Root Cause Analysis: The Justification Game
In last month’s introductory article, we discussed some of the barriers to selling not only the concept of Root Cause Analysis (RCA) but also the recommendations generated as a result of these analyses. We also laid the framework for making better predictions by generating and accessing better data—namely predicting our Mean Time between Failure (MTBF) and Mean Time to Restore (MTTR) earlier and, therefore, implementing a fix faster.
Given this background, let’s explore how we can now justify conducting a RCA and implementing the recommendations as a result of the analysis. By and far, conducting a true RCA is viewed as luxury not a necessity. Think about the objections we hear when we offer the idea of gathering RCA teams. What follows is a list of common objections to RCA accompanied by rational justifications that any manager can employ.
OBJECTION: WE DO NOT HAVE TIME TO DO RCA
We do not have time to do RCA because we are so busy firefighting that we do not have time to analyze why the fires are occurring in the first place or how to prevent their recurrence. If this paradigm is permitted to exist, then the conclusion is that the best we can do is sharpen our response time and accept that the fires are a cost of doing business. How much money is being accepted as the cost of doing business? Hint, how much is your maintenance budget worth?
OBJECTION: WE DO NOT HAVE THE MONEY TO BACK A RCA EFFORT
Maintenance budgets are primarily developed to respond to failures that are expected to occur. Man-hours and materials are assigned and budgeted. Therefore, if it is in the budget, it is not a failure because we have compensated for it. It is a cost of doing business. This does not have to be the case. Just as with safety, we should have a zero tolerance policy with failure. We should question why the things in the budget are acceptable and look at how to eliminate failure.
Secondly, when failures occur that are compensated for in the budget, they oftentimes affect production hours in terms of downtime. The cost of a failure should be measured by the man-hour dollars + material dollars + the lost production dollars. This is a true measure of how much is lost, and subsequently, how much is to be gained. Just because a $50 bearing fails, does not mean that it did not cause $50,000 in lost production.
OBJECTION: WE DO NOT HAVE THE RESOURCES TO CONDUCT RCA
However, it does seem that we always have the resources to fix the problems that occur daily. If we were to support a RCA effort, the reactive work would decrease over time, as many problems would not exist anymore. This would free up the time of the people that we have as reactors, and better utilize them in proactive activities such as RCA, predictive maintenance, etc.
OBJECTION: IMPROVEMENT WORK CAN WAIT UNTIL RESOURCES ARE AVAILABLE
If this is the prevailing attitude, pack up your RCA bags because these resources will never be made available. This is where management support is a must. We must make accommodations in our work order systems to effectively implement RCA recommendations through assigning them a higher priority. If this is not done, then they are “back burner” items and will likely never get done. This will have resulted in a lot of work on behalf of the RCA team and a lot of cost in their wages while they were on these teams. The larger impact will be on the morale of the team, as they put their best effort forward and no one listened. This is where the program-of-the-month paradigm originates.
THE VALUE OF THE INTANGIBLES
In the world of RCA, we must learn the value of the intangibles and their effect on the tangible world. This all revolves around the dollar and all aspects of the organizational system are interdependent to optimize profits.
Here is a list of such intangibles:
- Lost profit opportunities—the cost of a lost downtime hour on the spot market at that time.
- World class analytical skills—investing in our people’s skills makes them better decision makers and problem solvers. This allows them to do things once and do them right. How much does it cost to replicate the same activity over and over again?
- Teamwork—when people work on RCA teams, they gain an appreciation for how other departments perceive given situations. When this occurs, it affects future decision making because they tend to take into consideration why people do what they do. This empathy results in a more synergistic operation and a more educated workforce.
- Morale—research shows that failure rates tend to be higher in organizations that have poor morale. Why? Because when our workforce feels alienated their focus is distracted with the emotional baggage they carry. This distraction causes errors in decision making which lead to physical failures. By allowing the workforce to demonstrate their knowledge of how the process works and to solve problems utilizing their experience, their morale is improved along with their ownership over their work. How much is this worth to the organization?
These are just a few of the intangible benefits of conducting RCA. Although the returns from the tangibles alone are self-justifying, imagine if we were able to focus the creativity of the workforce towards the betterment of the organization. Remember, we cannot do what we cannot imagine! ◆
Robert J. Latino is CEO of Reliability Center, Inc. Mr. Latino is a practitioner of root cause analysis in the field with his clientele as well as an educator. Mr. Latino is an author of RCI’s Root Cause Analysis Methods© training and co-author of Basic Failure Analysis Methods© workshop. Mr. Latino has been published in numerous trade magazines on the topic of root cause analysis as well as a frequent speaker on the topic at trade shows and conferences. His most recent publication is titled “Root Cause Analysis—Improving Performance for Bottom Line Results.” He can be contacted at 804.458.0645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.