Although operational errors are not uncommon in manufacturing, finding the most effective way to learn and improve from any issues can save a business time and money long term.

Root cause analysis is an increasingly popular way of solving issues in the workplace, and can be particularly effective for manufacturing businesses who are working towards the long term goal of operational excellence. In adopting root cause analysis, a company can not only identify its errors but learn from them to improve in the future.

So, just how useful can root cause analysis be in making manufacturing improvements?

What is root cause analysis?

Root cause analysis is a detailed method of identifying where a business is underperforming. It will ascertain what the problem is, and also how a company can go about solving it. In manufacturing, it can be used to address several issues including operational errors or even more extensive organisational problems.

An effective root cause analysis will focus on discovering three things. These are:

  • What is going wrong?
  • Why is it going wrong?
  • What can be done to fix it?

Business leaders will be able to implement an effective
root cause analysis if they become more critical of their own processes. If a leader refuses to accept where the business is underperforming, especially if they themselves could be to blame, problems will continue to arise which will harm the company long term.

When it comes to finding out where the business can improve initially, it is essential to identify what proof you have of the problem existing, how long (if possible) it has been happening, and what impact it is having on operations.

From here, it is useful to identify any conditions that are leading to the problem, as well as any further problems that are occurring as a result. This will make it inherently easier to get to the root of the problem, which in turn will make it easier to implement a solution to prevent the problem from happening again.

As previously mentioned, for the process to work, businesses must be self-critical and evaluate every aspect that could be leading to or directly creating the problem within the workplace.

How can root cause analysis help to make manufacturing improvements?

From an operational perspective, if a business in manufacturing is underperforming, it is crucial to find out why and then take steps to improve. Failure to do this may result in serious harm to profits, the quality of product and employee morale.

In any instance, the ultimate goal for a manufacturing business should be to produce the best product as efficiently as possible. If this isn’t happening for whatever reason, carrying out a root cause analysis can ensure that a business gets back on track.

For example, if production quotas are not being met for a specific product, it is more than likely to have a direct impact on the rest of the business. Whether it’s operatives underperforming, a problem with specific machinery, unrealistic target setting from those in c-suite positions, or anything else for that matter, it needs to be resolved as soon as possible.

The advantage of root cause analysis, when carried out correctly, is that it will assess every aspect of performance, and therefore will provide business leaders with a clear indication of what is causing the problem.

Let’s say that leaders have indeed set unrealistic targets for their operatives, which is causing production numbers to drop. A practical root cause analysis will assess a number of things including how many people are working on production, how long it should take to produce a single unit of the product in question, and what targets are currently being set. Business leaders will then be able to adjust their figures to get more realistic expectations, which will allow employees to make manufacturing improvements.

Upon identifying the problem, whatever it is, an experienced business leader will make the necessary changes in order to ensure that operations run smoothly, and on target.

Making manufacturing improvements does not have to be a daunting task for those in leadership positions. Reflecting on what needs to be done to solve any issues that may arise in the right way will ensure that a business operates as efficiently as possible, and adopting root cause analysis will provide business leaders with a winning formula long term.