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Root cause analysis helps avoid continuous pump malfuction

After an incident involving a failed part in large, complicated pumping systems, it can be tempting to replace that part and keep the operation going with as little downtime as possible.

If the part failure was the only cause of the incident, the operation goes on with downtime but no lingering effects. 

However, sometimes there is an underlying problem or “root cause” of the incident that caused the part to fail.

This can cause catastrophic failure if it is not found and corrected, and one of the best ways to find out what went wrong in any incident is a root cause analysis. 

Root cause analysis is just what it sounds like – finding the underlying cause of an incident so it can be corrected.

There are many methods, but one of the more popular ones is the “Five P’s” method, consisting of “parts, position, paper, people and paradigms”. 

“Parts” refers to all of the parts involved in the incident. This includes not only the part that malfunctioned, but those that had no apparent malfunction but were a direct part of the operation. When parts work together, one affects all of the others.

“Position” refers to the position that the affected piece of equipment was in at the time the incident occurred. This is important because the exact position of the equipment is important for an accurate assessment of what caused the incident.

“Paper” refers to finding all paperwork regarding the equipment and operation, such as manuals for the equipment, reports on any inspections, and any reports that had been performed on the safety or operation of the equipment.

“People” refers to interviewing everyone involved in or witnessing the incident. It also includes those who did the last inspections on the equipment. This is important to help find out if there are any relevant facts that are not in the paperwork.

“Paradigms” refers to the thought processes that went into making decisions involving the creation, maintenance and everyday operation. It also refers to the thought processes and perceptions of those who work with the equipment and those who created the system design.

Mike Hurlbatt, the owner of Pump Solutions Australasia, an importer of pumps in Western Australia, commented: “Other than making sure your operation has the best pumps, we feel root cause analysis is one of the most effective tools to prevent the repetition of pump failure in any pumping system.”