What is the Difference Between Failure Analysis (FA), Root Cause Analysis (RCA) and Root Cause Failure Analysis (RCFA)?

By Bob Latino

August 5, 2021

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Articles

Recently, Reliability Center, Inc. received an inquiry from one of our web visitors asking the differences between three confusingly similar Reliability acronyms. We thought others in the Reliability community may also wonder what the differences are between Failure Analysis (FA), Root Cause Analysis (RCA) and Root Cause Failure Analysis (RCFA) so we decided to share with you our view on this. Please keep in mind that the explanation contained in this article is strictly Reliability Center, Inc.’s viewpoint only.

Failure Analysis:

Stopping an analysis at the Physical Root Causes is typically where most people stop, what they call their “Failure Analysis”. The Physical Root is at a tangible level, usually a component level. We find that it has failed and we simply replace it. I call it a “parts changer” level because we did not learn HOW the “part failed.”

Root Cause Failure Analysis:

Indicates conducting a comprehensive analysis down to all of the root causes (physical, human and latent), but connotes analysis on mechanical items only. I have found that the word “Failure” has a mechanical connotation to most people. Root Cause Analysis is applicable to many more than just mechanical situations. It is an attempt on our part to change the prevailing paradigm about Root Cause and its applicability.

Root Cause Analysis:

Implies the conducting of a full-blown analysis that identifies the Physical, Human and Latent Root Causes of HOW any undesirable event occurred. The word “Failure” has been removed to broaden the definition to include such non-mechanical events like safety incidents, quality defects, customer complaints, administrative problems (i.e. – delayed shutdowns) and the similar events.


About the Author
Robert (Bob) J. Latino is CEO of Reliability Center, Inc. a company that helps teams and companies do RCAs with excellence.  Bob has been facilitating RCA and FMEA analyses with his clientele around the world for over 35 years and has taught over 10,000 students in the PROACT® methodology.

Bob is co-author of numerous articles and has led seminars and workshops on FMEA, Opportunity Analysis and RCA, as well as co-designer of the award winning PROACT® Investigation Management Software solution.  He has authored or co-authored six (6) books related to RCA and Reliability in both manufacturing and in healthcare and is a frequent speaker on the topic at domestic and international trade conferences.

Bob has applied the PROACT® methodology to a diverse set of problems and industries, including a published paper in the field of Counter Terrorism entitled, “The Application of PROACT® RCA to Terrorism/Counter Terrorism Related Events.”

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