When deciding on trigger events to initiate a root cause analysis (RCA), it is important to keep in mind your organization’s strategic objectives. Many organizations might have trigger events in place, but they are often poorly defined or infrequently reviewed for optimization. For example, consider an organization who has poorly defined RCA triggers in place leading to a high number of failure events that require an RCA study.

Two scenarios

A root cause analysis can be time-consuming; thus, it is not advised for every failure or unplanned incident. For failures where effects are minor or non-existent or they are unlikely to reoccur due to unique conditions, root cause analysis will not be beneficial. Managing a failure immediately following an incident and executing corrective action is also a different process than RCA. Only after the situation is resolved and personnel are safe should an RCA be performed. So when should you conduct an RCA? Failures that are recurring, systemic, and critical are the best fit for the in-depth problem-solving method used in root cause analysis. Below are some examples.

Triggers should reflect your facilitation resources – the knowledge of your facilitators, the financial resources and time accessible to deliver the fixes, and the availability of stakeholders to join the RCA investigation.

Triggers must match business objectives, and most organizations would typically include:

Simplified Field Report For Root Cause Analysis Triggers

The collection of evidence immediately following a triggering incident directly impacts the success of a root cause analysis. Implementing something as simple as a field report for triggering events helps record clues before they are lost, forgotten, or misidentified days after the occurrence. Critical data, like witness accounts or timeline of events, are most accurate within the first few hours of an event.

A simplified field report can include such things as:

  • Incident category
  • Date/time/duration
  • Equipment and location
  • Pictures/sketches/measurements
  • Eyewitness testimony
  • Saved parts
  • Work order number
  • Preliminary 5-Why

Conclusion: Consistency is key

Without clearly formalizing under what conditions a root cause analysis must be conducted, organizations will lack consistency in their maintenance approach. The larger the organization, the more important it is to have clearly defined RCA triggers. Consider how your organization currently conducts RCAs: Do you have defined triggers according to your business criteria? Do you have a system in place to review and optimize RCA triggers as conditions change? Do you use the same approach and tools in your RCA investigation? Root cause analysis triggers help ensure your organization investigates failures in an efficient manor based on criteria that affect your organization’s strategic objectives. Correctly defined triggers will maximize your organization’s performance by optimizing the time and resources required for problem solving activities.

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