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What is Root Cause Analysis?


Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is a step-by-step process for determining the root cause of a problem or event and a plan of action to respond to it. Most organizations tend to focus on one factor or highlight it specifically when trying to identify the root cause, resulting in an incomplete solution. Root cause analysis avoids this trend and looks at the whole problem. Another point is that organizations are treating symptoms rather than actual problems, which leads to recurring problems.

Why Do Root Cause Analysis?

Repetitive problems are a source of lost production. Losses in the form of equipment downtime, product processing, scrap formation, etc. We may believe that the problem is solved, but in reality we have only eliminated the symptom, not the true cause. A well-done root cause analysis can identify the weaknesses in your processes or systems that led to inconsistencies and determine how to avoid repetition. RCA is performed to determine what happened, why it happened, and then to determine what improvements or changes are required. By using RCA correctly, repetitive problems can be eliminated.

How to Conduct a Root Cause Analysis?

The process for root cause analysis may differ depending on the context and industry. However, most of them use the same five-step approach.

1. Checking conditions

Before diving into the problem, you need to make sure that temporary corrective action is in place. It will be valid until the actions that affect the root causes are developed. These actions contain the problem, but it does not completely solve it.

The next point to check is the availability of standards. It is necessary to make sure that the standard for performing the operation with which the problem occurred is in place, is present in the workplace and is understandable to all employees.

2. Data collection, problem definition

Just as detectives carefully collect evidence from the crime scene, you must properly gather all the necessary information before starting the analysis itself. Collecting data is probably the most critical step in the root cause analysis process. And it is recommended to start this step immediately after the problem occurs. In this case, the 5W1H tool is used, which answers the questions What happened, where it happened, when it happened, who is involved in the problem, what trends are observed, how the current state differs from the normal one.

3. Analysis of the problem

There are several tools that can be used in Problem Analysis as part of Root Cause Analysis. This section will cover some of the tools.

The method is based on the connection of possible causes affecting the problems. The reasons are divided into six main aspects related to the problem. Typically, the following categories are used (6 M): Man, Machine, Method, Material, Measurement, Environment, Information (this is especially important in case of problems with the organization of supplies).

After identifying all possible causes of the problem and categorizing them, it is necessary to identify the most probable one, and analyze whether this circumstance is really the cause of the problem.

Analysis 5 Why (5Why)

Once the factors related to the problem have been identified, it is necessary to analyze why the event occurred, or, in other words, the root causes of the problem with use. (Remember that 5 is an indicative number and the number of “whys” can vary depending on the problem.) The technique works as follows: First, the problem or observable circumstances are indicated, then the “why” question is asked to determine the cause of these circumstances, until until you get to the root cause.

4. Action plan

Once the team has identified the root cause, it must develop appropriate countermeasures. The action plan should clearly define the task, the person responsible for implementation and the deadline. Without this, your plan of action will not get far, and the action will not be carried out. The action plan should be publicly available and the status of implementation should be monitored in operational meetings.

5. Standardization

If a solution is found to be effective, it should be adopted as a standard and applied consistently. If this is not done, the performance level will soon drop to its original values.

It is often the case that operators receive incorrect instructions or insufficient training to operate the appropriate equipment, perform set-up or control product quality. This can lead to breakdowns, poor product quality and a large number of rejects.


Root cause analysis answers the following questions: What happened? How did it happen? and Why did it happen? It also forms an action plan to eliminate problems.
Ultimately, root cause analysis boils down to three tasks. The first, as the name suggests, is to find out the root cause of the problem or event. The second is to understand how to fix, compensate, or learn from root cause causes. The third and most important goal is to apply what you have learned from the analysis to prevent future problems.

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