What is RCFA or root cause failure analysis?

RCFA is the process of investigating failure of a product, process, equipment and using the information to implement a change. It’s also commonly referred to as Root Cause Analysis or RCA.

IDCON is convinced that the process of analyzing the root cause of failures and acting to eliminate these causes is one of the most powerful tools in improving plant reliability and performance. But what is a “root cause” or rcfa? One definition is “The cause of a problem which, if adequately addressed, will prevent a recurrence of that problem.”

Let’s look at an example.

A rcfa investigation uncovers more than one cause

Imagine that a bearing has failed, and that an investigation shows that it had not been lubricated.

Asking the question “why had it not been lubricated?” may lead to the discovery that the grease point for the bearing had been missed during a lubrication survey and it was not on the lubrication mechanic’s route sheet.

Using the above definition of “root cause”, this problem can be prevented from happening again by simply adding this grease point to the lubrication route sheet.

But if the definition of “root cause” is changed slightly to “The cause of a problem which, if adequately addressed, will prevent recurrence of that problem or similar problems”.

This raises the bar to a higher level. The next question then is “Why had the grease point been missed from the lubrication route?”.

The answer may be that lubrication routes were set up by a single person, with no checks or confirmation that the routes were complete.

This may lead to an action to change the procedure for the development of lubrication routes, which will ensure that there a no other missed lubrication points in the plant, nor will there be in the future.

By asking the question why a few more times, the root cause of a problem is often identified as a procedural, or management, shortcoming. Here’s a great article about which process to implement first, PM or root cause?

Addressing these root causes often requires a change of thinking and some pain and effort, but the results will be much longer-lasting and higher-value than correcting individual failures. If you don’t have a formal rcfa process in place, you may want to start with training the frontline in troubleshooting.

Looking for help with RCFA? Contact us to get your Root Cause process started.

For more articles on root cause analysis: 

At IDCON, we understand the pressure you face trying to build a reliable plant.
We provide side-by-side reliability and maintenance consulting and training designed to keep your equipment running.

For over 45 years, we’ve partnered with 100s of manufacturing plants around the world to eliminate the costs and the pressure caused by unreliable equipment. And we’d love to do the same for you.

Contact us today to see how we can help you keep your plant running.

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Torbjörn Idhammar

Torbjörn Idhammar

President & CEO, IDCON Inc. Reliability and Maintenance Consultant

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