An email discussion with production manager Jason on what you can do to prevent and remove the root cause of equipment failures

It is best to make use of machinery operating quality plans and machinery maintenance quality plans to teach your people root failure cause elimination and root failure prevention practices

Read about a production manager’s question on whether our root cause analysis (RCA) training teaches people how to arrive at the right technical solution of plant and equipment failures. I told him that sending his people to RCA courses is not the best answer to this common production management problem. Most managers will train their people in root cause analysis, but the best answer is to train them to follow the right machinery quality plan.



Dear Mike,

Does your root cause analysis training address technical troubleshooting after a breakdown, or an accident has happened? If it doesn’t, do you have a training program that does?

Best regards,




Hello Jason,

The 2-day Mastering Root Cause Failure Analysis Training Course is about learning the methodology and investigative tools of RCA. It will not make students competent investigators of machinery failures and technical problems. I do not think any RCA courses teaches people the engineering and physics they need to know to understand how technical problems happen in their plant and machines.

If you want people who can do engineering and technical problem solving of plant and equipment failures you need a different course—one that explains the science of machinery design and construction. But unless the people on the course have the capability to learn the physics and engineering, you will waste your time and money.



Hi Mike,

Thanks for the information.

The question came about because of the following statement within your training brochure “RCFA is often ineffective when used to solve individual problems. But when used to find systematic causes of problems and improve business systems, it provides grand payback for the effort”.

The following statements were received from a colleague “It appears to me like this company focuses on management tools to build organizations, business systems and company structure. These are all very important areas of running a successful business, and they can be used to increase the quality of what we do and thus prevent some accidents and break downs; however, they not address technical trouble shooting after a break down or an accident has happened.

Please comment



Thanks Jason,

What a fantastic summary of what LRS does. I have never seen anyone say it more accurately and succinctly.

We certainly can address technical problem solving. I and all our licensee consultants are professional engineers with a career-worth of knowledge and experience in industrial plant and equipment. The reason that we do not offer training in specific technical problems solving is that no one has asked us to do so. We have developed specialist machinery operation courses, for example a 4-day course on proper operation and maintenance of rotating equipment and a 2-day course for centrifugal pumps. We can definitely build a great course about technical problem solving production plant and equipment.

The reason we focus so much on correct process is that we prefer to help businesses build processes that do not cause equipment failures to then fix. The failures you want to investigate were all caused by poor business processes. If I teach you only how to fix equipment problems you will always have failures and problems to fix. But if I teach you how to create endless reliability you will have very few problems.

You and your insightful commentator think and see the world as a place of continual problems that need to be fixed. I see the world as a place full of ignorance that once corrected will become wonderful. “As above so below, as within so without.” That is my favorite saying, it explains so much about what happens in companies and in life.



Jason replied one last time, and I told him this ‘secret’ that he could use to get outstanding equipment reliability.

The challenge is to help people learn what is right without making them feel as if they are ignorant or belittle them. To teach people how to run their plant better and better is your aim. Once they know what ‘better’ is they will do better.

I recommend that you develop machinery operation quality plans and a machinery maintenance quality plans. The machinery operation quality plan contains exactly how to run machines at low stresses. The machinery maintenance quality plan explains exactly how to build your equipment with minimum stresses. Teach your people how to achieve those quality plans. You will get many more successes, far sooner, than sending your operators and maintainers on root cause failure analysis training courses.

Every equipment failure is due to an externally caused excessive stress that drives the material-of-construction beyond its load capability. To stop an equipment failure you first need to prevent the stresses that fail the parts which cause the breakdown. That is it; that is all you have to do to get outstanding equipment reliability.

If you teach your people root cause failure analysis they will await a failure and then go and analyze it. Unless they find and remove the causes of the stress, the failure will recur endlessly. It requires a professional engineering level of knowledge to find the causes of most stresses. Unless the people doing the RCA are technically competent in the design and engineering of the equipment, and of the process it operates in, they will need lots of good luck to find the root causes of the failure causing stresses.

The best answer to production equipment failure is to teach your operators how to run the production machinery at low stress levels, and teach your maintainers how to rebuild and install your machines stress free. Low stresses in parts mean long, trouble-free working life—just what every production manager wants.

I hope that the above information has been of use.


All the best to you,

Mike Sondalini
Managing Director
Lifetime Reliability Solutions HQ