What is Root Cause Failure Analysis (RCFA)?
Root cause failure analysis is one of the most effective tools for pinpointing and solving manufacturing production issues efficiently and accurately. This is a detailed methodology used to investigate an issue within a manufacturing environment and create a plan for its resolution. Among the many problems that this process is used to address are equipment failures, safety incidents, product quality concerns and more. It is a proven, trusted procedure that leads to successful outcomes because it is focused on finding and resolving the underlying cause of any issues, rather than simply taking care of the surface-level symptoms. In manufacturing, root cause analysis has the potential to improve overall product quality, plant efficiency and worker safety.
The basics of RCFA
Root cause analysis in manufacturing is intended to zero in on the very specific, underlying causes of a problem. Here is a breakdown of the RCFA process:
- Triggering Incident — Before the process gets underway, there needs to be an identifiable problem within the manufacturing environment. This can range from a malfunctioning piece of equipment to a flaw in a finished product.
- Identifying symptoms — In this step, the symptoms, problems or abnormalities affecting production are identified and documented. It is critical that the problem statement be verifiable as a fact, rather than simply stating that something is wrong. For example, “Finished product is 2 ounces heavier than intended specifications” is more helpful as a starting point than “Finished product is out of spec.”
- Assessing addressable causes — A list of all potential causes for the identified symptoms is generated.
- Collecting and analyzing data — Using available data, the list of potential causes can be narrowed down. This portion of the process is critical because without it time may be wasted exploring unproven hypotheses.
- Isolating and testing variables — With a narrower subset of potential root causes, analysis should be performed for each potential factor, isolated from all the others.
- Identifying the cause(s) — Once testing and analysis are complete, the root cause of failure can be addressed.
- Creating and implementing an action plan — When accurate information about root causes is known, an effective solution can be crafted and implemented.
- Eliminate root causes — Once the specifics of the problem have been identified and the action plan has been created, all that remains to do is to follow the plan and resolve the main issue.
Reasons for performing a root cause failure analysis
A root cause failure analysis identifies the underlying issues behind a production problem. This form of equipment failure analysis applies the adage “treat the cause, not the symptom” to manufacturing, where a symptom or unrelated problem is too often treated because it is the easiest one to identify and address. While this tactic can provide temporary solutions, problems will continue until the root cause is identified and remedied. Post-failure analysis also makes maintenance more efficient by directing maintenance and repair resources at actual problems, not symptoms – ensuring tangible, lasting results. Maintenance efforts that simply “put a Band-Aid” on production equipment-related issues could lead to permanent asset damage. It’s clear that the RCFA process provides numerous benefits, but what are the risks of not using RCFA?
- Wasted use of maintenance resources because problems are not actually solved.
- Equipment damage when underlying or unaddressed issues continue.
- An increase in rejected output due to inaccurate operations.
- Unneeded equipment replacement — if a root cause is never identified, machinery may be written off as faulty.
Maintenance and root cause failure analysis
Root cause failure analysis is a highly efficient way to identify and solve problems. By utilizing this practice, you gain the best chance to avoid deep-rooted issues before they cause serious damage. ATS offers a technology-driven approach to maintenance including predictive maintenance, remote monitoring and analytics and sensors to help modernize your facility, enable data-based decision-making, and provide all of the benefits discussed here. For more information, contact us today.