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Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is one of the most implemented Quality Improvement Approaches in many industries. What exactly are the RCA, its tools, and processes?
The root cause is a trigger that causes a condition or chain of events that leads to an error and complications in one or more areas. It is a fundamental reason for the occurrence of problems. Root Cause Analysis is a set of tools and techniques to examine and identify the origin of a problem, and determine what happened, why it happened, and figure out what to do to reduce the likelihood that it will happen again.
If companies investigate the patterns of negative effects and uncover the reasons causing the problem, it helps them to fix the underlying operations to achieve the elimination of flaws in their processes.
The three most common types of causes are:
- Physical causes – tangible, usually a failure of materials
- Human causes – employees do something incorrectly or don’t execute something that was needed. Human causes typically lead to physical causes.
- Organizational causes – faulty system, process, or policy in place
To become time and cost-effective, companies need to detect the root cause, define and implement the permanent solution to terminate the problem right at its origin. There is a simple to use the tool on how to achieve that and how to prevent reoccurrence. This tool is the 5 Why’s and 5 How’s.
The 5-Why method is simply asking the question “Why” as many times as needed until you get past all the symptoms of a problem and get to the bottom of the root cause. The 5-How method is then used to figure out a permanent solution to the root cause of the problem. It simply helps to review “Why” the problem happened and “How” to resolve it.
How to execute 5 Why & 5 How?
- Create a team of all responsible representatives that are involved and familiar with the specific process (Quality and Process Engineers, Operators, etc.) – everyone’s outlook counts and can help to resolve the problem efficiently.
- Collect all data, analyze the situation and determine clearly the problem by identifying possible factors.
- Ask why the failure occurred – you should be getting exact facts and data. You keep asking Why (not necessarily five times) until you get to the root cause of the problem.
- Recommend and implement corrective actions - ask “How” questions to get the appropriate and efficient solution to resolve the root cause. Define specific actions with the owner and a due date and proceed with regular meetings to check updates of all actions.
The 5 Whys can be also used as a part of the fishbone diagram – a visualization tool that helps to explore all causes of the problem. Once all inputs are established on the fishbone, you can proceed with the 5 Whys technique to drill down to the root causes.
Consider using the TeamGuru RCCA module to guide your teams through the Root Cause Analysis process.
“If I had one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution. “
– Albert Einstein
“If you don’t ask the right questions, you don’t get the right answers. A question asked the right way often point to its own answer. Asking questions is the ABC of diagnosis.”