What Are the Steps in Root Cause Analysis?

What Are the Steps in Root Cause Analysis?

From Gaumuk Prasad

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With the development of Total Quality Management (TQM) in the manufacturing industry in 1950s, root cause analysis first gained traction. Root cause analysis is widely used nowadays in major industries to identify key improvements and avoid unnecessary mistakes or unforeseen accidents.

What Is Root Cause Analysis?

Root Cause Analysis, RCA for short, is defined as a problem-solving technique that is used to identify underlying causes of an issue or problem. RCA is useful in determining key factors that can cause problems, making employers take corrective actions to prevent them from recurring. In addition, employers can benefit from RCA because it helps their companies from repeating the same mistakes and improves their processes.

On the other hand, Root Cause Failure Analysis (RCFA), which is an extension of RCA, can further investigate and analyze problems within complex systems. RCFA takes it a step further by looking at the components, sub-systems, or individual parts that are included in a system failure. 

It helps identify what went wrong and why it occurred, allowing organizations to take corrective actions before those same problems occur again.

By combining RCA and RCFA, organizations can develop a comprehensive understanding of their systems and troubleshoot any issues quickly. They can also make decisions based on evidence-based data rather than guesswork.

Application of Root Cause Analysis

Root cause analysis (RCA) is an important tool used by maintenance engineers and professionals. It is used to identify and address the root cause of unplanned outages and equipment failures. 

By examining the events leading up to a breakdown or malfunction, RCA can help pinpoint where the problem originated. This allows maintenance teams to better plan for future occurrences.

Examples of Industries That Use RCA

Construction: One industry that uses root cause analysis is construction. Construction companies use this process to identify potential structural problems to prevent them from happening. They then fix the issues before they get worse.

Manufacturing Sector: Another industry heavily reliant on root cause analysis is the manufacturing sector. Manufacturing companies use this process to determine if there are inefficiencies in their production lines. RCA helps them improve their overall efficiency.

In addition, RCA can be used to develop reliable maintenance processes. These processes reduce downtime and improve equipment reliability. Organizations can reduce the cost of repairs and replacements by creating a proactive approach to reliability engineering. It also improves their operational efficiency.

Furthermore, RCA can provide valuable insights about the best time to schedule routine inspections and preventive maintenance tasks. It also helps identify areas of improvement for industrial mill maintenance training programs.

Benefits of Root Cause Analysis for Businesses

One of the major benefits of performing RCA is it helps you understand why certain problems are occurring in your business. This understanding helps you develop solutions that address the actual root causes. In addition, RCA helps you identify potential areas for improvement in your processes or products.

Another advantage of conducting RCA is it can help you focus on prevention over cure. By identifying underlying issues causing problems, you can take steps to prevent them from reoccurring in the future. This proactive approach is often more effective than trying to fix issues after they have occurred, which can be time-consuming and costly.

6 Steps in Root Cause Analysis


Root cause analysis is a problem-solving method that seeks to identify the origin of a particular issue. It’s a powerful tool that uncovers the underlying causes of a problem, enabling you to take meaningful action and prevent it from happening again. The six steps in root cause analysis are outlined below.

`1. Define the Event

As part of the root cause analysis process, it is essential to first define the event. By doing this, it will be certain that everyone is on the same page. They will then work on finding a solution. Defining the event requires taking a step back and looking at the situation from an outside perspective.

To define the event, start by collecting as much data as possible on what happened leading up to, during, and after it occurred. This could include reviewing documents, logs, or recordings that provide insight into how and why it happened.

Additionally, consider interviewing individuals who might have additional information. Once you have gathered all the information, create a timeline summarizing when it happened and who was involved. This timeline should provide an overall understanding of the incident. This can be used as a reference throughout your investigation.

2. Find Causes

Finding potential causes for the issue is the focus of step two. Your objective should be to identify as many causative factors as you can. This encourages you to investigate the problems further and helps you comprehend them better.

Through activities like brainstorming and process mapping, all opinions should be valued in this step. It is important to encourage creativity and independent thought among team members. The objective is to have a wide scope around the problem to make it possible to identify and take all potential causes into account.

3. Determining the Cause

We have reached the goal we set out to achieve in step three: to identify the primary cause of the issue. Once you have identified potential causes, it’s time to analyze data related to those causes. This might include collecting additional data or evaluating existing data. The data will determine which factors are most likely contributing to the issue at hand.

We can accomplish our goal with a variety of tools. Some of the most popular tools used by manufacturers are listed below. 

  • Cause & Event Tree

  • Pareto Analysis

  • Fault Tree Scatter Chart

  • Five Whys Histogram

4. Find a Solution

It's time to start thinking about how you can create a potential solution to the problem. In a group setting, brainstorming is a particularly efficient way to find answers.

It is ideal to involve as many individuals as you can while you complete this phase. Everyone who has a potential solution or has experienced working on a similar issue should be welcomed.

5. Take Action

The goal of step five is to put the team's suggested solution into action. The team must take action to guarantee the change's sustainability. The use of force field analysis or an impact effort matrix in this stage can be useful.

Tenacity and perseverance to see the project through to completion are the key components for you to succeed at this stage. There is a tendency among project team members to complete the project fast. By this time, the team might have already been working on the project for four to eight weeks. However, the team must refrain from declaring the problem as solved too soon.

6. Evaluating the Success of a Solution

This step involves measuring and evaluating the performance of the adopted solution. To ensure that the solution is successful, we must apply critical thinking and analysis to it. If so, it is now time to consider the subsequent problem that demands your attention.


Every time a problem arises, it is crucial to perform root cause analysis. Without knowing what the problems are and why they happen, you can't fix them. And they might keep on happening again.

Consequently, do yourself a favor and adhere to the five-step procedure mentioned in this blog post. Identify the issue and gather information about it to begin. Determine the causes, then ponder their existence.

Last but not least, determine the root cause of your issue and put a plan in place to avoid it from happening in the future.


What is the time frame for root cause analysis?

The intricacy of the investigation into the processes involved and the sort of occurrence you uncover will determine how long your root cause analysis takes. The investigative abilities and timetable of the team are other factors that affect the length of the analysis. A root cause analysis typically takes a week to two months to finish.

Who participates in the processes of root cause analysis?

Stakeholders who are interested in the occurrence participate in root cause analysis. This often consists of a group of workers from several departments, who can provide various information and have the ability to aid in the discovery of the problem. Smaller businesses often utilize teams of two to five people; whereas, larger businesses may use teams of up to 60 people.

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