind turbines. While not completely new, it does give you some things to consider when performing maintenance on turbine equipment.

Heavy Equipment Maintenance Tips

May 13th, 2016 by

3D-Repair-Men

I saw this entry today, highlighting some great ideas on maintaining your heavy equipment. I think what caught my eye was the very first tip: “Stay on top of large machinery operator training.” Any plan to keep your equipment operating at top performance must include the operators and maintenance personnel. It doesn’t matter if you have the very best maintenance plans and schedules if the operators don’t understand how to properly start, operate, and secure the equipment. And maintenance techs must also be properly trained; otherwise, the best preventative maintenance plan will be poorly implemented.
Training of your staff should ALWAYS be a top priority!

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