2 Root Cause Analysis Techniques To Improve Quality

As a Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is a continuous improvement strategy used to identify the drivers of a problem, it serves the purpose of eliminating that problem from ever recurring again! But, how is this achieved? There are a number of RCA strategies that technical auditors can adopt to identify and eliminate the problem. In this blog post, I seek to take you through a tried and tested technique that many organisations adopt. So let’s dive in; Getting to the ‘root’ of the problem It is important to note that a root cause analysis should not be a once off thing that you implement in the odd major defective production case. You should have a Risk Assessment/Risk Management strategy that integrates RCA to exactly how you will diagnose non-conformities in your production process and handle your resolution process. 2 Root Cause Analysis Techniques for an improved quality audit The premise of every RCA can be defined as this;
  • Problem Recognition and Definition – You will need to acknowledge and define what your retail production problem is.
  • Identify the causes – You will need to go through the process of cause identification. The trick here is not to spend too much time brainstorming or mind mapping; this needn’t be a time-consuming aspect of the RCA.
  • Identify solutions – This step is based on your cause identification. In this step, you will need to identify the best possible solutions to addressing the problem so that it does not happen again.
  • Implement the solutions -If your products quality were compromised on the production line, you would need to begin implementing the solutions that you were able to identify in the previous step to prevent any future occurrences of this. The solution that you select needs to be one that optimizes and betters your operational processes. If the proposed solution does not accomplish this, you may need to repeat the above steps to ensure you come up with something that will.
An RCA should not be a time-consuming strategy. What it does need to do, is highlight the problems and make room for process optimisation.

So Who Conducts A Root Cause Analysis?

In a nutshell, the above is how an RCA would be performed, but who conducts them? This is a good question, especially if you are outsourcing your quality audit solutions to a certified third-party organization. Usually, your RCA is performed internally. Your factory manager can go for RCA training or a third-party organisation like API can deploy a trained quality auditor who will be able to assist you as you go through the RCA process. Can RCA’s Improve Quality Performance Results? Yes, they can improve your audit results, as your organisation is taking the onus to identify a recurring problem, analyse that problem to ultimately eliminate that problem, thus creating an improvement culture for your brand. The primary benefits of an RCA can have for your organization include this;
  • It provides a learning process to better understand the cause and effect of various solutions.
  • It provides a logical approach to solving your production problems through already existing data.
  • It can reduce your risk.
  • It will prevent recurring problems.
  • It will improve overall production performance.
  • It will leads to more robust quality management systems.
Through RCA an diagnostic you will be able to instil a continuous improvement system for your organization, where you will be able to reap the benefits of a well run production line. Let’s take a look at two popular RCA techniques and how you can go about performing them for any production problems that you may be facing.

The 8 Disciplines Problem Solving Technique

This problem-solving technique is used to identify the root causes of potential problems or nonconformities in your production process. It was developed and used primarily by the Ford Motor Company in the 1980’s for the above reasons; to identify and solve recurring production problems. This technique is not just for the automotive industry, but has proved itself useful for a diversity of industries. Many quality auditors undergo training to enable them to perform problem-solving techniques such as the 8D. The 8D technique is mainly focused on areas like safety equipment, factory procedures, factory flow, out-of-spec parts, logistics and any other concerns that may be a danger to workers. Let’s dive into how you can perform this technique; Defining the 8D Technique **Scenario – 2700 chairs were recalled last year because of fall hazards that were due to the breaking or bending of the leg. The CPSC found that structural frame of the upholstery chairs was missing a support block to the leg, which was against the original design specs. As I am sure you are aware – this is quite a problem, one I am sure your brand does not want to repeat. So let’s go into how you can adopt the 8D technique to solving a production problem such as the above; Create a team – You will need to establish a team with the appropriate the product and process knowledge. So this may be anyone who was in the factory, or even the QC manager as he may not have relayed the product specs correctly? Describe the problem – With your team you will now need to describe the problem in as much detail as possible using the who, what, where, when, why, how, and how many questions. These questions will enable your team to quantify the potential problem at hand. We know that 2700 chairs were recalled, you now will begin to uncover the reasons behind this. Implement and verify containment action – Once you have described and identified the problem you will need to contain those problems. How will your organisation prevent a massive recall like this in the future? Identify the root cause – Now you will need to identify all potential causes of the problem and question why it was not identified earlier. This process will come up with more than one cause, and each will need to be proved through some thorough brainstorming. Formulate and verify corrective actions – Based on the above findings you will need to define and implement the appropriate corrective actions.  2 Root Cause Analysis Techniques for an improved quality audit - Risk assessment for an improved quality audit Correct the problem and confirm the effects –  Based on the findings of the above steps, you will need to ensure that the cause of the problem is removed and you will then need to supervise the effects this may have on your future production process. Prevent the problem from recurring – As the 8D technique is a continuous improvement technique, you may need to revisit and amend the management systems and/or operating systems, practices, and procedures to be sure that your root cause has been removed and the problem will not recur. Congratulate the team – This is an important step as your team will have spent a lot of time reflecting and analysing each production step to the benefit of your brand. Acknowledge and recognise them for their efforts and thank them individually.

The Five “Whys” Technique

This problem solving technique is simpler in its approach and you may find that you need to adopt a more structured technique for more complex situations. In saying that, there are many organisations that adopt this technique for the above reason, as it is simpler and maybe less time consuming than others. This problem solving technique was devised in the 1930’s by Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of Toyota Motor Corporation, where it gained its popularity in the 1970’s helping to solve common production problems. This techniques is designed to ask “Why” five times. If we take an example such as this;  “We cannot assemble this product”.  Then a trained quality auditor would ask: Why? One part is too long or too short Why? The machine that cuts this part works inconsistently Why? One adjustment is loose Why? A lock nut is missing Why? The maintenance manual does not mention this lock nut In its simplest form we would have identified that the problem lies within the instruction manual – The manual can then be updated to include the problem of the lock nut.

Key Takeaways

Production problems are a struggle, but there are many ways in which these struggles can be avoided and prevent potentially costly recalls for your brand. In this post, we looked commonly used problem-solving techniques that will ensure a smoother production process for your retail brand. These root cause analysis techniques are designed to incorporate a full team approach to identifying the root-causes of any production problem you may be facing, and successfully eliminating them together to achieve greater production success.