What is Root Cause Analysis?

What is Root Cause Analysis?

Quality control

Root Cause Analysis is a tool that has been used for many years to attempt to resolve and reduce the number of incidents, issues, failures and complaints in manufacturing and other environments.

Perhaps its emerging use and popularity can be linked with Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA), which suggests a systematic 10-stage process for resolving problems in engineering sectors. This has then been further refined and developed with complementary tools such as Mind Mapping, Ishikawa (or fish bone / PEM PEM) and the Five Whys. Other techniques such as thought shower, data collection and data analysis can support the process.

A significant focus on Root Cause Analysis has come from its inclusion in several clauses of the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety. Here, certificated organisations are required to perform these studies for non-conformances raised during audits, on customer complaints and also on process failures within the organisation.

A structured approach

One of the essential elements of a successful Root Cause Analysis is to have a structured, repeatable approach. This is true whether the assessment is performed by a large multi-site organisation, a small or medium sized enterprise (SME) or an individual investigating a food business operator (FBO).

This structure will often begin by defining the team and scope of the study, move through sufficient documentation and recording, solution implementation and ending with a review to ensure the efficacy of the process and analysis itself.

Higher-level causes

It is essential to understand that a Root Cause Analysis study should look beyond the symptoms of the problem and also the first-level causes. Instead, higher-level causes should be identified, with the consideration that often there will be more than one of these higher-level causes that contribute to creating the conditions that led to the issue.

You can find out more about the legislation surrounding Root Cause Analysis in the Find Out More section.