The importance of Root Cause Analysis
06 mei 2020 

The importance of Root Cause Analysis

I see Root Cause Analysis (RCA) as a fundamental element of any successful maintenance organisation. Using root cause analysis, you can find out the root cause or causes of a problem. If you are then able to remove them, the problem will not recur. This has an enormous positive impact on the results of any maintenance organisation.

What is Root Cause Analysis?

Root Cause Analysis is a collective term for problem solving methodologies aimed at identifying the root cause or causes of problems or unwanted events. Well-known methodologies are for instance 5 x why, the ishikawa/fishbone diagram, Apollo Root Cause Analysis, Proact root cause analysis and the RATIO approach of Cothink.

When to apply RCA?

An RCA can in fact be applied to any kind of problem. Whether this is a problem in a process, with conflicts at work or (and this is what I am mainly interested in) with recurring failures of critical installations.

If the root cause of the problem is obvious, there is of course little added value in performing an RCA. Unfortunately, this is often not the case with more complex problems. In addition, the cause often seems obvious, but it turns out afterwards that you have fallen into the classic trap of jumping to solutions and conclusions or that you are just fighting the symptoms. In those cases, it can be very useful to start an RCA.

How do you go about it and when is an RCA useful?

An RCA is best carried out as a project and in a team. An experienced facilitator leads the process and puts together a team with the right people. Everyone in the team has their own role.

Each team always has a problem owner. The problem owner has an interest in solving the problem, can make people and resources available and has authority. Furthermore, the team usually consists of a facilitator and a number of experts. The facilitator masters the RCA methodology, reports, monitors and controls the progress of the RCA project. The experts are needed for the substantive knowledge of the problem.

Considering the time required by this team, the question is, of course, when it actually has added value to start up and execute an RCA.

Personally, I would advise to always perform an RCA when:

  • Near misses or accidents resulting in absence
  • An environmental emission Report or complaint from the surroundings
  • Failure or catastrophic failure of a criticality-A Equipment
  • Significant loss of production
  • Significant maintenance costs
  • Recurring failures > 4 times per year

As an organisation you can of course further develop this yourself in a RCA decision diagram. With that decision diagram, you can then set the right priorities and stimulate a culture of reliability and structural problem solving within the organisation.

What I get excited about

My personal interest and services are mainly focused on facilitating and leading root cause failure analysis projects. I actively contribute to failure reduction by solving recurring failures using RCA. Always in a team, with the people of your organisation, according to a best practice approach (structural problem solving is not a ‘one man show’ but something you do together).

I personally find a well-executed RCA a wonderful combination of theory and practice. After the theoretical analysis, you actually put the actions you came up with into practice and then observe whether it works. If it turns out to work, it gives a lot of energy and you can celebrate the success of a structural solution to a problem together.

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About the author
My knowledge and experience in the field of maintenance engineering and asset management have been gained in various sectors including the process industry (food & chemicals), heavy industry (steel), offshore, infrastructure and public transport. My company name "I am Maintenance" makes it clear that professional maintenance is my passion and runs like a thread through my life. You will also discover the abbreviation of Asset Management (AM) and of the Institute of Asset Management (IAM). The IAM is the well-known international organization that developed the PAS 55 which has now been replaced by the NEN-ISO 55000 series.
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