According to the American Society of Quality (ASQ), a root cause is defined as “A factor that caused a nonconformance and should be permanently eliminated through process improvement. The root cause is the core issue—the highest-level cause—that sets in motion the entire cause-and-effect reaction that ultimately leads to the problem(s).”
As most of you already know, Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is a systematic process for identifying the origins, or root cause, of problems and determining an approach to minimize or eliminate their risk of recurrence. It focuses on preventing problems at the source rather than resorting to a firefighting approach and being reactive every time. RCA tries to be more scientific about asset failures, going one step beyond troubleshooting.
For RCA to be effective, you need to dig deep. This ultimately comes down to having the right resources present and ready and asking “Why?” until you get to a root cause. Undertaking root cause analysis is a vital corrective step, allowing manufacturers to identify where losses are accumulating and how they can be mitigated to improve equipment reliability and performance.
Root cause analysis capitalizes on the analysis of data collected from previous equipment failures. It is important to remember that some failures can cascade into other failures to downstream components, creating a greater need for RCA to fully understand the sequence of failure events. Generally, an RCA has 3 main objectives:
- Identify the problem
- Establish the root cause
- Implement recurrence control corrective action
Whichever RCA process toolkits you prefer to use – 5 Whys, Barrier Analysis, or FMEA, a Computer Maintenance Management System (CMMS) can help facilitate an effective RCA process. Below are the two main ways you can leverage a CMMS to support your plant’s RCA.
Data Collection and Analysis
If your plant’s CMMS is utilized correctly, it will contain a complete history for plant assets including all maintenance performed. A CMMS also stores most of the associated documents linked to those assets such as the OEM manuals, maintenance procedures, and industry standards. Such a detailed repository is a vital source of information and can be leveraged for informed decision-making when undertaking an RCA.
For example, maintenance logs can help establish failure trends for equipment by providing failure timelines, frequency, and a cumulative record of past issues. This can help populate your FMEA table or drill down into your 5 whys. Similarly, comparing your maintenance procedures with the OEM manuals can help evaluate if your current maintenance program is adequate and if any misalignments contributed to recent equipment failures.
Additionally, most CMMS can help create asset categories and bin them into different hierarchical levels such as based on the manufacturer, equipment type, etc. Employing asset categories in your CMMS will make it easier to run reliability reports on like-for-like or similar equipment. This in turn makes it easier to identify common underlying issues that may have been impacting an entire fleet.
Implement and monitor the maintenance program
Once the problem is identified and the root cause properly understood, corrective actions must then be taken to prevent recurring failures. These typically take the form of preventive maintenance (PM) or enhanced monitoring and inspection that supports a condition-based maintenance (CBM) approach.
A CMMS can help automate your maintenance program and achieve your PM and CBM targets. Manufacturers can establish time-based, usage-based on condition-based maintenance trigger points and a CMMS can help plant owners track those maintenance work orders through the schedule and ensure the readiness of work, such as part and resource availability, for maximizing execution success.
Root Cause Analyses are a frequent undertaking at any asset-intensive organization. The availability of data and the monitoring and planning functionality of a CMMS can help supplement an RCA process to a great extent. Utilizing a CMMS correctly and extracting actionable insights can help minimize repeat failures and drive down the overall cost of maintenance.