Failure analysis.

In our haste to resolve a problem , we more often that not,  forget to understand the root cause of the problem and make decisions that actually escalate the costs  and the problem through by repeat work, unnessecary work, insufficient work .

Information vs. insight

As specialists in property diagnostics and maintenance planning have we experienced that effective cost management, as with the overarching LTMP, is founded on a core principle: Informed decision making.

In conducting cost analysis on properties over several years is the most common cost escalator ineffective solutions implemented for adhoc failures/repairs. Second to this is timing of planned cyclic maintenance.

Effectiveness and efficiency as it relates to maintenance cost is founded on a JIT principle. Do the right things (what), the right way (how), when it’s needs to be done, not before, not after, Just- In-Time.

Achieving JIT necessitate the ability to make informed decision. This principle applies as a general management approach, but critically to how adhoc failures are managed.  As we will show in a case study below,  is the analysis and information critical. Having contextual insight is as important as understanding the practical or physical nature of the failure

Key aspects of a failures analysis:

  • Indicators. What was observed to indicate a failure
    • Type(destructive/non destructive)
    • Instance ( random, isolated, pattern)
  • Consequences. What is the problems associated with the failure
    • Risk(Priority/importance)
    • Scope (isolated, secondary effect)
  • Mechanism. How the failure occurred (aging, alteration, degradation, stress, vandalism, overloaded)
  • Cause. What event(s) caused the failure (material, design, installation, service condition)


  • Decision making

Qualitative decision making in the context of structural management is very crucial element in cost metrics. What make sense may totally be inappropriate depending on the context.   Decision making itself, is as a important cost driver , as action to resolve a failure. For example:  A decision to defer / suspend all or to only do re-active maintenance on a specific structural item, can be the appropriate decision in the right circumstances. We address decision making in depth with a separate publication.

Of relevance to this analysis discussion is that the RCA (root cause analysis) needs to facilitate the ability to make alternative informed decisions. RCA is the enabler of decisions, not the decision it self.

The RCA process needs to thus be cognizant of the priority and importance factors as it relates failure the decision making and the overall AMS and LTMP.

  • Implications for Sectional titles schemes and reserve fund obligations i.t.o STSM ac

The marginal cost, in LTMP forecasting and provisioning, is based on the cyclic annualized maintenance cost and risk cost. An inflated risk cost provision impacts the overall long term provision and thus the reserve fund obligations.

In conclusion

Having insight through methodical causal analysis does not complicate the process. On the contrary, decision making more simplistic and more informed and qualitative. This drives the ability to achieve better, more effective and appropriate solutions. Ultimately this drives down costs in all its dimensions.


Let’s look at a case study

VALVEA simplistic example: PCV (pressure control valve) leaks at unit, on 2nd floor in a Sectional title scheme, the valve installed next to the geyser inside the unit. The valve outlet pipe drips continuously on the exterior of the building (indicator). The Governance rules are that the unit owner is responsible for its maintenance and repair.

Assessment: Destructive (valve needs to be replaced), isolated (valve only), Immediate risk limited to duration of failure, failure is most probably due to aged valve and is due to an absent cyclic planned maintenance.

Obvious practical solution:  As per the rules is owner informed to attend to the problem. All things being equal the, owner attend to the problem timeously. Commonly, we know from experience, this resolvement is delayed for extended weeks and months.

Now, consider contextual understanding and insight

  • Cost & risk escalator:

If left unattended will cost & risk exponentially increase.

  • The leaking water amounts to at least 15l per day which can be translated into monetary value
  • The uncontrolled pressure degrades system down stream such as piping, geysers, taps, etc. reducing its effective life span.
  • The uncontrolled pressure also increases the probability for secondary failures such as burst pipes, geysers immediately and through the lag effect on circuits and contribution to increase failures of the circuit in latter stages of its life cycle.
  • Scope

Is this a isolated instance, or is there other valves leaks(unreported/Observed) Outlet pipes are often fitted to drip into gutters and drains, and are leaks thus not observed.

Water consumption: wastage escalating with higher pressure

With inspections have we commonly found that at least 30% on average valves to be leaking? Translate water wastage multiplied by no of valves (10 x 15l = 150l per day), 54000L/yr. wastage carried by the body corporate.

  • Cost of Time lag
    • Time lag is direct related to risk cost. Risk cost is addressed in detail with a separate publication by in essence is the explicit and implicit cost related to a failure.
      • The explicit risk cost is the risk of burst pipes, geysers and resultant damage to adjacent infrastructures. Statistics indicate a 40:10 correlation between circuit failures and defective valves. In this example 4 leaks translate into total direct cost R R29600.
      • The implicit risk cost is the reduced life expectancy and lagged increased failure probability of the structural circuit. Studies show that reactive maintenance reduce life expectancy for plumbing circuits by 30% , resulting in premature replacement and associated increased propensity for failures.  This can be translate statically into R3750 risk cost over 10year cycle multiplied by failure probability factor , results in R 37500 additional cost over a 10 year cycle.


Over and above the direct cost to replace the pressure valve are there the a possibility for consequential cost implications that are other wise preventable

  1. Up to 54000l water wasted per year
  2. The total risk cost per 10 year cycle is thus inflated with an additional provisioned  amounting to  R67100

All will agree that a little more time understanding the context of a specific failure event, make sense!