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The importance of root cause analysis and its application

The importance of root cause analysis and its application

Aug, 03rd 18

Root Cause Analysis is a systematic method used to identify the true root causes of the problem and includes various tools, techniques, and approaches. It targets the factor that needs to be completely eliminated from the process.


Quiz Question

The 5 “W” to be considered during a Root Cause Analysis are:

a)Who, What, When, Where and Why

b)Who, Who, Who, Who and Who

c)Why, Why, Why, Why, and Why


Talking about the methods used, let’s start off with the Five-why s method on which the above quiz is based. This method was introduced in the 1970’s and used by the Toyota productions. It is an iterative technique which involves exploring the whys to get to the root cause. The question could be why did the issue arise and what caused it? The answer to this question leads to another question I.e. another why and so on. With this approach, the nature of the problem is identified and so is the solution for it. Origin:


The root cause analysis came into existence due to the need to tackle some major problems like untimely major or minor accidents, toxic releases, employee safety issues, degrading quality, maintenance problem, risk etc.


Goals of the RCA:


The major goal of the RCA is to identify and eliminate the root cause of an issue. Here is the approach,


  • What happened


  • How it happened


  • Why it happened


  •     How can it be prevented from reoccurring


How to apply the RCA method:


The basic approach towards applying root cause analysis to an issue is as follows,


Step 1: Define the problem – The problem is identified, clearly defined and understood.


Step 2: Collecting data – In step 2, relevant data and information is collected along with the proofs and evidence required for the analysis.


Step 3: Identification – Identify the factors that contribute to the problem caused and analyze each of them in detail.


Step 4: Root cause – Now that the factors contributing to the damage are identified, it gets easy to reach to the root cause and find ways to eliminate it.


Step 5: Implementation – After finding the root cause and its elimination procedure, it is time to implement the solution and get rid of the problem.


However, this can further be extended to extra whys but five whys are usually sufficient to get to the root cause of the problem. Instead of jumbling with several problems at once and focusing just on the surface of the problem, this method helps us identify the underlying issue. There are instances where more than one root causes exist, in such cases, tools and techniques available can be used based on the situation. The two major techniques used in RCA are the tabular format and fish-bone diagram. The fish-bone diagram is also called Ishikawa diagram and used to showcase the cause of a particular event. Whilst applying the RCA method of analysis, it is imperative to know that the user mustn’t stop midway of the process as it can lead to insufficient results. In fact, framing the right whys and asking proper questions is the major criterion for the success of RCA.


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