Unintended and unforeseen equipment failures can pose problems from minor inconveniences up to dangerous situations that could impact human life. Equipment failure occurs when the functional performance of a particular component is lost or reduced and the component does not work as it was intended.
Failures may be due to defects during the manufacturing process, improper design or construction, age and deterioration, lack of maintenance, and excessive or improper use. Often, the failure of a particular piece of equipment can lead to heavy economic consequences stemming from physical damages, lost production, or even negative impacts on health and safety. It is at this point those liable for the failure are sought out and compensatory actions are required. Therefore, the root cause conditions or actions that lead to the failure must be determined within a reasonable degree of engineering certainty so that the liable party can be identified.
Not only does the root cause need to be determined when analyzing equipment failure, but the possibility of other factors must also be ruled out. Equipment failure analysis is performed using a methodology that begins with a visual inspection of the location where failure occurred so site conditions can be evaluated. Further analysis procedures are performed systematically and may utilize specialized equipment such as high-powered microscopes or may integrate diagnostic techniques and analysis.