What is RCFA?

Root Cause Failure Analysis

For years companies have been using Root Cause Failure Analysis (RCFA) to determine what caused equipment or processes to deviate from the norm and not so much as a continuous improvement process. Aladon promotes the RCFA methodology as a continuous improvement process and when used together with other reliability processes such as RCM and RBI, they provide a holistic approach to failure management. RCM is applied proactively (before the failure occurs) and provides still to our knowledge the best proactive failure management strategy for all types of assets in all types of environments (Operating Contexts). RCFA is applied reactively (after the failure has happened) and when integrated with RCM and RBI, allows reliability engineers to maximize equipment availability and improve asset performance. Using RCM3 and RCFA together would lead to improved resource planning, forecasting as well as implementing effective corrective measures. Our RCFA process is fully integrated with our risk based approaches; RCD, RCM3 and RBI3. In simple terms, if you use one, you should use the other…..

Our new RCM3 methodology (integrated with RBI) extends the RCM2 thinking to include risk based decisions. The RCM3 approach is more robust and decisions are more defensible. It places RCM mainstream with organizations’ risk management systems and policies. Furthermore, our methodologies underpin the International Standards for Physical Asset Management (ISO 55000), Risk Management (ISO 31000) and Quality Management (ISO 9001 and ISO 9004).

How does it work?

RCM3 is a process used to determine what must be done (including maintenance, engineering, operational, and other failure management policies) to ensure that any asset or system continue to fulfil its FUNCTIONS in its current operating context (within tolerable levels of risk as defined in the organisation’s asset management system).

It does so through the following steps:

  • Define the Operating Context
  • Define the Functions (what the users want the equipment to do)
  • Define the Failed States (unable to fulfil its function)
  • Define Failure Modes (what causes it to fail?)
  • Define Failure Effects (what happens when it fails?)
  • Determine the Consequences (does it matter if it fails?)
  • Risk Management (quantified)
  • Manage risk through Proactive Maintenance Tasks
  • Manage risk through Default Failure Management Policies

RCFA is a process used to determine what must be done (including maintenance, engineering, operational, and other failure management policies) to ensure that any negative deviation in performance for any asset or system WILL NOT HAPPEN AGAIN (within tolerable levels of risk as defined in the organisation’s asset management system).

The Aladon RCFA process follows two distinct approaches, which is based on the overall risk exposure. For performance gaps leading to low and medium risks, an informal process (“5 Whys”) could suffice. For performance gaps or deviations resulting in high risks to the organization (safety, environmental and high economic impact), our formal approach is recommended. Our decision logic assists companies to select the correct approach based on consequence and risk. Once determined what approach to follow, the RCFA is registered and depending on the approach, the highly trained RCFA facilitator will lead the analysis.

Informal Approach – The “5 Why” steps:

  • Identify and define the equipment/process on which the event or failure has happened.
  • Define the problem (event or failure).
  • Brainstorm and list the possible causes.
  • Select the most likely cause (must be able to explain why it was selected).
  • Apply the “5 Why” principle (on the selected “most likely” cause).
  • Repeat asking why until the “root cause” is identified.
  • Suggest possible solution.
  • Implement and validate the solution.


Formal Approach – RCFA:

  • Define undesirable event.
  • Define equipment and boundaries for analysis.
  • Define problem statement / gap.
  • Perform cause and effect analysis.
    • A very detailed cause and effect procedure is followed and consideration is given to contributing conditions, protective devices, barriers, controls, etc.
  • Identify effective solutions.
  • Implement effective solutions.
  • Monitor and continuous improvement.

The RCM3 (and RBI3) and RCFA processes are fully integrated using the same risk definition and foundation. The failure modes (cause and mechanism) as defined in RCM3 becomes the link between the methodologies and integration in the software allows for seamless switching between the functionalities, saving time and money. An effective measure is the tracking of RCFAs in the system. Following an unanticipated event, easy corrective measures are developed and implemented using our RCFA process.

If an RCM3 analysis has not yet been done on an asset or system, the RCFA process could be the trigger for the RCM3 analysis and all the work that is done during the RCFA will be captured and used during the RCM3 analysis – no duplication and no information will be lost!

Our services include the training in the concepts as well as RCFA facilitator development. Please contact a Network member close to you for further information.