As your company journeys towards “zero leaks”, consider the role that cross-functional teams can play in solving the failure causes of gaskets and packing, while driving continuous improvement of the sealing process.
Failure of gaskets and packing drives significant costs in process operations. Often, companies do not take the time to fully investigate gasket and packing failures so that root causes can be understood and preventive actions implemented. Forming cross-functional teams to investigate and analyze gasket and packing failures is the first step to reducing the costs associated with repair and replacement.
When convening a cross-functional team to investigate gasket and packing failures, first give some thought to the composition of the team. Usually, it is a good idea to have representation from key plant functions, including equipment maintenance, process engineering, plant operations, quality management, and plant management. Having a cross-functional mix on the team ensures a good combination of expertise and perspectives, leading to a more effective and efficient problem investigation process. To keep the team process manageable and on-point, teams should generally have no fewer than 4 members and no more than 8.
The mandate of the team should be to systematically identify and analyze the causes of gasket and packing failures, leading to the specification and implementation of corrective and preventive actions. Having a quality manager on the team is a plus, as these individuals are usually well-versed in the techniques of gathering and analyzing data to drive problem investigation and solving.
Teams will want to examine their facility’s gasket and packing failures within the context of trends and categories of failures. Grouping failure types together can reveal which failure modes have the highest frequency, and which should thus be investigated first (Pareto analysis). For example, grouping gasket failure modes together by frequency of occurrence could reveal that the top failure modes were Poor Installation and Incorrect Material Selection respectively. It would then make sense for a team to investigate the causes of these failure modes first and develop appropriate corrective/preventive actions.
When investigating the root causes of failures, a team will want to have access to the used gaskets and packing. Preserving these items after a failure will greatly aid the investigative effort and the determination of root causes. Therefore, used gaskets and packing should not routinely be discarded after a failure occurrence.
Finally, companies should avoid treating gasket and packing failures as just a fact of life. Understanding and addressing the true causes of failures can lead to significant improvements in operational and cost performance.
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