A View on the General Practice in Engineering Failure Analysis
Analysis of engineering failures is a complex process that requires information from personnel having expertise in many areas. From the information gathered, a failure analyst tries to discover what was fundamentally responsible for the failure. This fundamental cause is termed the “root cause” and helps in the determination of the sequence of events that led to the final failure. Root cause analysis also helps in finding solutions to the immediate problem and provides valuable guidelines as to what needs to be done to prevent recurrence of similar failures in future. However, experience suggests that most failure analyses fall short of this goal. A significant number of failure analysts incorrectly use the term “root cause” when what they really establish is the primary cause of failure or simple physical cause. This paper examines a few service failures to demonstrate that the term root cause is not adequately understood.
KeywordsEngineering failures Errors Failure analysis Root cause
The author thanks Head, Materials Science Division and Director, NAL, for granting permission to publish this paper. The contributions of Mr. M.A. Venkataswamy, Dr. M. Sujata, and Mr. M. Madan in the investigation of the failure cases presented in this paper are acknowledged.
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