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Root Cause Analysis: Types and Tools

  • Yashoda Gandhi
  • Jan 04, 2022
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Consider frequent difficulties to have a better understanding of root cause analysis. Let's have a look at a basic example. If we're sick and puking at work, we'll visit a doctor and request that they investigate the source of our illness.


If our car breaks down, we'll seek advice from a technician to figure out what's wrong. To solve or evaluate a problem, we'll need to do a root cause analysis to determine the actual source and how to address it.


Root cause analysis


A root cause is a contributing factor in a nonconformance that should be permanently eliminated through process improvement. The root cause is the most basic issue—the most basic reason—that sets in action the whole cause-and-effect chain that leads to the issue.


The term "root cause analysis" refers to a set of approaches, tools, and procedures for determining the fundamental causes of problems. Some root cause analysis methodologies are more focused on identifying true root causes than others, while others are more wide problem-solving processes, and yet others just provide support for the root cause analysis core activity.


Root cause analysis is a method of determining the underlying reasons for an occurrence in order to develop and implement the most effective remedies. It's most commonly used when something goes wrong, but it may also be used when things go right.


Within an organization, problem-solving, incident investigation, and root cause analysis are all essentially related by three basic questions:


  • What exactly is the issue?

  • What caused that to happen?

  • What will be done to ensure that it does not happen again?


(Must read: Cost-benefit analysis)


Root cause analysis tools


Simply said, Root Cause Analysis tools are ways for identifying and solving an issue that is utilized in quality management and continuous improvement. While you may definitely approach problem-solving in an ad hoc manner, each of these techniques serves to give your efforts structure and direction.


Some of them are visualization tools that help you see fundamental issues by presenting data in a different way. Others make sure you're getting to the genuine core reason, not just causative variables. They all assist you in digging deeper and seeing your activities from a fresh perspective.


  • Pareto charts


A Pareto chart is a combination of a histogram or bar chart and a line graph that organizes the frequency or expense of various issues to demonstrate their relative importance.


The bars represent frequency in descending order as you move from left to right, while the line represents the cumulative percentage or total. The Pareto chart is a layered process audit software report that categorizes the top seven categories of failed audit questions for a particular facility.


Layered process audits (LPAs) enable you to evaluate high-risk processes on a daily basis for standard compliance. Pareto charts are a valuable reporting tool for interpreting LPA data because LPAs highlight process variances that generate problems.


  • Scatter diagram


Scatter Diagrams, also known as Scatter Plots, show the relationship between two sets of data visually. It's a straightforward quantitative approach for determining if two variables are related.


To utilize this root cause analysis tool, the independent variable (or suspected cause) is drawn on the x-axis, while the dependent variable (the effect) is plotted on the y-axis. The variables are associated if the pattern exhibits a definite line or curve. You can go on to more advanced regression or correlation analysis if necessary.


  • Fishbone diagram


A fishbone diagram (also known as an Ishikawa diagram) is a visual tool for root cause analysis that divides cause-and-effect relationships into categories.


Because of its similarity to a fish skeleton lying on its side, it was dubbed the fishbone diagram throughout time. The issue itself comes out of the mouth. Each of the bones flowing into the fish's spine illustrates a different type of possible issue contributor. 


A fishbone diagram divides potential reasons into divisions that branch out from the main issue. A cause-and-effect diagram, also known as an Ishikawa diagram, might include multiple sub-causes branching out of each specified category.


  • Failure mode and effects analysis


FMEA is a proactive technique to root cause analysis that prevents machine or system breakdowns It is the product of reliability engineering, safety engineering, and quality assurance activities.It uses historical data to try to forecast future failures and problems.


When employing FMEA, a varied cross-functional team is required. The analysis' scope should be explicitly specified and presented to your team members. Each subsystem, design, and procedure are scrutinized thoroughly.


Each system's purpose, necessity, and function are questioned. The many failure modes are discussed. Previous failures of comparable techniques and products can also be examined.


Each of the detected failure modes is examined and its RPN is calculated based on the probable impacts and disruptions it may produce.


  • Fault tree analysis


Fault tree analysis is a type of root cause analysis that uses boolean logic (AND, OR, and NOT) to identify the root cause of failure. It was created in Bell Labs to test a launch control system for the US Air Force's Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM).


Fault tree analysis is used to trace the logical connections between problems and machine components. The problem you're looking at is at the very top of the graph. A logical OR operator is used to combine two causes that have a logical OR combination creating effect.


If a machine may fail while in operation or while being repaired, for example, a logical OR relationship exists. The logical AND is used when two causes must exist at the same time for the fault to occur.


  • 5 whys


The 5 whys approach is a problem-solving technique that focuses on the underlying causes and effects of specific issues.


The basic goal is to discover out what's creating a problem or an issue by repeatedly asking "Why?".The number '5' here refers to anecdotal evidence that five iterations of asking why is generally enough to uncover the fundamental problem.


Depending on the depth of the underlying cause, it may need more or fewer whys in some circumstances. The major advantage of the Five Whys is that it is one of the most powerful non-statistical assessment approaches. It can find and track flaws that aren't immediately apparent.


(Also read: Different Types of Research Methods)


Types of root cause analysis


  1. Human cause


As the name implies, a human cause is one that results from human error and leads to physical consequences. Humans are prone to making blunders. A total of 30% of the defects or problems in the system are caused by human error.


Understanding and preventing software faults or problems requires an understanding of human causes or mistakes. The majority of flaws are caused by human mistakes. Human mistakes or causes occur when a person does something incorrectly or does not perform what is expected. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including:


  • Any work cannot be completed because the person lacks the necessary skills.

  • A person lacks sufficient expertise and comprehension of instruments and procedures.

  • A person is unaware of the particular processes and directions that must be followed.

  • A job was completed that was not necessary at the tool.

  • Person-caused programming faults.


  1. Physical cause


As the name implies, a physical cause is one that emerges from issues with any physical component of a system. Physical reasons are not the result of human error. The following factors may contribute to the occurrence of this condition:


  • Hardware failure is one of the most common failures, accounting for 42 percent of all failures.

  • When some tools cease operating for any reason, it might cause issues.

  • The server is not booting up, which means it is not beginning or performing as planned.

  • Some tangible, or material, goods fail owing to a variety of factors.


  1. Organizational cause


As the name implies, the organizational cause is a cause that develops from organizations. Organizations can sometimes be held accountable for systemic issues. It is not required for all of the organization's decisions to be accurate. It is possible for a decision to be incorrect or improper. 


This can happen for a variety of reasons, including:


  • Team members who complete duties receive incorrect instructions from the team leader.

  • Making the wrong selection when it comes to picking a person to complete a task.

  • Tools aren't available when they're needed.

  • Not effectively maintaining and managing employees.

  • Encourages and supports team members in a negative way. 


(Suggested blog: Break Even Analysis)





Automated logic is used by root cause analysis systems to discover the core cause of such incidents and provide instantaneous recommendations for addressing them before they have an impact on consumers.


However, only by putting in place the correct RCA architecture will you be able to comprehensively assess a scenario, quickly identify the elements that lead to the problem, and fully comprehend what your team has to do to remedy it.


The key advantage of RCA is that it identifies fundamental flaws in the development process, allowing teams to take appropriate steps to correct the issues and prevent them from reoccurring in the future. As a result, the final product has fewer flaws and requires less rework.

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