Solving “no fault found” issues eats up 15 to 20 percent of total service costs. That’s a hefty slice of profits for any service organization or manufacturer to swallow.

So, why isn’t more done to solve the problem?

All too often, the answer lies not with one faulty component but with the interaction between components or systems across the supply chain. And it can just as easily have nothing to do with the equipment itself, but rather with the people using it, says Dr. John ahmet Erkoyuncu, senior lecturer in service simulation and visualization at the U.K.’s Cranfield University.

During his session at Maximize Europe ( “Discover a Framework to Estimate the Cost of No-Fault Found Events,” Nov. 8 at 3 p.m.), Erkoyuncu will discuss the risks, triggers and impact of no fault found (NFF) and discuss a framework for identifying and managing the costs. Field Service Digital caught up with him before the event to learn more.

What kind of problems do no fault found issues cause service providers and their customers?

In a no fault found situation, a message is given to you that indicates there may be a problem, but when you go and do the diagnosis and try and find what the root cause is, you can’t find the reason.

There are multiple areas of concern. No fault found creates concerns around safety and the cost associated with diagnosing the problem — and it also creates a potential loss in equipment use. and diagnose the problem and it also creates a potential loss in equipment use. Based on our research, the cost of NFF contributes 15 to 20 percent of the overall service costs.

20 percent is a massive chunk of service costs. How aware are service organizations and their customers of the costs involved?

In many cases it is unknown, but the awareness has been growing during the past few years. The random nature [of NFF] means that you can’t probabilistically represent the uncertainty, so it’s a big challenge.

What are the main causes of NFF problems?

Fault diagnostics are one aspect. This includes sensors not working well, or test equipment not telling you the real problem. The problem could also be the system design itself, whether around the hardware or software design — or the system integration.

Human factors can also play a big role. There could be issues around training, education or correct equipment usage.

Another aspect is data management and trying to understand if there are any trends in no fault behavior. The lessons learned from no fault found are quite patchy, and the data collection isn’t typically very good.

What can be done to reduce these faults?

We roughly know what areas causes NFF issues, but when you drill down to an individual case, the answers aren’t always straightforward. There could be multiple triggers, or even something done a lot time ago that reacts randomly over time.

We developed a framework to define the main drivers ,the actions [service leaders] can take and the effort [those leaders] should invest to estimate their NFF costs. I’ll present an overview of this research during Maximize Europe. (Click here to register.)

Can preventative maintenance help reduce no fault found problems?

Preventative maintenance could reduce the NFF challenge. But that can be a costly solution. Oddly enough, you could also increase the risk of NFF because of human factors. Perhaps the equipment usage or test equipment wasn’t correct, or the parts weren’t replaced properly.

Is it fair to say the industry is at an early stage in reducing NFF problems?

Awareness is increasing, but when I compare it to other areas, such as obsolescence management, there is less guidance and management processes. The level of maturity is just not the same.

If service companies, their customers and their extended supply chain managed to work together on this issue, could we expect to see a big reduction in NFF costs?

The real challenge is affordability. If we had endless money to throw at no fault found, we probably could minimize it significantly. But because we don’t have that luxury, we will continue to have no fault found problems.

The question is how to become more effective given the cost constraints? How can we put in place migration actions, or proactive strategies to avoid fixing problems at the last minute, which is typically more costly?

Design is a key element. Early design considerations should factor in no fault found. That’s another area we need to take seriously.

Don’t miss Dr. Erkoyuncu’s full presentation at Maximize Europe (Nov. 8-9 in Amsterdam). Click here to register.

ABOUT Janine Milne

Avatar photoJanine Milne has been writing about HR, technology and business for more than 20 years, both as a freelancer and as an in-house editor.