Friday, August 7, 2015

Root Cause Analysis: Identify the Source of your Challenges

Every business has its fair share of problems. Equipment breaks, deliveries arrive late, or production quality waivers. Overcoming challenges is a normal part of business. However, schedules are often so busy that we can only apply a “quick fix” to our issues. Instead of applying the same fix and hoping things will change, a good manager will look to discover the root of problems. A good manager will ask questions to identify the source of problems and then work to implement long-term solutions. This is applying the principles of Root Cause Analysis.
root cause analysis: Identify the Source of your Challenges

Japanese inventor Sakichi Toyoda is credited with inventing Root Cause Analysis and the “5 Why’s”. He also invented the Jidoka principle, which recommended manufacturing machines stop immediately when a problem occurs on the production line. He later sold that methodology and used the money to start Toyota. The “5 Whys” was one of the first models of Root Cause Analysis and focuses on asking “why” until the root of the problem has been identified.

Root Cause Analysis goes beyond asking what happened and how a problem occurred. Instead, it asks why the problem happened in the first place. This type of analysis allows you to dive deeper into the problem to find a specific corrective measure which prevents similar future events from happening.

The Four Premises of Root Cause Analysis
  1. Root causes are specific. The underlying causes cannot be generic or general in nature.
  2. Root causes are those which can be reasonably identified. Large amounts of time, money and manpower should NOT be tied up in looking for the answers. Structured analysis is the most effective way to accomplish this goal.  
  3. Management must be able to fix issues that are root causes. For example, if there is a leak on the production floor, you can’t cite the weather as a cause of the problem. Management can’t control the weather.
  4. Effective recommendations can be generated for root causes. A good recommendation cannot be made for a generic or vague cause. Generic recommendations like are a sign that further investigation should take place.

The Steps of Root Cause Analysis
  1. Data collection is necessary to gain a full understanding of the situation. Without complete data, it is difficult to find the root cause of any event.
  2. Causal factor charting provides a structure for analysis to occur. Gaps in knowledge are easily identified during this step. Causal factor charting is a simple sequence diagram with logic tests. Events leading up to the occurrence are also identified here as well.
  3. Root cause identification begins at this point. Root cause mapping is used to identify reasons by helping to answer questions.
  4. Recommendations and implementation to fix the identified root cause occur at this stage. The analyst who conducted the study is not responsible for implementation. To prevent wasted time and effort, someone must be assigned to follow-through with this last step.

Root Cause Analysis is a proven method of solving thorny business problems. Problems occur every day in manufacturing and solving those problems effectively is what matters. We can help! For more information, reference the Core Tools section of our website, search our events for upcoming classes, or contact us at 888.414.6882.

Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at

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