Best Practices for a Root Cause Analysis Process

Root cause analysis is an extremely valuable tool for manufacturers who want to improve plant processes and minimize defects. It’s implemented after equipment failure, performance issues and defective productsare uncovered to determine why the problem occurred and how it can be prevented in the future. By getting to the root of the issue – rather than exclusively treating the symptoms – companies can use the data collected to develop long-term solutions, maintain the integrity of their products and improve quality control processes moving forward.

With that said, root cause analysis processes can vary quite a bit and simply having one isn’t enough. To deliver the greatest organizational benefit, root cause analysis has to be performed thoroughly and meticulously, with those spearheading the process carefully adhering to the following best practices:

1. Accurately define the problem.

Define the breakdown that occurred in as much detail as possible. Physically examine the machines that were involved and write down exactly what appears to have taken place. Do not exclude a single detail. If this step is skipped, or only done partway, you run the risk of missing the root cause completely, and with it, your opportunity to successfully solve the problem.

2. Ask the right questions and don’t make assumptions.

Once the problem is defined, it needs to be analyzed by asking what, when, where, how and how much until you arrive at the root cause. During this process, it’s important to avoid making assumptions. Even if it feels like you’ve seen this breakdown before, examine the situation with fresh eyes and avoid jumping to conclusions. Although the problem may look like one that has occurred before, the root cause will undoubtedly be different.

3. Consider all possible root causes.

Thoroughly consider all potential root causes and don’t dismiss a single one until you’ve done your due diligence and all relevant data has been analyzed. Through this process, meticulously rule out the causes that are proven to be illogical, and attempt to verify those that appear to be behind the plant’s current problems.


  • James Rawstron

    James Rawstron is a Senior Marketing Specialist at Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence North America, located in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. Rawstron has 20 years of marketing communications experience in the software, high tech, industrial, advanced manufacturing machinery and medical device markets. He has written numerous articles for B2B publications, including blogs for a variety of industries. Prior to joining Hexagon, Rawstron served as a web marketing professional at IBM and a Marketing Manager at Vector Software. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and European History from Union College of Schenectady, New York.

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