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A multinational food processing company that produces a wide variety of private-label packaged foods and employs thousands of workers across 20 different facilities. 


The Problem

According to their director of continuous improvement: "We decided as a company that we were lacking in terms of skill in problem solving and root cause analysis. We would see RCA work done, but it wasn't really thorough enough and we never got at the root causes. We ended up seeing the same problems over and over again. Everyone on the senior operations management team saw this, so there was buy-in right off the bat to find a better solution."

After searching the internet and talking to others about their experience with different problem-solving methodologies, the company selected a few providers to explore further. They saw various demos on different products and services, but ultimately decided to move forward with training in the Apollo Root Cause Analysis methodology and RC Pro™ software from ARMS Reliability. "We thought this methodology was relatively easy to understand and wasn't in any way incongruent with the other methodologies we were already using in our continuous improvement department. A simple version of the Apollo Root Cause Analysis methodology would use a '5 Whys' type of thinking, which we were already using. It took what we were already doing to the next level," said the company representative.


The Solution

Although the Apollo Root Cause Analysis methodology is highly effective and proven, companies that find the most success with it are doing a few things internally that set them apart.

Involvement from Senior Leadership

According to the company rep: "Our approach wasn't 'we lack some skill in root cause analysis; let's go out and train a bunch of people.' The approach was different. The approach was to first train all of the operations directors and senior leaders and make sure they understood the methodology before we trained the leadership in each of the factories. The senior leadership group would be the quality check on whether the methodology was being used properly. If we hadn't done that training with them, they wouldn't have known what 'good' looks like. I think that was a critical step."

Creation of a Trigger List

The customer recognized that a formal, cross-sectional, team-driven process isn't the right solution for every problem. The Apollo Root Cause Analysis methodology can be rigorous when applied in a workshop environment for large problems, however there is a danger in poor resource utilization when you try to use the same workshop approach for simple problems. So one of the things we did was to create a trigger list to give guidance on when you should use formal workshops vs. a simple desktop approach. The Apollo Root Cause Analysis methodology is a flexible, scalable method that can be used on simple or complex problems.

High Visibility of RCAs

An RCA program can only be successful if it is used consistently. Holding the team accountable with regular RCA reviews is one way to be sure the program continues to deliver value. This company incorporated an RCA presentation as part of the existing quarterly review process that was already being performed at each facility. "During each quarterly review, a plant has to present a summary of a recent problem investigation. That's our quality check - firstly, it reinforces the message that we need to do this, and secondly, allows us to check that we're doing it properly. We don't want it to always be this way - we want it to eventually just become part of the culture." This is the beginning of that cultural shift.


It's very difficult for companies to retain the lessons from an RCA investigation if the investigation is not well documented. But documenting your RCA is often easier said than done. In order to help them avoid losing all that hard earned knowledge, this customer says, "We've purchased RealityCharting Pro™ software. I think the reason that's important is not because you need the software to perform the methodology, but documenting it is extremely cumbersome with other tools like Microsoft Excel, Word and Powerpoint. We wanted to make it as easy as possible on the user." The more user-friendly the RCA process and tools, the more likely that they are actually put to use. By using RealityCharting Pro™ software, all of the documented analysis is stored in one central location that allows for searching, trending, and action tracking.


The Outcome

This particular company did six two-day Root Cause Analysis training sessions over the course of six months in addition to purchasing RC Pro™ software. They are still in the early stages of program implementation, so they won't have quantitative metrics on the success of the program for a while yet. However, this customer is already seeing a lot of enthusiasm from his team. "People seem to think it will be a big help. Some people have gone in to training not really knowing why they were there, but coming out of it, a lightbulb goes on - 'if we do this properly this will work.'"