Root Cause Analysis (RCA)

Root Cause Analysis (RCA): Receipe for disaster ImageImageImage Ask any builder or installer: the torque converter is the root of all evil. When a car comes back, you’re sure to hear: “I don’t see anything wrong with the vehicle or transmission, so it must be the torque converter.” Of course, they could be right; torque converters go bad. But condemning a part without doing a proper Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is a recipe for disaster. If you don’t find and fix the root cause of the problem you’re most certainly doomed to see that vehicle again. What you really need to look for is both the cause and the effect. Many times when a converter goes bad, it may only be the effect; something else is the cause. Of course, it’s easier just to fix Root cause analysis (RCA) describes a method of problem solving that stresses identifying the source of a problem, rather than simply addressing the symptoms or effects of that problem. By directing repairs at the root cause, you’re more likely to repair the problem, rather than simply compensate for it. Of course, it’s not always possible to repair a problem completely through a single repair, so RCA is often considered to be a repetitive process of continuous improvement. While there is some disagreement in the actual meaning of root cause analysis, there are some principles and processes that could be considered universal. what’s obvious, but the only way to avoid having it break again is to fix both the cause and the effect.

The effect of all of these conditions may be the same — a converter failure — but the cause is completely different. The reality is that if you don’t do a proper root cause analysis when the vehicle comes in for the initial repair or warranty, you’re almost guaranteed a repeat of the initial failure. A great example is when a torque converter overheats and causes the unit to fail. During a proper root cause analysis, you may find more than one reason for the overheating. Here’s why: The torque converter transfers power from the engine to the transmission. While doing so, it adds a certain amount of built-in slip to the connection. That slip through the torque converter creates heat. In fact, the converter generates 90% or more of the total system heat; the transmission only creates about 8%-10%. The transmission and the cooling system are designed to dissipate that heat. So, if the transmission is overheating, why look at the torque converter first? Why not look at the system that’s supposed to remove the heat? Of course, the converter can restrict fluid flow or pressure and not allow the cooling system to work the way it was designed. This will prevent proper heat dissipation, and will increase operating temperatures to a level that can cause failure. Another possibility is the converter is creating heat when it isn’t supposed to. How is that possible? If the converter clutch is slipping more than it’s designed to, it’ll generate excessive heat. So how are you or the torque converter shop supposed to determine which came first, the chicken or the egg? There may be times that you won’t be able to, but many times you can. Think about the Three C’s of communication: If you speak Calmly, Candidly and Carefully to your customer, together you should be able to find the actual cause of the problem and prevent customer dissatisfaction. Communication is going to be the key to your relationship with your customer. Unfortunately, because we’re all in business to make money, any warranty item affects our bottom line, so it’s hard not to take warranty items seriously, but try not to take it personally. Many people would argue, “I don’t have time to do a proper root cause analysis because the customer needs the car right away.” Sure they need the car fixed right away. But they need the vehicle fixed so that it doesn’t happen again. My answer to that is you don’t have the time not to do it. If you repair just the effect and not the cause, your problem isn’t time, but that the customer will be bringing it back to you to repair again, or worse, the customer will take it somewhere else. Not only have you lost a customer; you’ve damaged your reputation.

There are two old adages that stand true: one, history always repeats itself; two, there is never time to do it right, but always time to do it again. The pressures of being in the transmission repair business can be very stressful. Unfortunately, this stress can interfere with solid diagnostic techniques. If you don’t perform a proper root cause analysis and fix the cause of the vehicle problem, you’re destined to lose again and again. But if you take the time to find the real cause of the problem, there’s a good chance the vehicle won’t come back. A good customer once told me “The short way is often the long way in the long run.” So, if you don’t take the time to do a proper root cause analysis, you’ll be doing the job again soon… only this time, it’ll cost you.

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Root cause analysis (RCA) describes a method of problem solving that stresses identifying the source of a problem, rather than simply addressing the symptoms or effects of that problem. By directing repairs at the root cause, you’re more likely to repair the problem, rather than simply compensate for it. Of course, it’s not always possible to repair a problem completely through a single repair, so RCA is often considered to be a repetitive process of continuous improvement. While there is some disagreement in the actual meaning of root cause analysis, there are some principles and processes that could be considered universal.

General Principles of Root Cause Analysis

Aiming corrective measures at the root cause of a problem is more effective than merely treating its symptoms.

To be effective, root cause analysis must be performed systematically, and conclusions must be backed up by evidence.

There’s usually more than one root cause for a problem.

General Process for Performing Root Cause Analysis

Define the problem.

Gather data or evidence.

Identify problems that contributed to problem (Causal Factors).

Find root causes for each Causal Factor.

Develop solution recommendations.

Implement the solutions.

– Found in October 2006 Newsletter