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4 Examples of Root Cause Analysis

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Root cause analysis is a systematic analysis that seeks to uncover the fundamental, underlying or initial causes of an incident, failure or problem. This allows a problem to be fixed in an efficient and robust way as opposed to merely addressing symptoms. The following are illustrative examples.


Using police records, a city performs an analysis of historical accidents involving its bicycle lanes, identifying a root cause for each accident over a 10 year period. They identify several flaws in the design of traffic features such as intersections as the root cause of multiple accidents.

Incident Management

An IT department determines a root cause for all significant IT incidents. When the root cause is a process, system or training issue a problem record is created. Problem records drive a robust problem management process that investigates, prioritizes and fixes problems. In this way, all fixable root causes are addressed in an ongoing process of improvement.

Reliability Engineering

A manufacturer of toys aims to establish a reputation for quality. The company performs accelerated life testing and determines a root cause for each product failure. Root causes are addressed by improving designs, materials and manufacturing processes.

Quality Assurance

An organic food company investigates all customer complaints and determines a root cause. For example, if a customer complains that an apple juice has turned bad before its expiry date the team asks the customer to return the remaining items. Upon inspection, the team determines that a packaging machine didn't properly secure the lid on the beverage bottles. Using a lot number on the product they can identify the machine that caused the issue. Maintenance teams take a look and discover that it is improperly calibrated. The problem is fixed and several lots of beverages are recalled.
Overview: Root Cause Analysis
A systematic process of investigating the fundamental, underlying or initial causes of an incident, failure or problem.
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Root Cause

This is the complete list of articles we have written about root cause.
Bugs & Defects
Cascading Failure
Data Corruption
Data Quality
Design Failure
Human Error
Human Error
Human Error
Knowledge Loss
Quality Control
Resistance To Change
Types Of Error
Unintended Consequences
Unmanaged Risk
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