Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is a beneficial procedure for identifying and resolving a problem and one that every industrial engineer must know. It usually entails running through various failure scenarios to quickly locate and detect the precise cause of the service or infrastructural issue. RCA can be immensely advantageous when it comes to pushing down support costs and quickening the average time taken to repair by systematizing the process of investigation, which would have otherwise been pretty tedious and would require a lot of labor.
There are two basic ways of dealing with an issue:
- To react quickly at the time of occurrence so that the normal flow of events is neither delayed nor disrupted as a result of the issue. This method aims to provide a speedy fix so that things return to normal as soon as possible.
- To perform a thorough investigation when a problem occurs. All possible information is gathered and later analyzed to get a better insight into the cause and to help formulate a solution. This method aims at getting a precise and accurate understanding of the issue for the implementation of a correct and long-term fix.
While the first technique helps deal with the observable symptoms of the issue, the second employs what is referred to as root cause analysis to understand and solve the problem at hand.
What is Root Cause Analysis?
The term root cause refers to the factor that caused a nonconformance and should be permanently removed through process improvement. The root cause is the core issue. It is the highest-level cause, which drives the whole cause-and-effect reaction that eventually leads to the problem.
Root cause analysis (RCA) is a set of tools, techniques, and approaches used to unearth the origin of a problem. By looking beyond superficial cause and effect, RCA can bring to light exactly where systems and processes failed or made an issue in the first place, hence aiding the process of identifying and implementing the most effective solution(s). While some RCA approaches are tailored more toward detecting the core issue, others are either more like general problem-solving techniques or strategies that merely assist the underlying motion of root cause analysis.
What are the steps of a root cause analysis?
There are some core principles that, when followed, ensure effective root cause analysis. These principles guide the way to achieve quality analysis, helping the analyst gain trust of the concerned clients and stakeholders.
- Correction and ramification of the root causes instead of symptoms should be the center of focus.
- The importance of treating symptoms for short term relief should not be undermined or ignored.
- The possibility of there being, more often than not, multiple root causes instead of just one should be kept in mind.
- Ask the right questions. HOW and WHY something happened, not WHO was responsible.
- Through a methodologic approach, concrete cause-effect evidence should be found to back up root cause claims.
- It should be ensured that enough information is collected to inform and guide a corrective course of action.
- The possibility of the root cause occurring in the future should be kept in mind. It is essential to ask how the proposed solution could either prevent such a situation from happening or would be able to remain effective in the future.
In effect, the above principles reiterate the importance of taking a comprehensive and holistic approach when it comes to analyzing serious issues and causes. The unearthing of the root cause should be motivated by its ability to provide context and information and hence guiding the process of coming up with a practical solution, action, or a decision.
Root Cause Analysis Tools
There are several tools used to identify the Root cause. While some of these tools can be applied to simple problems, others are ideal for more complicated and layered issues. Mentioned below are the most commonly used tools for Root Cause Analysis.
1. What are the 5 Whys of root cause analysis?
To identify the root cause of a problem, Toyota’s Taiichi Ohno urged workers to ask “Why” five times. Restructure the problem statement to look like a question and ask “why” (what are the first level causes of the problem).
When you are implementing the 5 Whys technique, the goal is to get to the essence of the problem and then fix it. More often than not, this technique opens the analyst’s eyes to a source that seems entirely unexpected. This is perhaps because every so often, problems that are deemed as technical issues turn out to be human and process problems. Finding and eliminating the root cause is hence of crucial importance if the iteration of failures is to be avoided.
2. Is/Is Not Analysis
After stating the issue at hand, a table is drawn with one column for questions, one labeled ‘Is,’ and another marked ‘Is Not.’ All questions like what, how, where, and why should go in the first column, and after rigorous investigation, either ‘Is’ or ‘Is not’ should be ticked. This tool helps narrow down the source of the problem by eliminating untrue and unrelated causes.
3. Failure Mode and Effect Analysis
FMEA is a structured and systematic approach that enables you to predict what can go wrong and how the system, product, or process will consequently be impacted. This analysis can prove very useful in narrowing down the causes of the issue at hand.
4. Fishbone diagram
A fishbone diagram is basically a cause-and-effect diagram, very suitable for solving complicated problems. It decomposes the issue into potential logical causes. We then test the most likely candidates. Five whys are occasionally used to drill down on each main in an attempt to identify the core cause. Sometimes “multi-voting” is used to narrow down the list.
For more information on RCA, you can refer to books. Here the top 5 books on RCA that you can easily order on Amazon.
Top 5 Books on Root Cause Analysis
I would recommend that you give the following a thorough read to learn more about RCA and its tools and application.
1. Root Cause Analysis Handbook: A Guide to Efficient and Effective Incident Management
If you are trying to enhance performance, but find the same problem(s) hindering your way, while health, safety, security, quality of the environment, production, and reliability are at risk. The same issues keep repeating, and you need a way, perhaps long-term planning, to stop this from happening. A read through Root Cause Analysis Handbook: A Guide to Effective Incident Investigation by Lee N. Vanden Heuvel will be able to help you with its comprehensive step-by-step methodology for learning from experience.
Knowledge acquired through experience
This Handbook will provide you with guidance and advice that has been tested on the field, for inspecting, classifying, reporting and trending, and eventually eradicating the core cause(s) of the incident(s). It contains step-by-step directions, checklists, and forms for RCA, allowing readers to not only incorporate the procedure effectively but also apply it to different situations.
Key Learning Outcomes
The well-structured methodology detailed in the Handbook will enable you to:
- Understand why root causes are essential.
- Identify and define inherent problems.
- Collect data for problem-solving.
- Analyze data for root causes.
- Generate practical recommendations.
All In One Package Book
The third edition of the Handbook is a broad collection of downloadable resources, a color-coded map of Root Cause Analysis, and also comes with a license to access online resources related to RCA presently available.
Backed by Successful On-field Experience
Reviewed by its readers as “the best resource on the subject” and “in a league of its own.” the Handbook is inspired by the internationally successful commercial techniques developed by ABS Consulting, a global corporation with fifty years of experience across thirty-five nations.
The Handbook comes along some additional features when purchased in either ebook or print form by Rothstein Publishing. The downloadable support materials include:
- Example analyses
- Checklists and Forms used in a typical Root Cause Analysis incident investigation plan.
- Licensed access to RCA resources from ABS Consulting available online
- A comprehensive 17 x 22 color Root Cause Map for identifying root causes
- More than 120 tables and figures
- Comprehensive information regarding the implementation of both ACA and RCA
Widely used in the curriculum at colleges and universities, and training programs at corporate institutions, Root Cause Analysis Handbook has been chosen as a book that members “must-have” by both the American Society for Quality and the Risk and Insurance Society. If your job description includes managing reliability, quality, security, safety, or risk management, this practical and comprehensive Handbook is your guiding light.
You can Buy It On Amazon for $185.24
2. Root Cause Analysis: The Core of Problem Solving and Corrective Action
If your role is to find specific causes for failure, the best-seller Root Cause Analysis: The core of problem-solving and corrective action by Duke Okes is highly recommended for you.
Topics covered in this book include:
- Approaches to Root Cause Analysis
- Existing Problem-Solving Models
- Multiple Causes and Types of Action
- Steps for RCA; Define the Problem, Understand the Process, Identify Possible Cause, Analyze the Data,
- Identify and Select Solutions, Implement, Evaluate, and Institutionalize
- Organizational Issues
- Human Error and Incident Analysis
- Improving Corrective Action
- Example Projects
- Root Cause Analysis Process Guides
Providing steps for solving problems in complete detail, with a focus on the analytical procedure used when attempting to locate the real cause(s) of problems, and the book showcases diagrams, figures and tools figures, diagrams, and tools to make a point clear.
The book extensively elaborates on how to find root causes, providing multiple examples on the use of multi-vari charts; how data interpretations can be guided by thought experiments; how the data collection process can be enhanced in value; cautions that should be taken when analyzing data; and the steps that should be taken when one can’t seem to find the problem. It details solution identification techniques, such as biomimicry and TRIZ. It also provides a breakdown the 7 M’s and includes more than 50 specific possible causes; forms to help track roots and resolutions to aid the Maintainance of alignment of actions; methods aimed at improving the interview process; and sample responses to problem situations that can be analyzed for correctness by the readers.
Instead of focusing on investigative techniques for major accidents, the book mainly focuses on resolving problems that keep recurring. Rather than explaining statistical measures, it focuses on the use of logic and reasoning in an attempt to find possible causes. As the terminology used is from everyday language and examples the reader will be able to relate to, it’s a pretty immersive and useful read.
You can Buy It On Amazon for $68.49.
3. Root Cause Failure Analysis (Plant Engineering Series)
Root Cause Failure Analysis by R. Keith Mobley summarises the theories required to ensure the adequate performance of industrial troubleshooting inspections and investigations. It details the procedure for carrying out Root Cause Failure Analysis (RCFA), which happens to be one of the hottest subjects of maintenance engineering lately. It provides comprehensive equipment design and troubleshooting guidelines, necessary for carrying out RCFA on equipment and machines commonly found in production facilities.
The most recent book in the series published by Butterworth-Heinemann in association with PLANT ENGINEERING magazine, Root Cause Failure Analysis, is just as informative as the book preceding it. PLANT ENGINEERING aims to supply complete and unique knowledge required by the people responsible for managing and maintaining industrial plants. It intends to fill in the information gap between education regarding engineering taught at schools and real-life applications. With the rapid advancement of technology, filling this gap of information is becoming ever so important.
This book presents essential information regarding troubleshooting investigations at the industrial level. Explains and illustrates the techniques used for root cause failure analysis with the help of comprehensive equipment-design guidelines.
Pumps, fans, blowers, fluidizers, conveyors, compressors mixers agitators, dust collectors, process rolls, Gearboxes, reducers, steam traps, inverters, control valves, seals, and packing.
Plant, Industrial, Maintenance, and Mechanical Operators and Engineers.
- Root Cause Failure Analysis (RCFA) Methods
- General Analysis Techniques
- Safety-related and regulatory compliance issues
- Process Performance
- Equipment Fundamentals
- Troubleshooting Guidelines
You can Buy It On Amazon for $97.95
4. Appolo Root Cause Analysis: A New Way Of Thinking
For those in search of adequate solutions to practical, real-life problems, whether they are issues on the plant floor, in an office, at an institution that is not for profit, or any other site, Appolo Root Cause Analysis: A New Way of Thinking by Dean L. Gano is a suitable read. The author discusses at length the techniques for effectively solving problems, figuring out strategies, and executing solutions, with the help of examples. There is also extensive discussion on the importance of facilitating groups and their link to a successful and efficient system.
This book is first of its kind. The author points out the ineffectiveness of existing and presently used techniques to reason and develop effective problem-solving strategies. By first pointing out the flaws in the conventional wisdom, the author then moves on to suggest a principle-based alternative easy to comprehend.
The book has, by its example, introduced a new way of communicating that is transforming how individuals around the globe think, communicate, and later make decisions together. It illustrates how, during a problematic situation, if all stakeholders, managers, and operators manage to agree on the cause of the issue and also on the resolution, the corrective action could be executed much more efficiently and effectively.
You can Buy It On Amazon for $11.45.
5. 5 Whys: The Effective Root Cause Analysis (five whys improve your mind)
At work, one often finds themselves scratching their head over why a particular problem came to be. To learn more about ways to identify the core cause, most often referred to as the core cause, by reading the book 5 Whys: The Effective Root Cause Analysis by Oliver Roderich.
You can Buy It On Amazon for $2.99.
Root Cause Analysis is a prevalent, promising, and systematic method for identifying and eventually resolving issues in the practical world. It can be applied to solve problems in almost every field, including Information Technology, industry, production, Health, Banking Sector, etc.
If your job description includes supervision of the system, its reliability, safety, health, and returns, you should not hesitate to invest your time in diversifying your knowledge regarding RCA, as it is an essential tool that will help you solve problems and investigate incidents.
Reading up on the subject is perhaps the best way of diversifying knowledge and developing tools for RCA. Dollars spent on polishing skills, acquiring knowledge, and developing tools to face challenges are paid well.