FAQ's

1. What is Root Cause Analysis?

Root Cause Analysis is the process by which the cause and effect relationships of an event (usually with undesirable consequences) are analysed. The goal of conducting a root cause analysis is to find a solution that ensures that the undesirable event does not happen again.

 

2. What kind of problems do you solve using the Apollo Root Cause Analysis methodology?

You can use this method to solve any event-based problem. An event-based problem is any problem that is caused to exist. There are no "right" answers to event-based problems, only good, better, or best solutions. You actually solve event-based problems constantly throughout the day from the moment you wake until the moment you fall asleep at night. Here are some basic examples...

  • I'm hungry: What should I eat for breakfast?
  • I need to get to work: Which route should I take and what means of transportation should I use?
  • I need to get dressed: What clothing should I choose?

Most of us probably wouldn't use root cause analysis to find solutions to the problems listed above. But they are good examples most of us can relate to that show that event-based problems don't necessarily have right answers.

 

Here are some examples of more significant events:

We had an accident today that sent an employee to the hospital.

  • What can I do to make sure this kind of accident doesn't happen again?
  • How can I make our work environment safer?

Our customer discovered a quality defect.

  • How can I make sure that we find defects before parts are shipped?
  • How can I reduce our defect rate?

Today an event caused the power plant to go offline.

  • How do I increase the reliability of critical plant components?
  • How can I maximise up-time?

We released a small amount of chlorine gas yesterday, but it could have been much larger.

  • How do we prevent this specific incident from happening again?
  • How can we make our facility safer for employees and our neighbors in the community?

A key employee left our company today.

  • Why did the employee decide to quit?
  • What can we do to increase our retention rate?

Our customer service department is overloaded.

  • How can we solve individual customer complaints?
  • How can we maintain a higher overall service level?

Problems present themselves as independent incidents. But they are usually part of a broader systemic deficiency. For instance, a single accident can be part of a high injury rate involving several injuries over a period of time.

These are only a few examples of event-based problems that can be analysed with the Apollo Root Cause Analysis™ method.

 

3. Why do we need to standardize the way we solve problems?

No organisation is problem-free. Systems we create are always in need of adjustment - sometimes minor, and sometimes radical. Problems show us where to focus process improvement efforts.

When we standardise the problem solving process, we eliminate variability and confusion. When everyone speaks the same language, we communicate more effectively.

Standardisation is a crucial step towards creating a learning organisation. When people in the organisation standardise their approach to problem solving, they become better at generating and disseminating new ideas, as well as improving work processes.

 

4. What is a Root Cause?

The term "Root Cause" implies that there is one cause that catalyzes an event. This simply is not true. Any event has many causes, all of which are required in order for the event to occur.

For instance, if the causes of any open-air fire are:

  • Oxygen
  • Combustible material,
  • An ignition source,
  • And some action (such as a match strike) that catalyzes the event.

So which of these is the root cause?

The term root cause (as well as similar terms, such as "True Cause") is somewhat misleading. There are actually many causes for any event - each fundamentally required for the event to occur.

The Apollo Root Cause Analysis methodology defines a root cause as any cause that, when controlled or removed, makes the problem go away. In the fire example above, removing any of the causes prevents the fire from occurring. It becomes more a question of which causes you control.

You have (potentially) as many opportunities to find solutions to any problem as that problem has causes. Once you have identified your choices, your focus then shifts to choosing the best options.

 

5. How do I select a root cause analysis methodology?

Once you are convinced that standardising your organisation's approach to problem solving is the best way toward organisational improvement, the next step is to pick a methodology.

ARMS Reliability is one of several companies whose business is to provide training in analytical problem-solving methods. To someone trying to formulate a comparison, the differences can sometimes seem overwhelming.

The best way to discover the right method for your organisation is to do your homework. Most credible methodologies have a book or some kind of literature available that describes their process. Read the literature and decide if the method makes sense.

Better yet, attend a training seminar. When you attend a training seminar, you have the ability to test-drive the methodology and challenge the instructor with specific questions from your world. It's your money... whatever you choose needs to work for you. Most of our clients begin by sending an initial group of representatives to one of our public seminars.

 

6. Who should attend training?

Public Training Course:
Our public training course is our Facilitators Course 2 Day (See Course Outline). Attendees are usually people who are responsible for evaluating the Apollo method for wider implementation in an organisation. Ideally, a company will send at least two evaluators with diverse roles. This way they can take a broad perspective back to help make a decision.

Other attendees include people from smaller organisations who want to train fewer than 10 people.

Register now for the next public training course!

Onsite Training Course:
ARMS Reliability offers three main levels of training:

  • Root Cause Analysis Facilitators Course: 2 day class
  • Root Cause Analysis Participants Course: 1 day class
  • Root Cause Analysis Managers Course: 4 hour class

We chose these levels by examining the roles people play in investigations. Ideally, there is a single facilitator and 4-8 participants who conduct the analysis together. They then pass the results on to management.

  • Facilitators: The ideal Facilitator is someone whose job involves solving problems on a daily basis. Facilitators can come from any level of the organisation.
  • Participants: Participants are those who will be called in to support an investigation, but not to run the investigation themselves.
  • Managers: Managers are rarely involved in the process of analysing specific problems. Yet they require special training in order to understand problem reports as well as to provide effective support to the program.

Read full descriptions of our training options.

 

7. Is a training program based on Root Cause Analysis worth the investment?

There is little doubt that problems are very costly. But how do you know whether you are getting a good return on your investment in Root Cause Analysis? We use the following formula to help us understand our return on investment.

Example:

Problem: Fractured Right Arm

Total Cost: $15,000

Cost of Analysis: 16 hours (4 employees, 4 hours) $1,600

Cost of Solutions: $2,000

The formula looks like this: Cost of Problem/(Cost of Analysis + Cost of Solutions)

In this case, the return on investment is roughly: 417% = $15,000/($1,600 + $2,000)

But did we really earn such a high return? Remember, no money ever came in the door as a result of this accident - it actually went out the door three times (cost of medical expenses, cost of analysis, and cost of solutions). Yet this formula makes it look as though instead of costing money, it actually yielded a stellar rate of return. By this logic, all you need to do is maximise the number of failures (especially expensive ones!) and your company will quickly become the industry leader.

But this can't be right, can it?

Think of it this way... money is flowing out your door every day due to failures, both large and small. The same is true for your competitors. The playing field is generally level in this respect. What will help make you the industry leader is maximising the number of failures that you identify and effectively eliminate.

Problems force us to spend money, and as such are like forced investments. But we get to decide whether or not we earn a return. As long as people remain imperfect, we are going to encounter problems with the systems we create - there is no way around it.

So we are left with a choice. We can choose to systematically identify and eliminate causes of problems using the Root Cause Analysis or we can continue doing what we've always done and hope the problem doesn't happen again.

When you use the Apollo Root Cause Analysis method to analyse problems, what you really accomplish is greatly reducing the risk that the problem, or others like it, will recur.

Did the broken arm discussed above cost the company $15,000? Absolutely.

Did we spend $3,600 to make sure it never happens again?  Yes, this is also certain.

So if we greatly reduce the risk that this problem (or others like it) will happen again, we have reduced the risk of incurring the cost of this problem in the future. You spent $3,600. But if you spent it on the right solution, it is a very sound investment.

And we haven't even talked about the fact that it's extremely difficult to quantify the qualitative cost of a broken arm, such as pain and suffering, or the potential for a much worse injury. Yet even without calculating the value, the probability of incurring some sort of qualitative cost is also greatly reduced.

The bottom line: It pays to solve problems the first time. The Apollo Root Cause Analysis method helps to do this.

 

8. What kind of supplementary services does ARMS Reliability provide?

ARMS Reliability is able to offer root cause analysis incident investigation program development, implementation, auditing as well as defect elimination programs.

We also consult and offer services for Reliability Centered Maintenance and you can find more information on our RCM website www.armsreliability.com

 

9. How can I get management to support the conclusions of my analysis?

This is a question that frequently comes up in class. Usually people ask this question when they have historically found management less than enthusiastic about solutions they propose. While there are many potential reasons for this, we like to take the high road. Let's assume that:

  • Management likes to make good decisions.
  • Good decisions about problem analysis involve:

Effectiveness: does the proposed solution make the problem go away?

Control: is the proposed solution within the manager's control to implement?

Profitability: does the proposed solution offer a good return on investment?

Getting managerial support is much easier when you show that your conclusions are based on solid causal analysis. If all effective solutions are effective because they control one or more causes of the event, you need to show a decision maker:

  • Which causes you intend to control
  • How you intend to achieve control
  • Why, if you are successful in achieving control, will it solve the problem
  • Finally, what is the return on investment

You may find that the decision maker has information to add to your analysis that you were unaware of that may change your conclusion.

 

10. I'm not technically inclined; will I be able to use the Apollo Root Cause Analysis methodology effectively?

Some people think that root cause analysis is an engineering tool that is only useful to the technically adept. While some methods are overly complex, the Apollo Root Cause Analysis methodology is easy for anyone to learn and put into practice. If you want to know if the Apollo process can help you, read the following statement and decide whether it is true or false:

Everything always goes right in my organisation.

True or False? If you answered true, congratulations! Please don't tell anyone your secret... you will put us out of business.

If you answered false, thank you for your honesty. As a bonus, you can rest assured that the Apollo Root Cause Analysis methodology will be useful to you. The Apollo Root Cause Analysis methodology is extremely simple, yet extraordinarily powerful.

If you want more information about this, contact us and we will be happy to help you see how you can use the Apollo Root Cause Analysis methodology to effectively solve problems.

 

11. What problems should I investigate?

This question is critical because it illustrates an important constraint that we all encounter - we don't have enough time to solve every problem. Therefore, it is crucial that we create a system that tells us when to move forward with an investigation and when not to.

ARMS Reliability can help you develop a set of threshold criteria that will be used to trigger an analysis. These criteria are specific to your organisation. They derive directly from your strategic goals. They also depend upon the resources you have committed to conducting investigations.

 

12. Is there software available to complete my analysis?

Yes, the software is called RealityCharting®, please click here for more information.

 

13. What do I do if my RCA team members are located in remote locations?

In today's world, we often find ourselves hundreds or thousands of miles away from our team members. This can make conducting an investigation challenging, but not impossible.

With the help of RealityCharting®, you can formulate the analysis electronically. The resulting RealityChart® can then be emailed to others on the team for review. Also, there are many software solutions available that allow collaboration in real-time over the web.

 

14. Will ARMS Reliability deliver training at my site?

Absolutely! Most of our business involves training at the customer's site throughout the world.

 

15. Will ARMS Reliability conduct an investigation for our company?

We offer facilitation services as well as root cause analysis program development, implementation and auditing

 

16. How do I obtain pricing information for a training course at my site?

A variety of options for training from online to classroom and blended training are available. Please contact us if you would like to obtain a quote or contact our nearest regional office:

North America - +1 512 795 5291
Latin America - +1 512 795 5291
Australia/Asia - +61 3 5255 5357
Europe & Middle East - +44 1484 505 776

or email info@apollorootcause.com

 

17. What would my first steps be in setting up a program based on Root Cause Analysis for my organization?

We offer extensive assistance in developing a custom Root Cause Analysis based program to meet your specific goals.

 

18. Does ARMS Reliability train in foreign languages?

We can deliver training courses in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, German, French, Chinese, and Bahasa Indonesia.

If you have the need to train in another language, please contact us. We will be happy to discuss translation and instructor development in the language of your choice.

 

19. Can I use the Apollo Root Cause Analysis methodology proactively to eliminate problems before they occur?

Many organisations today are interested in being proactive by discovering and eliminating problems before they occur. The Apollo Root Cause Analysis methodology cannot predict the future for you, and you should be very wary of anyone who claims that they can. However, an investigation using a structured root cause analysis method will allow for the discovery of the "systemic" causes that are at work for not only the problem at hand that is being reactively analysed, but also problems that have yet to occur.

If the specific "systemic" cause can be eliminated as a result of the reactive analysis, in essence, this is a proactive step because all future problems that would result from this same "systemic" cause will not occur. These systemic causes typically reside in the organisational culture, work processes, and procedures, as a few examples.

 

20. We use Six Sigma; what would the Apollo Root Cause Analysis methodology do for me?

Many of our clients are deeply committed to the Six Sigma process of quality improvement. The Apollo Root Cause Analysis methodology fits extremely well with a Six Sigma program.

Six Sigma, among other things, calls for the organisation to recognise problems that lead to quality defects, and then to analyse those problems.

The Apollo Root Cause Analysis methodology provides a powerful tool to help understand the causes of quality deviations or process deficiencies. When you use the Apollo Root Cause Analysis methodology, you can be confident that the improvements you suggest directly attack causes of the problem you are trying to fix.