Need more Precision Maintenance & FRACAS advice

The left-side of your distribution curve is the dark-side; work on the right-side of the curve and you will save yourself and your company many wasted years



Dear Mr Mike Sondalini,

I plan to apply precision maintenance as our asset management strategy. The objective of our project is to get longest MTBF by implementing precision maintenance as you recommend in your white papers at

Mr.Sondalini, may put some questions to you related to your PDF white paper: Never, Never, Never use FRACAS like this.

Abstract: Never, Never, Never use FRACAS like this: It is a misuse of a FRACAS if its use focuses you on the problems in your business. Once the human mind is focused on finding problems then problems is all that you find. The intention of doing FRACAS is to solve your problems. Problems are overcome by finding the right solution—you want answers that work, but you’ll only see endless problems listed in your FRACAS. The second danger of having a FRACAS is you will seek individual solutions to individual problems when in fact nearly all of your problems are due to failures of your business system. There is another, better way to use a FRACAS—use it to find when things go right and then replicate that solution all the time as standard operating practice.

Once you have a FRACAS you’ll go chasing your business problems. You will also need to apply a root cause analysis (RCA) methodology; you’ll be buying software like Taproot, or Apollo, or one of the other RCA software; you’ll be training RCA teams of people from across the company; there will be RCA Team Facilitators to train; you’ll be writing reports (lots of reports) to your management requesting funds and new resources. In the end your company will give up and stop doing RCA’s because the problems never end. A strategy of finding problems and fixing them will guarantee you will always be working on problems—and yet you actually want solutions.

Compare that to what was written by Mr Ricky Smith and Bill Keeter on FRACAS noted below:

What’s the FRACAS? Failure Elimination Made Simple, by Ricky Smith, CPMM, CMRP and Bill Keeter, CMRP

“The objective of the Proactive Work Flow Model is to provide discipline and repeatability to your maintenance process. The inclusion of the FRACAS provides continuous improvement for your maintenance strategies. There are fundamental items you must have in place to insure that you receive the results you expect.

“Think of FRACAS this way. As you have failures, you use your CMMS/EAMS failure codes to record the part-defect-cause of each failure. Analyzing part-defect-cause on critical assets helps you begin to make serious improvement in your operation’s reliability. Looking at the FRACAS Model in Figure 5, we begin with Work Order History Analysis, and from this analysis we decide whether we need to apply Root Cause Analysis (RCA), Reliability Centered Maintenance, or Failure Modes and Effect Analysis to eliminate or reduce the failures we discover. From the RCA, we determine maintenance strategy adjustments needed to predict or prevent failures. Even the most thorough analysis doesn’t uncover every failure mode. Performance monitoring after we make the strategy adjustments may find that new failure modes not covered by your strategy occur. You can now make a new failure code to track the new failure mode so additional failures can be tracked and managed when you review work order history. You can see this is a continuous improvement loop which never ends.”

I agree with you that problems are never ending ( you stated, “you will always be working on problems—and yet you actually want solutions” ) but in the other Authors’ paper the FRACAS process is used to determine maintenance strategy adjustments needed to predict or prevent failures ( as Ricky Smith stated, “a continuous improvement loop which never ends” ).

I need your confirmation or advice, because I am rather confused between your paper above ( Never, Never… ), but in your ACE 3T concept you adopt the behavior of continuous improvement, just as Mr Ricky and Bill Keeter say to do in their FRACAS white paper.

Thank you very much, and I wait for your valuable advice about precision maintenance and getting operational excellence.

Best regards,




Dear Sam,

You have made a wise decision to apply precision maintenance to your plant and equipment. That choice will return you great fortunes in operating profit if all the 15 elements of a precision maintenance program are used correctly and implemented properly.

When you adopt an ACE 3T quality assurance methodology you introduce into your procedures strict work quality standards for each task. The acceptable performance is specified by the task’s Good-Better-Best quality parameters. ‘Good’ being what the original equipment manufacturer specified. ‘Best’ is the highest world class outcome achievable for the task. ‘Better’ is a stretch target in-between the Good and Best extremes. It is common to find the difference between Good and Best to be a minimum of a magnitude in performance.

When you write an ACE 3T procedure it will never change until your people find a more successful solution. ACE 3T is not really about making continuous improvement. Yes, when a better solution is found you will capture it into your ACE 3T procedure. You could make a case that doing so is continuous improvement. I would agree with that view. But the truth is when you use ACE 3T work quality assurance methodology you have already included within the procedure the very best solution humanly possible. It will not be the procedure that must continuously improve, it will be the method to deliver the world class reliability set in your ACE 3T procedure that you will continually change for the better.

With regards the comparison between Smith and Keeter on FRACAS, and my view of FRACAS (Failure Reporting and Corrective Action System). What Smith and Keeter propose is what is mostly done in industrial operations around the world. I have never seen a company reach world class operational excellence performance using FRACAS as their path to greatness. In my view you don’t want to do what is highly uncertain to bring you sure success. You and your senior management don’t have the time to waste trying to make Smith and Keeter’s style of FRACAS work—it is highly unlikely it will ever work as intended in your company.

Why FRACAS fails is simple. There is never just one cause of failure. Every failure in your plant will have multiple life cycle causes; between 4 and 10 individual causes combining together across the years to produce each failure would not surprise me. Even if you used FRACAS to fix the obvious cause or two you can see today, you will leave the majority of associated causes behind in your company’s systems and processes to reoccur in a future conspiracy of random events that lead to another failure.

Using FRACAS will read very good in a white paper. It will sound very good when explained to you. It will look very good in a slide presentation. Your senior managers will okay its use because everyone else does it. Consultants will tell you to use it because they are told a FRACAS is a very good thing to do. But in the real world, using a FRACAS and Root Cause Analysis (RCA) to make your company world class reliable simply does not work very good, if at all. FRACAS away as much as you want, but if you are counting on your FRACAS to continually improve your business you will always have failures no matter how much Root Cause Analysis work you do.

It was my intention in writing the ‘Never, Never, Never use FRACAS like this’ paper to stir your thoughts as to what will actually work in the real world to cause world class reliability. Using FRACAS and RCA produce the effect of being busy without being successful in creating the reliability you want.

There is a way to use your FRACAS and the data it contains to learn how to create reliability. It is explained in the ‘Never, Never, Never use FRACAS like this’ white paper. If the FRACAS data is used to identify the time between failure events of a system you can create a frequency distribution plot of the lengths of time when the system operated without failures. The time between failure events frequency distribution plot, similar to the Uptime distribution curve in the ‘Never, Never, Never use FRACAS like this’ white paper, will show your best performances on the right side—they were the longest durations without problems occurring.

A frequency between unwanted events plot lets you ‘see’ the final outcomes on the system being analyzed of all the causes and effects that led to the unwanted events. Distribution curves turn a string of dates and numbers in a table, which have no apparent meaning when you look at the list, into a plot where you can see has a pattern, shape and meaning.

The standard use of FRACAS will make you focus on the left-hand side of the curve—the side showing when most problems were occurring: dare I say, the left-side is the dark-side :-). You will try to find, control and prevent the causes of unwanted events in the mistaken presumption that if a cause is removed the event cannot happen. You’ll have many RCA teams trying to fix their allocated left-side problems. After a few times your teams do RCA you’ll give up using RCA, because the problems keep on coming, even with all that effort and cost spent trying to address the failures.

But the right-hand part of the curve shows your best performances ever. Replicate those performances as your standard practice and you will reduce the frequency of the problems on the left side, i.e. there will be fewer problems to cause trouble. The ways to address your left-side problems are already used in your company because the right-hand side of the duration between failure events’ distribution curve is what your operation has already achieved by luck.

If you have a FRACAS it will be full of left-side problems. Each one will have its associated 4 to 10 contributing life cycle influences. Those associated causes will not be listed with the problem because you don’t know what they are, and it is highly unlikely you will never know what they all are.

But on the right-side those causes don’t exist so strongly. On the right-side is the best that can be done at the moment in your company. Go and task your RCA teams to find-out what was done on the right-side to produce those better performances and keep doing it! Put the right-side actions, behaviors, practices and decisions into your procedures and teach those new procedural requirements to your people.

That simple change in focus, from looking for the causes of your past problems to finding your past best practices and making them your standard operating practice, is going to reduce the frequency of your problems. By focusing on what to do to deliver better performance, not what to do to stops problems, you will introduce and use the practices that bring more successes to your company. You switch mindsets from seeing problems every where to seeing answers every where.

Once you realize that using best practices brings you greater success you will search for more answers to get more successes. Eventually you will discover ACE 3T work quality assurance and precision maintenance waiting for you to use. When you adopt the ACE 3T work quality assurance method with precision maintenance you will produce reliability; guaranteed! You will then be on the right path to operational excellence.

I hope the above thoughts contain information and suggestions to let you improve your operation.


All the best to you,

Mike Sondalini
Managing Director
Lifetime Reliability Solutions HQ