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7 Powerful Problem-Solving Root Cause Analysis Tools


    The first step to solving a problem is to define the problem precisely. It is the heart of problem-solving.

    Root cause analysis is the second important element of problem-solving in quality management. The reason is if you don't know what the problem is, you can never solve the exact problem that is hurting the quality.

    Manufacturers have a variety of problem-solving tools at hand. However, they need to know when to use which tool in a manner that is appropriate for the situation. In this article, we discuss 7 tools including:

    1. The Ishikawa Fishbone Diagram (IFD)
    2. Pareto Chart
    3. 5 Whys
    4. Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA)
    5. Scatter Diagram
    6. Affinity Diagram
    7. Fault Tree Analysis (FTA)

    1. The Ishikawa Fishbone Diagram IFD

    The model introduced by Ishikawa (also known as the fishbone diagram) is considered one of the most robust methods for conducting root cause analysis. This model uses the assessment of the 6Ms as a methodology for identifying the true or most probable root cause to determine corrective and preventive actions. The 6Ms include:

    • Man
    • Machine
    • Methods
    • Materials
    • Measurement,
    • Mother Nature- i.e., Environment

    Related Training: Fishbone Diagramming

    2. Pareto Chart

    The Pareto Chart is a series of bars whose heights reflect the frequency or impact of problems. On the Chart, bars are arranged in descending order of height from left to right, which means the categories represented by the tall bars on the left are relatively more frequent than those on the right.

    Related Training: Effective Investigations What to Do When the Unexpected Happens! - Proper Investigation of Quality Events

    3. 5 Whys

    This model uses the 5 Why by asking why 5 times to find the root cause of the problem. It generally takes five iterations of the questioning process to arrive at the root cause of the problem and that's why this model got its name as 5 Whys. But it is perfectly fine for a facilitator to ask less or more questions depending on the needs.

    Related training: Root Cause Analysis - Getting to the Bottom of It

    4. Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA)

    Process Failure Effect S Causes O D RPN
                   
                   
                   
                   

    FMEA is a technique used to identify process and product problems before they occur. It focuses on how and when a system will fail, not if it will fail. In this model, each failure mode is assessed for:

    • Severity (S)
    • Occurrence (O)
    • Detection (D)

    A combination of the three scores produces a risk priority number (RPN). The RPN is then provided a ranking system to prioritize which problem must gain more attention first.

    Related Training: Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA): A tool to understand process improvement opportunities and controls

    5. Scatter Diagram

    A scatter diagram also known as a scatter plot is a graph in which the values of two variables are plotted along two axes, the pattern of the resulting points revealing any correlation present.

    To use scatter plots in root cause analysis, an independent variable or suspected cause is plotted on the x-axis and the dependent variable (the effect) is plotted on the y-axis. If the pattern reflects a clear curve or line, it means they are correlated. If required, more sophisticated correlation analyses can be continued.

    Related Training: Excel Charting Basics - Produce Professional-Looking Excel Charts

    6. Affinity Diagram

    Also known as KJ Diagram, this model is used to represent the structure of big and complex factors that impact a problem or a situation. It divides these factors into small classifications according to their similarity to assist in identifying the major causes of the problem.

    7. Fault Tree Analysis (FTA)

    The Fault Tree Analysis uses Boolean logic to arrive at the cause of a problem. It begins with a defined problem and works backward to identify what factors contributed to the problem using a graphical representation called the Fault Tree. It takes a top-down approach starting with the problem and evaluating the factors that caused the problem.

    Related Training: Fault Tree Analysis: A Risk Management Tool

    Finding the root cause isn't an easy because there is not always one root cause. You may have to repeat your experiment several times to arrive at it to eliminate the encountered problem. Using a scientific approach to solving problem works. So, its important to learn the several problem-solving tools and techniques at your fingertips so you can use the ones appropriate for different situations.

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