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The Maintenance Management Blog

June 17, 2024

A Guide To Root Cause Analysis

Image: Technician studying tabletWhen assets fail or break down, identifying the root cause of issues is paramount for sustainable success. Root Cause Analysis (RCA) unravels the underlying factors contributing to problems and paving the way for informed decision-making. This article delves into the intricacies of Root Cause Analysis. We'll highlight its methodologies and explore the benefits of a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS).

Understanding Root Cause Analysis

You use RCA to investigate and understand the fundamental cause or causes of a problem or issue. It goes beyond addressing surface-level symptoms. You want to dig deeper to unearth the underlying factors that lead to negative outcomes.


Why would you conduct RCA?

  • Problem resolution — Arguably the logical first goal. You want to identify and eliminate the root cause to prevent future issues.
  • Mitigate the risk of recurring issues — By ferreting out the cause and the proper solution, you stave off future problems.
  • Improve working conditions — With RCA, you enhance communications and learning.

Strategies for RCA

Let's look at four steps through this process.

  1. Why — This is an essential question you should ask multiple times throughout the investigation. You’re not seeking surface answers.
  2. A simple example is that a lamp failed. Why?

    Because the power all over the house went out. Why?

    Did a storm cause an electrical surge? Did someone trip the switch on the fuse box? If you determine a human cause, again ask why the person flipped the switch.

    The point is to keep digging until you find answers and resolutions.

  3. Fishbone Diagram (Ishikawa or Cause-and-Effect Diagram) — In this method, you present the problem and branch out with possible answers. You can do this through brainstorming sessions.
  4. For example, a company discovers customer use of a program has waned in the last six months. Answers could relate to design, training, glitches, better technology, competition, etc.

    With this, you gather information to have a comprehensive view of potential influences and facilitate group discussions.

  5. Fault Tree Analysis — In this method, you create a diagram that resembles the common family tree. You place the problem at the top (like a family member of today). Branches of causes spread out and multiply until you reach likely scenarios.
  6. Return to the family tree analogy. You’re working backward through the generations to see each branch of the person’s parents.

    For further information, visit Six Sigma.

  7. Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA) — With this method, you identify potential failure modes, their causes, and effects. Then you assign a Risk Priority Number (RPN) to prioritize issues.


Many companies use a CMMS software to record root cause analysis. Technicians determine the following and assign each a code.

Failure — What happened? Using the example from above, let's say a light fails. Within the system, you'd have a code for indicating "light not on" or "power off."

Cause — Why did the power go off? Expired bulb? General power outage? Internal wiring issue because of moisture?

Action — What solution did you implement? Changed out bulb? Rewiring?

Let's look at other benefits from a CMMS.

  • Centralized Database — With asset records, you track the failures and causes and have easy access to historical information. This becomes part of your overall asset management, to extend the life of the equipment or the use of the facility.
  • Inventory management — With RCA results, you know what stock items to keep available at all times because you understand their importance and the assets that need them.
  • Work Order Management — Within the same system, you oversee work orders for those repairs, and record documentation.
  • Preventive Maintenance — One of the best ways to decrease failures and downtime. A CMMS helps plan and schedule PMs.
  • Asset Tracking — As mentioned, you’ll have a list of assets and all relevant information. You can track performance and failure patterns within the CMMS software.
  • Reports — You use the information input into the system to generate reports. A list of work orders by cause and action codes. A quality CMMS can generate, print, and email reports for better analysis.


With a comprehensive guide to root cause analysis, you decrease breakdowns and failures. You identify the problems and why they happened, then take steps to reduce the chance of future occurrences.

You always look for improvement. With RCA, you dig down to the "root" of the issue. From there, you implement the correct solutions. Perhaps you need further employee training, the development of new skills, or a better preventive maintenance schedule.

Use one or more of the above methodologies and discover the benefits of a CMMS. Soon, you can be on the road to maintenance management success.

MAPCON /800-922-4336


Stephen Brayton

About the Author – Stephen Brayton


Stephen L. Brayton is a Marketing Associate at Mapcon Technologies, Inc. He graduated from Iowa Wesleyan College with a degree in Communications. His background includes radio, hospitality, martial arts, and print media. He has authored several published books (fiction), and his short stories have been included in numerous anthologies. With his joining the Mapcon team, he ventures in a new and exciting direction with his writing and marketing. He’ll bring a unique perspective in presenting the Mapcon system to prospective companies, as well as our current valued clients.


Filed under: maintenance, CMMS, root cause — Stephen Brayton on June 17, 2024