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Root cause analysis can offer significant advantages for your business — it streamlines operations and ensures your final products are high-quality every time. When you have issues within your manufacturing process, it’s imperative to find and remedy those problems before they affect your company on a large scale.

Once you have the concern under control, you need to know how to prevent it, so it doesn’t happen again. To do this, practicing root cause analysis is your best solution. In this guide, we’ll discuss how the process works, how it can benefit your company and how you can begin implementation.

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What Is Root Cause Analysis in Manufacturing?
Benefits of Root Cause Analysis
RCA Methods
How to Conduct Root Cause Analysis
Contact MANTEC for Strategic Planning Help

What Is Root Cause Analysis in Manufacturing?

Root cause analysis (RCA) is the process of investigating the root causes of why defects are present within a manufacturing process or end product. Many manufacturing professionals only treat an issue’s symptoms, or even its intermediate causes, without fixing the root problem — this inattention to the finer details results in recurring difficulties that could otherwise be easily solved.

When the steps of your manufacturing process are extensive and complex, it helps to have a way to trace issues straight to the origin. You can save valuable time and resources by optimizing your troubleshooting system and implementing root cause analysis basics. RCA is a core component of Six Sigma, which is yet another process improvement methodology that makes for less waste and redundancy within your factory operations.

This concept is also a major player in LEAN manufacturing. Like Six Sigma, this system focuses on waste reduction, fewer process delays and less excess inventory. One of the most beneficial elements of RCA is how it can combine with numerous other process improvements to create a faster, more productive system than before. Put it to the test with methodologies you already employ, and see how it can make your operations flow smoother than ever.

Benefits of Root Cause Analysis

Benefits of Root Cause Analysis

RCA can bring many tangible and intangible benefits to a business. Some of these advantages include:

  • Automation: An automated RCA system can share information across factories within the same company, allowing managers to record notes concerning a common root cause and take steps to prevent it from happening at their own plant. When each facility shares data, every plant can work more efficiently and avoid costly downtime and reactive maintenance.
  • Convenience: RCA is already a streamlined process — automating it makes it even more efficient. You can detect safety hazards before they become a reality and predict deviations in product quality, fixing those issues before they reach your consumers. Even without an automated solution, you still gain the advantage of an arsenal of data you can use to stop problems in their tracks.
  • Realistic solutions: The solutions RCA creates can last for years. You can develop clear, step-by-step processes that work every time and offer you incredible ease of use. Avoid struggling with producing a new solution every time a malfunction occurs — plug in a tried and true formula, instead.
  • Cost savings: RCA can also help increase your revenue. Defects, downtime and maintenance all affect how much money you bring in, and the longer you’re out of commission, the more you lose. Reducing the occurrence of these issues keeps your company active, so you can maintain your revenue stream.
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RCA Methods

Several methods for RCA exist, all incorporating the core principles of operational efficiency. Understanding root cause analysis will help you implement it more effectively within your business. Here are just a few of the more well-known concepts that can offer your business the change it needs:

1. The Basic Method

The basics of root cause analysis will help you understand every successive method that arises from the original strategy. You may add or modify steps according to your specific business model, especially when dealing with more intricate versions of the process. Learning and practicing the foundational structure of root cause analysis comes with a handful of steps:

  1. Define the area of concern.
  2. Collect all relevant data about the problem.
  3. Analyze the information for evidence of all root causes.
  4. Develop or recommend strategies for handling the problem if it arises again in the future.
  5. Implement those solutions as needed.

2. The Fishbone Diagram

The Fishbone Diagram, also known as the Ishikawa Diagram, encourages you to examine the causes and effects involved in your manufacturing issue. You begin with the results and gradually make your way toward the catalysts, gleaning ideas from teammates along the way. What might be creating inefficiency in your operational structure — including the intermediate causes?

You can gather these ideas into separate categories, such as materials or machinery. Maybe some of your equipment is due for a tune-up, or the materials you use aren’t compatible with the tools you have on hand. Tracing the effects back to their originators gives you the bigger picture of what goes on in your facility.

3. The Five Whys

The Five Whys technique is as simple as it sounds. Asking yourself one “why” question about a manufacturing error will soon prompt another — and yet another after that. You don’t have to stick strictly to five inquiries, but this number is a successful starting point for encouraging yourself to think more deeply about why a problem has occurred. This strategy can also be an excellent segue into the Fishbone Diagram, helping you draw your map of causes and effects.

This methodology doesn’t include any complex statistical analysis, which makes it even easier to implement when you’re short on time. By asking questions and thinking outside your usual mindset, you can discover an answer that leads to an effective solution.

How to Conduct Root Cause Analysis

Though there are many different ways to perform RCA within your manufacturing company, the basic steps exist in every methodology. The process you take to reach the end will be different, but ultimately, you’ll accomplish the final objective of modifying your operations and increasing productivity.

If you need to do RCA for a malfunctioning machine or a step of the manufacturing system, isolate all suspected parts of the machine or all equipment involved in the specific process. Doing this will help you identify the root cause more quickly without the influence of other system components. You can also contain the issue this way, preventing it from causing problems with other manufacturing elements.

Once you have pinpointed the issue, begin gathering all related evidence that points toward the possible root cause. You might unearth additional symptoms during this step — it’s essential to accurately delineate these as side effects rather than intermediate or root causes. After you have your data, symptoms and possible causes, you can dive deeper using one of the techniques mentioned above — or another altogether. This extra level of investigation will eventually lead you to the cause.

Finding the origin enables you to develop a solution to prevent the issue from occurring again. Once you lock in that ideal answer, you can document it for others within your company to use. If you have multiple plants, you can introduce the solution to all of them — they’re likely to have encountered similar issues if they use the same equipment and processes.

Contact MANTEC for Strategic Planning Help

Contact MANTEC for Strategic Planning HelpRunning a manufacturing business — and succeeding at it — often requires an understanding of root cause analysis, but not every company uses this process improvement to their advantage. In 2016, only 14% of manufacturers were using manufacturing data within a corporate analytics program.

You can take the initiative by incorporating RCA into your operational structure and optimizing your system for higher productivity and fewer errors. By doing so, you can create higher-quality products, boost your reputation and increase your bottom line.

With our extensive range of internal and external resources, MANTEC can help you implement an RCA strategy tailored to your business. We offer affordable training and consulting services for small to mid-sized Pennsylvanian companies seeking to improve their manufacturing strategies and remove the obstacles to success.

Contact us today for more information on how you can receive expert assistance and begin your journey to ultimate manufacturing productivity.

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