Root Cause Evaluation
After a failure or mishap, the resulting questions may be simple
What just happened?
What went wrong?
Why did it occur in the first place?
How do we get to bottom of it?
How do we prevent it from happening again?
For over sixty years, the Specialty Engineering Group of SOCOTEC has investigated failures of the components, systems, structures and machinery that comprise our infrastructure. The scope of these investigations have ranged from resolving mere nuisances like excessive noise to finding root causes leading to a major catastrophic collapse.
SOCOTEC has applied its failure, root cause and risk analysis expertise in a wide range of settings, including
- Power generation plants
- Commercial processing and industrial facilities
- Lifelines—transportation, infrastructure and power/utility distribution systems
- Machinery and pressure vessels
- Medical device manufacturing
Root Cause Evaluation
Determining the root cause of a failure is an art that combines technical expertise and broad experience. It requires understanding of materials and loading, design and construction, as well as operations to correctly identify the contributory or causal factors: materials, fabrication/construction, design, operations, maintenance, unanticipated loads or degradation mechanisms. Understanding the contributors to a failure generally can prevent recurrence, but can resolve not only the short-term operational problems but, if properly performed, lead to structural or equipment performance improvements and increased longevity.
SOCOTEC has carried out root cause and failure analyses for numerous occurrences, involving:
- Nuclear and fossil generation power plants – electrical component failures, corrosion and materials degradation, microbiologically influenced corrosion (MIC), flow accelerated corrosion (FAC), pump failures, heat exchanger issues, steam generator cracking, cooling tower collapse
- Commercial plants and industrial sites – failures of pressure vessels (tanks, valves, piping), premature structure and equipment aging, concrete degradation, hangar and large span structure roof collapses, construction accidents, storm damage assessments
- Municipal bridges and tunnels – structural collapses, weld and joint failures, concrete aging
- Industrial cranes, steam and gas turbines, and refinery equipment – crane and scaffolding collapses, steam turbine bucket failures, pressure vessel failures
- Railroad engine wheel, carriages and tracks – guideway expansion joint failures, collisions, locomotive disc brake rotor cracking
- Above and below grade pipelines and pressure vessels – steam main ruptures, water main failures, waterhammers, piping fractures, joint failures, in-line component failures (valves, heat exchangers, I&C)
- Medical devices – material degradation
After a failure occurs, a rapid response is essential to collect, document and preserve evidence. SOCOTEC maintains a full suite of measurement and recording equipment that can be staged worldwide within 24 hours. Our tools include high speed audio and video recorders, camera drones; sensor nets including strain gauges, accelerometers and pressure transducers, laser measurement systems and portable PC-based data acquisition systems with wifi and cellular connectivity. We have special capability to perform residual stress (strain) measurements of structures in place. We also maintain a variety of pumps, rams and calibrated load cells capable of testing a wide range of structures large and small—bolts and cables to subway cars, buildings and bridges.
Talk to our experts
Materials Analysis and Testing
In the wake of a failure, improvements in materials and fabrication methods can not only prevent recurrence and assure continued operation, but also enhance the performance and longevity of a structure or equipment. SOCOTEC’s comprehensive engineering experience provides the basis for addressing today's most complex material problems. Such experience is vital in joining materials (welding, bolting) and the fabrication of connections---the area where most failures occur.
SOCOTEC maintains a comprehensive testing and analysis facility to provide state of the art testing, simulation, and analysis. Our laboratory is utilized to assist our clients in solving complex problems, and supports SOCOTEC in the performance of project activities.