Visual Root Cause Analysis Problem Solving

Of the various sections in Problem Solving, Root Cause Analysis does not have to be blank boxes of 8Ds, 7 Steps, 5 Whys, etc.  Usually when providing a 5 Whys to inexperienced problem solvers, you end up getting 5 questions returned.  There are a finite amount of failure modes for any given commodity or service.  Early in my career in automotive, we took on a challenge to implement Floor Based Problem Solving.  The challenge was how to provide someone who had no experience with problem solving and make an approach as simple as possible so they are enabled and motivated to problem solve.  What we developed was based on the Problem Definition Tree or splits so that all that needed to be completed was a path to the failure cause.  The approach was highly successful in arriving at root cause.

Later in my career, the challenge was to accelerate and effectively root cause with suppliers in highly engineered to order oil & gas, power generation, and aerospace.  Supplier problem solving was an entirely more complex challenge due to the diversity in commodities, processes, and cultures.  The solution was to create a standard form that mapped the failure modes of a commodity from technical (Problem Definition Tree) through process flow (router or job card) to the documented procedure of the failed operation.

An example of a commodity for the form in the following visual is machining with a pseudo issue.  In the example, the specific main X1 (some issues could have multiple Xs confounding) is mapped with other contributors or Xs listed in the brief explanation.  The key is to arrive at whether the documented process for the technical failure is robust enough to prevent further occurrences.


The benefits of the form also allow for a master form which consolidates all the problem solving and failures into a concentration diagram visual style of format which can also be used line side or in a tier review, for example.  Ideally, the failure modes should map from a Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (Design FMEA and Process FMEA).  The concentration diagram of failures or occurrences and understanding of severity can map from and back into the FMEAs.  However, FMEAs are Not Necessary in the Mapping of the Failures, however, and can allow backing into creation of FMEAs.

Obviously the form(s) need to be supported with robust data analysis.  The standard approach is effective in visual communication and a standard approach to root causing.  The template teaches a mindset understanding of how to think root cause problem solving from the floor, to the functional areas, and within suppliers.

Any thoughts are welcome and would love to hear from you.

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2 thought on “Visual Root Cause Analysis Problem Solving”

    1. Hi Shana, I developed this back when I was in Oil & Gas. I have shared with various organizations along the way and am not aware of anyone making it proprietary. Perhaps I should :-). The training can be easily developed as I have taught in an informal manner during actual problem solving events. Castings is another that I have as a template which links back to a generic hybrid FMEA I can share with you.

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