Failure data collection can seem tedious, time consuming and expensive.  Just figuring out what data to collect can be challenging.  Failure data analysis can be overwhelming with a sense of “I don’t even know where to begin.”  So it is not surprising that these useful, vital activities are often neglected especially when it is unclear just what benefits may derive from the effort. However, it is my experience that analysis of well collected data can reap rewards – both monetary and non-monetary – far in excess of the expense of the tasks involved.

A case in point:  Savannah River Site in Aikens, SC has for years collected data on pressure relief valve proof tests and I have been involved in their data analysis. Initially, analysis of the data led to recommendations for changes in valve selection, maintenance practices, and proof test intervals.  Implementations of those recommendations and further data collection/analysis have led to a myriad of benefits including:  measurable improvements in safety, cost savings when optimization of proof test intervals allowed some intervals to be lengthened, and the potential for reductions in the cost of commissioning new valves.

Now you may be thinking that it might be easier to simply wait in the hope that some other company/organization similar to yours collects and analyzes data and that then you can use their results in your situation. Won’t work!  Their data contains information about their processes, their maintenance practices, their safety culture.  Only YOUR data contains information about YOUR processes, YOUR maintenance practices, YOUR safety culture.  

So start your data collection soon.  But don’t get bogged down reinventing the wheel.  Consult safety experts to find out what data to collect.  Find reputable software designed for or customizable to your needs in order to make your data collection efforts relatively painless (drop down menus, check boxes, self-populating fields).  Then after a reasonable period of data collection consult a data analyst familiar with your situation and get ready to find gold in them thar data.

Editor’s Note: exida offers SILStat, a software package specifically designed for process industry event (including failures) data collection.

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