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As Maintenance and Reliability professionals, we all have seen many different failure events happening over the years.

Although we do not want them, they are there to say hello to us. Even when we try to avoid their occurrence by using proactive Reliability techniques, like FMEA or RCM, some failures will still happen, and that is totally fine.

Having to deal with one problem is fine, but there is something that always annoys every one: dealing with the same problems over and over again. Right?

Due to this fact, we have an important stage in the Road to Reliability, which is named Defect Elimination.

This is how we can improve our results and stop the fire fighting of fixing the same pieces of equipment hundreds of times.

But, what is defect elimination?

In short, defect elimination is the process that involves Root Cause Analysis (RCA) techniques and triggers for such analysis.

For instance:

-          Scenario 1 - Imagine yourself working on a very unreliable plant, with failure events happening once in a while. You don’t have an established defect elimination process, so you don’t analyse the causes of the failures. Eventually, as the plant and the asset age, those failures are still happening and new ones are happening as well. In the end, the fire fighting will grow more and more.

-          Scenario 2 – After huge revenue losses due to those failures, your company decides to implement a defect elimination process. Basically, you, as the Engineer, will have to analyse every single failure event that occurs, even if it resulted in only 15 minutes of downtime. Would you be able to study all the root causes and implement actions that would tackle all of them? Probably not.

-          Scenario 3 – As the plant is highly unreliable and many failures are occurring, you decide to implement triggers for the RCA’s. Basically, you will analyse only the major events, those that resulted in X hours of downtime, or could have resulted in a personal injury. As those failures are eliminated, the trigger gets more strict until you eliminate all the failures.


When it comes to Defect Elimination techniques, there are several available that can help us on our way of eliminating defects. We will explain them in specific topics for each one, but three of them can be seen below (reactive analysis):

-          5 Whys;

-          Ishikawa;

-          Fault Tree Analysis.


By combining such defect elimination techniques with triggers, it is possible to understand the main failures of your plant and determine actions to eliminate them in order to achieve a reliable and safe plant.


Now it is your turn!

How do you eliminate defects? What defect elimination techniques do you use/like? What triggers are used in your company?


Raul Martins

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