Robert J. Latino, CEO, RCI
I will start this article with a scenario most of us can relate to – SAFETY. As we all know, it is not only good practice to work in a safe manner, but it is also politically correct. In this day, no one rebukes the issue of safety, nor should they.
The Safety Model
Because of the clout that safety has in an organization, many try and run their pet projects through the approval process under the umbrella of safety. Here, it has a better chance of being approved versus standing alone by itself.
What about safety training? We know that many regulatory agencies require various types of safety training for all personnel. Typically more training is required for those closest to the work, as they present the greatest risk of being injured by the operation. For this reason, these folks (i.e. – operators and mechanics) are required to have more hours of training.
Having trained thousands of such people in my career in other topics than safety, I have seen a universal paradigm develop – “The mind can only take what our backsides can endure”. While crudely put, it makes an impact statement – if I put my people in a classroom for the set number of hours required by a specific regulatory agency, then I will be in compliance with the regulation and be free from the pressure of potential non-compliance.
Consider that taking these people out of the field for so many hours is a great cost to the organization, especially in today’s lean workforce environment. To do this strictly for compliance sake is not to optimize their time from the field. If I have to sit in a classroom, I should expect the benefit of learning something new to help me in my roles and responsibilities. Most often I hear about how the 8-hours of training that I got this time was the same material and video that I saw last year. Therefore, we have trained for “compliance” sake and not for “benefit” sake.
The RCA Analogy
When do most companies conduct a “true” Root Cause Analysis (RCA)? Typically when someone is injured, when there is catastrophic damage, when there has been an “incident” and when there has been an environmental release or violation (just to name a few). Most of these high visibility occurrences are REQUIRED to be analyzed by some regulatory agency (i.e. – EPA, OSHA, DOD, DOE, etc.). Therefore, we conduct RCA’s in an effort to comply with regulatory requirements only.
Since most regulations that require RCA (or the like) do not specifically outline the RCA method to be used, “compliance” is usually with meeting the vague guidelines laid out.
This means that if two people were conducting their respective RCA’s on the same incident/event, that one may be using the 5-WHY’s approach (asking the question WHY 5 times) and the other the more intense PROACT® approach (Preserve Data, Order the Analysis Team, Analyze the Data, Communicate Findings and Track Results).
This is fine, as both methods will “comply” with the applicable regulations, as no methodology is dictated. However, the outcomes will be vastly different. The traditional 5-Why approach will arrive at a singular answer whereas the PROACT® approach will uncover a multitude of physical, human and latent (system deficiency) root causes. While both are compliant in this hypothetical case, the credibleness and thoroughness of one approach far exceeds the other. Because of this level of discipline, the outcome of the more disciplined approach has a greater chance of eliminating the risk of recurrence of the event.
However, if we use the less disciplined approach because it was not evidence-based and therefore took less time, we are in “compliance” but do not receive the “benefit” derived from the more disciplined approach.
The Chronic Effect
The same can be said for conducting RCA’s only on the high-visibility sporadic events required by various regulations. What about all those annoying failures that we have everyday, but they do not hurt people or cost millions in damages? These are buried in our budgets and accepted as a cost of doing business because there is no regulatory requirement to look at them in detail. We all know which events these are – repetitive:
- bearing failures
- seal failures
- conveyor roller failures
- process line delays
- planned shutdown delays in schedule
- quality failures
- yield failures
- purchasing and stores failures
And the list goes on. If the frequency of how often these types of events occur were multiplied by their total cost per occurrence (i.e. labor $ + material $ + downtime $), their annualized cost would far exceed the cost of the sporadic events required to be analyzed. Yet these events are ignored because their individual impacts are relatively small compared to that of the large one-time sporadic events.
Consider how you do things at your workplace. Are you doing RCA for compliance only, or for the benefit to be derived from a disciplined and comprehensive RCA process? – Be honest now!
Robert J. Latino is CEO for Reliability Center, Inc. Mr. Latino is a practitioner of root cause analysis in the field with his clientele as well as an educator. Mr. Latino is an author of RCI’s Root Cause Analysis Methods© training and co-author of Problem Solving Methods© training. Mr. Latino has been published in numerous trade magazines on the topic of root cause analysis as well as a frequent speaker on the topic at trade shows and conferences. His most recent publication is titled “Root Cause Analysis – Improving Performance for Bottom Line Results” He can be contacted at 804/458-0645 or firstname.lastname@example.org