Root Cause Analysis is one of the important essentials of the requirements in a quality system for continual improvement. Its objective is to recognise an issue and its origins, resolve the issue so that it is not repeated and improve the quality of the product or processes. Root Cause Analysis is a time critical procedure and it should be set in motion as soon as the issue has been recognised and should not be postponed allowing the issue to grow in severity.
There are 7 steps in the Root Cause Analysis process which are as follows:
- Problem Selection: A business always has problems so all that is required is to order them on the basis of risk to the organisation and deal with the most urgent ones first.
- Problem Statement: Be precise in the selection, keep to a tight definition of the problem and make sure that the problem has a potential solution.
- Identify Possible Causes: Put a team together and using the problem statement start by asking “why?” it happened. Asking “why?” 5 times is a good rule of thumb to follow as it often gets you to the root causes. Then debate and choose the available corrective actions for each of the selective root causes. Keep the focus on these root causes as it is the best way to resolve or reduce the problem.
- Implement the Corrective Actions: Implement the Corrective and Preventive Actions making sure to communicate them to all involved. Clearly communicate the reasons, benefits and the required time lines. Don’t miss out anybody.
- Analyse effectiveness: Review the results of the corrective actions. Modify the corrective actions if you think that it is required. You may need to try a different approach if they don’t resolve the problem and if the corrective actions are not effective you will even need to completely review the root causes.
- Update procedures: Write up the new documents and determine who needs to be retrained, making sure that nobody is missed out. Check to see whether the new procedures could also be applied to other areas such as a production line in a different factory but using the same equipment.
- Check and Control: Check to make sure that the new procedures are followed and are effective in fixing the issues. Revisit the issue again in, say, 3 and 6 months time to ensure that they are still in place and being followed.
Some of the benefits of the Root Cause Analysis process are that you will identify which procedures will need to be changed, which documents describing those procedures will require modifying and who will need to trained or re-trained.
Finally, don’t forget that the root cause analysis process must lead to an effective corrective and preventive action plan. One without the other would mean that there is no certainty that the issues are resolved and consequently could reoccur.