Failure Analysis / Root Cause Analysis

Equipment failure analysis and damage mode determination are cornerstones for improving equipment reliability. At the root of every failure is one or more causes, and root-cause failure analyses employ one or more methods for systematically avoiding repeat or related failures. Structural Integrity Associates, Inc. (SI) offers a complete range of root-cause and failure analyses, varying in complexity from one or two specialists focused on material fractography to a multi-discipline team performing a full-scope investigation. To support its investigations, we maintain both a metallurgical laboratory and an advanced non-destructive testing center. Additionally, we also perform human-error analyses and organizational/programmatic evaluations to uncover possible contributing factors and develop the most cost/beneficial corrective and improvement actions.

One of the most significant benefits we offer is our independence and range of capabilities. Structural Integrity regularly performs independent third-party reviews of root-cause failure analyses, and evaluations of corrective-action programs. Our ability to offer a complete range of capabilities minimizes handoffs between parties involved in the investigation and improves the timeliness and quality of the analysis.

Root Cause and Failure Analysis Tools in our Toolkit

We have capabilities cover the entire gamut of root cause failure analysis needs. We are familiar with and have applied most root cause analysis (RCA) methods in use today. These include:

  • Change analysis
  • Barrier analysis
  • Organizational and programmatic RCA
  • Reality charting
  • Human performance analysis
  • Common cause analysis

Our metallurgical experts at the Materials Science Center in Austin, Texas, a state of the art laboratory, are well-equipped to tackle the toughest industry problems affecting material performance.  We also have working agreements with independent laboratories to support analysis of radiologically contaminated or irradiated materials and failure analysis of non-metallic materials (e.g., cable insulation) and solid state electronics.

Often when people think about failure analysis, they think only in terms of laboratory analysis work.  Structural Integrity can also assist with on-site evidence preservation and collection of important field data (e.g., vibration monitoring, strain gages, and advanced NDE).

Beyond this, We also have engineering capabilities to identify what led to the identified failure modes using stress analysis, fracture mechanics and other types of engineering analyses.  This is particularly important when assessing operability and establishing effective corrective actions.

In addition, we’ve provided support for clients where their internal cause investigations were identified as weak by regulatory agencies or were ineffective in preventing a repeat failure.

Applications

Structural Integrity has considerable experience with a wide range of root cause failure analyses. Our experience covers nuclear, fossil, hydro and renewable energy facilities. Several of our investigations have been associated with one-of-a-kind issues. Some of these included a through-wall flaw in a primary containment suppression pool, material embrittlement due to a previously unrecognized damage mechanism and failure of a fish transfer facility in a hydroelectric reservoir.

We've provided independent third party review and cause investigation team assistance for many clients, including support for clients where their internal cause investigations were identified as weak by regulatory agencies.

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