Root Cause Analysis

Every company encounters problems that need solving, whether they are catastrophic such as; the Chernobyl reactor explosion, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Union Carbide cyanide gas leak; or of a more common nature such as; turn-around times are too slow, too many warranty returns, production quality isn’t good enough.

In science and engineering, RCA is a structured long-term solution used to correct or eliminate the cause, and prevent a problem from recurring. It will improve efficiency by addressing the causes rather than the effects, i.e. stop wasting time fire fighting.

It is widely used in IT operations, telecommunications, industrial process control, accident analysis (e.g., in aviation, rail transport, or nuclear plants), medicine and healthcare etc.

RCA generally serves as input to a remediation process whereby corrective actions are taken to prevent the problem from reoccurring. The name of this process varies from one application domain to another.

How Does it Work?

Typical RCA steps:

1. Identify and describe the problem clearly

2. Understand the problem, check the data

3. Take Immediate action with a temporary fix

4. Apply corrective action to mitigate or eliminate the cause

5. Confirm the solution is working

Methods employed are:

  • Data / Failure Recording And Corrective Action System (DRACAS / FRACAS)
  • To record all events during testing, commissioning/installation and in-service operation
  • In order to conduct efficient RCA, good quality data is essential. 
  • Use Big Data analytics to visualise and identify bad actors, KPIs and trends for early warning
  • Choose the most appropriate Problem Resolution method
  • Ad-hoc investigation if you don’t have sufficient failures & data to see a pattern using Brainstorming, DoE, Scatter Diagrams, The 5 Whys
  • Pareto Chart to show their relative significance
  • DMAIC for multiple root causes
  • Kepner Tregoe for single root cause
  • Fishbone (Ishikawa) Diagram cause and effect, sort causes into categories
  • Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) to explore potential defects or failures, consequences and causes
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