A root cause analysis is a systematic analysis that seeks to uncover the fundamental, underlying or initial causes of an incident, failure or problem. It is typically intended to manage risks and improve a business by identifying ways to fix underlying issues that allow failures to occur. 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 a design flaw in the system as the root cause of multiple accidents.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.
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.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.
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