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What is Root Cause Analysis?

Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is a technique designed to determine the true root causes of an event.

These events typically have negative consequences (equipment failures) and therefore stakeholders want to know the underlying causes to prevent future occurrences. RCA digs deep in the event to determine the physical, human and latent roots of the failure.

The latent roots are the underlying systems that contributed to the event. For example, a bearing might fail because technicians were not provided with the proper alignment techniques or give the tools to even perform a proper alignment.

The latent roots drive human behavior and ultimately drive physical causes resulting in negative consequences. While RCA can be performed manually with any special software, there are many reasons to use a software tool to assist in the process. For example, if RCA are performed and cataloged in a centralized system, other stakeholders can view and learn from the analyses to prevent like occurrences at their facilities.

root cause analysis

Who Uses Root Cause Analysis?

Root Cause Analysis has been used in many industries for a variety of problems. You often hear about RCA after an airline crash or catastrophic failure at a large production facility.

However, RCA is extremely common in just about every type of business. Manufacturing plants utilize these techniques every day to analyze production issues, equipment failures, quality issues, safety and environmental incidents and a host of other types of problems. It is common technique in the Reliability Engineer toolkit.

You also find RCA used within the continuous improvement community around Six Sigma and Lean processes.

What are the Benefits of Root Cause Analysis (RCA)?

Root Cause Analysis is one of the best tools to drive improvements. While it is commonly used for large sporadic failures (one-time events), it is even more effective at solving recurring or chronic events. These are events where the individual events have smaller consequences, but the repetitive nature of the event makes the overall consequences very high.

For example, you may have a bottling line where the line jams and causes a short period of downtime while the operator corrects the jam. While the one-time event is not extremely costly, if it is happening multiple time a shift and on multiple lines, over a year’s time, that event is extremely costly to the operation.

Using RCA on chronic events is an extremely proactive technique as well as one of the most powerful tools to drive continuous improvement.


emPOWERUP Podcast Episode 7: Root Cause Analysis & Asset Performance Management

GrayMatter Senior APM Consultant Ken Latino and his brother Bob Latino, CEO of The Reliability Center, talk about getting started with a reliability strategy that includes Root Cause Analysis and Asset Performance Management on our emPOWERUP podcast.

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