Train breakdowns: Take problem prevention more seriously

The root cause of the MRT disruption on July 7 has been found to be salt deposits on one of the third-rail insulators near a tunnel leak ("SMRT fined $5.4m for massive breakdown"; Sept 24).

While the Land Transport Authority (LTA) needs to dish out punitive punishment to SMRT for the disruption, it is also important to examine if SMRT has established a problem-preventive culture within the organisation.

This refers to the adoption of industry-proven problem-solving methodologies, such as failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) or poka-yoke (a Japanese concept meaning "mistake-proofing").

In the manufacturing industry, these tools are widely adopted to prevent defects from occurring.

The LTA should require SMRT to be imbued with a similar defect-prevention mentality, that is, to do a thorough problem-prevention study, using FMEA, to eliminate possible defects, besides the salt deposits problem.

If this aspect is not included, and if each MRT breakdown is accompanied by only a fine, then the whole breakdown problem will never be resolved.

Lee Kek Chin