Maintenance Reliability Reliability Engineering

SPONSORED: Easy Reference Guide — Root Cause Problem Elimination

EP Editorial Staff | October 25, 2022

Don’t just analyze – implement solutions.

Learn more about Root Cause Problem Elimination with this handy guide.

An effective root cause analysis process can improve production reliability significantly. But few organizations have a functioning root cause analysis process in place.

The name Root Cause Analysis itself implies the largest and most expensive problem when implementing problem solving in an organization. The results wanted from the process are to eliminate the problem, not to analyze the failure.

So, what is Root Cause Problem Elimination and is it different?

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” is a popular adage from William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet.

We use the term Root Cause Problem Elimination for our Root Cause Failure Analysis (RCFA) process. Why? It’s quite simple…do you merely want to analyze problems (failures), or do you want to eliminate the problem from happening again? And not all problems are failures at your plant – right?

The process is essentially the same, but the focus is to implement cost effective solutions. If an organization engages in Root Cause Problem Elimination, it is critical to implement the discovered solutions otherwise the organization will end up with paying for a wasted analysis.

The reference guide details the steps of the process, and you can judge for yourself if it is the same or different from RCFA.

Before implementing RCPE or RCFA, start with the basics

Someone described a successful RCFA that cost a plant $1.1 Million to me. To make a long story short, the investigation boiled down to that a team of people performed a RCFA for several weeks to discover that the root cause was worn out coupling bolts and missing bolts due to misalignment.

The main business process root cause was poor planning and scheduling practices that didn’t allow mechanics time to align properly. This analysis is described as a huge success.

But the obvious question must be asked: Why focus on RCFA in this plant?

If the plant would have had a basic PM in place the missing bolts would have been found much earlier by looking at the coupling using a stroboscope (yes, guards should have OSHA specified inspection ports).

Organizations should not prioritize Root Cause Problem Elimination or RCFA if they work in a highly reactive environment. It could be a good idea if an organization is in a somewhat reactive situation, but not in a highly reactive mode.

In a highly reactive mode, it may sound as a good plan to start solving problem, but it doesn’t work. The reason is simple. Highly reactive organizations don’t need to analyze problems to find solution.

Common problems are poor foundations, corrosion, broken components that aren’t fixed yet, lack of bill of materials, disorganized spare parts and materials, lack of equipment numbers, an extensive maintenance backlog, lack of standard operating procedures and training for operators, the list goes on.

A highly reactive organization need to work on basic preventive maintenance and planning and scheduling before they can free up time to do Root Cause Problem Elimination (RCPE). Even if RCPE was engaged in a highly reactive organization, the solutions would point at the obvious problems mentioned above.

Who should be involved in RCPE?

So, now you understand that reactive maintenance teams need to focus on the basics of PM and planning and scheduling, this will reduce the number of the obvious problems that cause failures. Now, once those processes are humming along, you can focus on the bad actors and do the Root Cause investigations.

A RCPE process should be designed to involve few people for most problems and engage larger groups only if needed.

Root Cause programs are often designed to engage a facilitator and a group of people. The group size is often ten or more people. Engaging a larger group for RCPE can be a great learning experience and can provide great results if it’s used in moderation.

But large groups tend to be hard to get together and will usually dissolve over time if meeting becomes too cumbersome.

Day to day root cause problem eliminations should be managed by the frontline (hourly and first line supervision). If they run into a tricky problem, a larger group may be called.

I truly believe that 80% of all problems in your organization can be solved by the front line using simple problem-solving skills. To be effective, they need to be given the right tools and processes.

Contact IDCON to start solving problems and implementing solutions!


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