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Root Cause + Thinking: Best Way to Solve Problems – Video 1

Oct 30, 2020 | Root Cause, TRM Blog | 0 comments

Tor Idhammar

President & CEO, IDCON, Inc.  Reliability and Maintenance Consultant

an Independent Subsidiary of TRM, Inc.


Root cause confusion

There is a lot of confusion between diagram, tools, software and company names for root cause. This video series, featuring Torbjorn Idhammar, is going to help you understand that it’s not the about tools you decide to use, but rather how you engage your team in thinking about problems at your plant, mine or mill.

When clients ask us for a reliability and maintenance assessment, one aspect we review is their process for eliminating problems. We ask an open ended question “How do you eliminate problems in the plant/mill/mine?” and we’ll get answers like “We use Apollo”, “We use 5 why”, “we use Prologic”, “we use histograms”…you get the picture. They are talking about the tools they use not the process they follow.

The tool you use doesn’t matter, it’s the process

There’s nothing wrong with using a tool to help you document, but sometimes we think because we use this amazing tool, it’s the process but it really isn’t.

The #1 most important part of the root cause process

The heart of solving problems is the thinking process. Then you need to have a problem solving method. IDCON developed a method called Root Cause Problem Elimination it’s follows the basic steps of Root Cause Failure Analysis with a key difference…you aren’t just documenting the problem you are implementing the solution. And you are getting much deeper into why problems happen. Here’s a great article about the 3 main causes that create problems at plants. Very simply put they are:

  • Technical
  • Human
  • Process

What we find is that one may lead to the other. Here’s an example of how these three are connected. The example is that production was stopped due to a failed component.

There are 3 reasons that problems arise at a plant


The 3 layers of root causes. Technical, Human factor and Work Process

The next step in your problem solving process

Then you need to decide on the documentation method or tool. I will caution against using Fishbone…if you want to know why here’s an article where I discuss my thoughts about Fishbone diagrams

Fishbone diagram for rcfa


Fishbone diagram used for root cause failure analysis (RCFA). It’s not as effective as a cause and effect map.

The 8 steps of the root cause problem elimination process

When you are developing your process for solving your most pressing problems be it equipment, process or production there are 8 steps that you should follow. When we provide training or consulting to clients in the RCPE process we go into detail of each of these steps. Get trained in Root Cause Problem Elimination.

  1. Determine your triggers
  2. Collect the data- physical evidence; What, where, when, changes in time, similar object
  3. Write a problem statement
  4. Determine the possible causes. Use tools like a How-Can diagram, etc Then collect more data on the possible causes to eliminate causes
  5. Select most likely cause
  6. Determine solutions to the most likely cause
  7. Select solution
  8. Eliminate the problem

Root Cause Problem Elimination workflow for solving problems at your plant


Root Cause Problem Elimination workflow

Watch part 2 of this series where I go deeper into how to use creative and critical thinking to solve problems and eliminate them.

Get to the root cause by thinking


Watch Part 2 of Root Cause and Thinking


Reach out to us at if you have any questions or would like to discuss maintenance and reliability consulting or training.




  1. What is RCFA or Root cause failure analysis - […] main pieces of RCFA are the documentation tool, the work process, and the thinking & behaviors.  Learn more about…