Reliability Engineering Terms – Root Cause Analysis

What is Root Cause Analysis?

Root cause analysis (RCA) is a class of problem-solving methods aimed at identifying and eliminating the root cause of failures.  The root cause of a failure mode is defined as the lowest-level condition (people, process, software, material, documentation or requirements) that is responsible for causing an observed failure symptom.

A failure mode is an individual failure for which a failure mechanism is determined.  Examples of failure modes include an electrical short or open, fracture, excessive wear, etc.  A failure mechanism refers to the physical, chemical, electrical, thermal or other process that results in failure.  Examples include fatigue, fracture, electromigration, electrical overstress or depletion of material due to mechanical, chemical, electrical, thermal or other stresses.

The practice of RCA is predicated on the belief that identified failure modes are best mitigated by attempting to correct or eliminate the root cause, as opposed to correcting only the immediately obvious symptom(s).  Such corrective action is typically accomplished through changes to the inherent design, or to manufacturing/operation/maintenance processes, procedures or documentation.

What’s the payoff?

A formal root cause analysis (RCA) process promotes reliability growth in products and processes. Investment up-front in strategic performance of RCA can result in significant savings in total life cycle cost. It can also promote a “lessons learned” process for understanding failure relationships, causes, effects and solutions.

How can Quanterion Solutions help?

  • Perform analyses to determine when root cause analysis (RCA) should be cost-effectively performed and quantify the long-term cost savings of that result,
  • Perform or participate in RCA to determine the true root cause of failure, as opposed to a failure symptom,
  • Identify a candidate corrective action (or actions) to ensure that a root failure cause (and not just a symptom) has been eliminated or suitably mitigated,
  • Collect and analyze data to verify that a corrective action has successfully resolved a root failure cause, and
  • Define and implement a closed-loop reporting system/database that includes RCA and corrective action results.

To find out how you can access these services for your organization, call (877) 808-0097 (toll free), or (315) 732-0097 or send us an email at

View Quanterion Solutions’ root cause analysis resources including training and publications. 

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