Root Cause Analysis (RCA) can be implemented in any business. As the term suggests, its aim is to get to the root cause of a problem. By knowing the root cause, the problem can be prevented or eliminated.

Where is RCA useful?
There are many situations where a root cause analysis can be used to solve problems. These can include:

  • Major accidents
  • Everyday incidents
  • Minor near-misses
  • Human error
  • Maintenance problems
  • Productivity issues
  • Manufacturing mistakes
  • Risk analysis and risk mapping.

How does Root Cause Analysis work?

It is important to remember that RCA is not a one-size-fits-all practice. There are different techniques that best fit different problems.

The aim of an RCA is to find out:

  • What happened
  • How it happened
  • Why it happened and
  • A way to prevent it from happening again.

Sometimes an overall issue is caused by a number of smaller snags. Conducting an RCA can break down this larger problem into more manageable chunks. Ultimately, this makes finding a solution much easier.

It does this by assuming that all events are connected. Something that happens in one area causes an action elsewhere. By tracing these actions back you can discover where the problem started. There tend to be three basic causes:

Physical cause – an object or process failed in some way.

Human cause – people did something wrong or forgot to do something they should have. It typically leads to a physical cause.

Organisational causes – a system, process or policy that people use to do their work is not working as it should do.

What are the benefits of RCA?

Imagine having a problem that crops up time and time again. Not only is it frustrating, but it can also become time consuming and expensive.

In any business, there is never a good time for a problem to occur. This means they are often fixed quickly with short term solutions. However, this approach is not always beneficial in the long run. It can reduce the efficiency of the business and affect financial performance.

Taking the time to investigate problems, find the root cause and then find permanent solutions is far more efficient. With the problem solved, you won’t have to continually spend your resources on it. Makes sense really, doesn’t it?

The RCA process is also intended to establish step-by-step processes. These processes can be used and adapted in the future when troubleshooting any new issues that may crop up.

How to undertake Root Cause Analysis

When undertaking a Root Cause Analysis there is a basic process to follow:

1. Define the problem

What is happening? What issues can you find? This is an important step. The problem needs to be defined properly. Without defining the problem correctly, the RCA may fail.

2. Gather information

What evidence do you have of the problem? How long has it been going on for? What is the impact? The best way to do this is to talk to both experts and staff who know what is going wrong. This can help you have a clear understanding of the issues.

3. Identify all issues and events that contributed to the problem

What sequence of events lead to the problem? Which conditions allow the problem to occur?  Have other problems become apparent alongside the central problem?

During this stage, as many factors as possible should be identified. Don’t fall into the trap of identifying one or two and thinking your job is done. It’s important to make sure all of the factors that could create the problem have been uncovered.

Using these tools will help identify the issues:

– Appreciation – Use facts and ask “So What?” to figure out all the possible consequences of a fact.
– Why-Why Analysis
– Keep asking ‘Why?’ until you get to the root of the problem.
– Drill Down
– Break down the problem into small, detailed parts to better understand the whole issue.
– Cause and effect diagrams
– See where the problem may have begun by creating a chart of all the possible issues.

4. Determine root cause

Use the same techniques as above to work out the root of each issue discovered. Leading you to the root cause of the whole problem.

5. Recommend and implement solutions

What can you do to prevent the problem from happening again? How will the solution be implemented? Who will be responsible for it? What are the risks of implementing the solution?

The cause-and-effect process needs to be analysed in order to identify the changes that need to be made. Bear in mind, there may be different changes for each system. At this stage it is important to also plan ahead and predict the effects of the solution. By doing this, any potential failures can be prevented.

What can you do to prevent the problem from happening again? How will the solution be implemented? Who will be responsible for it? What are the risks of implementing the solution?

The cause-and-effect process needs to be analysed in order to identify the changes that need to be made. Bear in mind, there may be different changes for each system. At this stage it is important to also plan ahead and predict the effects of the solution. By doing this, any potential failures can be prevented.

Once the root cause has been identified the solution can be straight forward. When this isn’t the case, however, it’s at this point you may need to think creatively about how to move forward.

Do you need help with your RCA?

We try to use RCA to a greater and lesser extent every day when helping our customers resolve their engineering difficulties. We have recently been working with a customer who needs to resolve an ongoing issue with a contaminant. The customer was primarily focused on improving their extraction system and whilst this is part of the solution, we have also been able to guide them to address other issues like machine leakage and room size, through using root cause analysis techniques.

An RCA can be a lengthy and complex process. Some businesses may not have the spare time or knowledge to undertake such a task. If that sounds like your business or you have a persistent problem that you are struggling to get to the bottom of, then it’s time to call Padgate Services.

We can come in and carry out a Root Cause Analysis. We will work with those who are familiar with the problem to get to the root cause and work out a long-term solution. Get in touch today, we will be happy to discuss how we can help you.