<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none;" alt="" src="https://px.ads.linkedin.com/collect/?pid=489233&amp;fmt=gif">


Root Cause Investigation (RCI)

Root cause investigation (RCI) is a problem-solving approach for gathering significant information and data regarding a particular problem or quality deviation. The primary goal of RCI is to identify the root cause of any existing or potential nonconformities and provide suitable solutions. The investigation process includes data collection, interviews, observations, and review.

In the highly regulated life sciences industry, recurring compliance issues in products or processes can have significant consequences if left unresolved. A good RCI plan should outline the objectives, scope, methodology, resources, timelines, and responsibilities of all stakeholders. Having a documented plan ensures a systematic and comprehensive approach to identifying the root cause(s) of the problem and implementing corrective actions to prevent recurrence. 



Importance of RCI


RCI is vital for improved procedures, product quality, and overall performance. Life science companies employ RCI to prevent problem recurrence through corrective and preventive actions (CAPA), crucial in the pharmaceutical quality system. Aligned with Six Sigma and TQM, RCI enhances continuous improvement by learning from past events, refining procedures, and boosting efficiency. Understanding fundamental causes aids effective risk management, particularly in industries prioritizing safety, quality, and regulatory compliance. In the pharmaceutical sector, RCI is essential for maintaining robust production processes and ensuring consistently high-quality products. Detailed RCI demonstrates commitment to regulatory compliance, enhances customer satisfaction, and yields cost savings by eliminating waste and recurrent interventions.




Tools used in RCI


RCI tools rely on the cause-and-effect relationship between an event and its symptoms. Key tools include:

  • 5 Whys Analysis: Probing the root cause by repeatedly asking "why," leading to a potential resolution.
  • Fault Tree Analysis (FTA): Using Boolean logic to trace the root cause, FTA involves defining the problem, creating a tree diagram, and validating it with qualitative and quantitative data.
  • Fishbone/Ishikawa diagrams: Organizing potential causes into categories on a fishbone-like diagram to identify associations between causes and the problem.
  • Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA): Systematically identifying failure modes and their effects, using a risk priority number (RPN) for prioritization based on severity, occurrence, and detection.
  • Statistical analysis: Applying methods like regression analysis or hypothesis testing to analyze data and identify significant relationships.
  • Pareto analysis: Prioritizing critical factors by focusing on the few issues accounting for most problems, depicted on a Pareto chart.
  • Interviews and surveys: Direct communication for insights from individuals involved or knowledgeable about the process or problem, offering diverse perspectives.



Procedure to conduct an RCI


When your organization plans to conduct an RCI, it needs to adopt a systematic and structured framework. The stages of a broad framework for conducting an RCI are given below:

  • Define the problem: The first step for RCI is to clearly explain the issue or deviation and provide a detailed description of the issue that outlines the what, when, where, and how of the problem.
  • Assemble the investigation team: Form a cross-functional team with representatives from relevant departments or areas of expertise, including quality assurance, quality control, manufacturing, engineering, and other departments.
  • Collect information: Gather relevant data and information about the problem, such as paperwork, records, standard operating procedures (SOPs), logbooks, and any other sources of information.
  • Identify immediate causes: Determine the direct or proximate causes of the problem that aid in understanding the symptoms and manifestations of the condition.
  • Use investigative tools: Analyze the acquired data using various investigative tools and procedures like 5 Whys analysis, fishbone diagrams, fault tree analysis, Pareto, and statistical analysis.
  • Conduct interviews: Interview people directly or indirectly engaged in the process, and apply their viewpoints and experiences to get insights.
  • Visit the site (if applicable): If the issue corresponds to a physical place or a specific process, visit the spot and evaluate the circumstances, equipment, and other significant factors that may contribute to the problem.
  • Identify root causes: Analyze the data to determine the root cause of the problem; if addressed, prevent the problem from recurring.
  • Verify root causes: Validate the identified root causes through expert input or testing. Ensure that the root causes are correct and complete.
  • Develop corrective actions: Develop precise and actionable remedial steps based on the identified underlying causes.
  • Implement corrective actions: Put the corrective actions into practice by updating procedures, training employees, modifying equipment, or making other necessary changes in the process.
  • Monitor and verify effectiveness: Monitor the implementation of corrective actions and verify their effectiveness; track key performance indicators, conduct follow-up audits, and ensure sustained improvement.
  • Document the investigation: Document the entire investigation process including the problem statement, data collected, analysis, identifying root causes, and the corrective and preventive actions taken to eliminate root causes.
  • Report to stakeholders: Communicate the investigation findings and corrective actions to related stakeholders, including management, regulatory bodies, and other relevant parties.
  • Learn and share: Acquire and share the findings with the system that will contribute to the development of a culture of continual improvement.

The above steps provide a general guideline for conducting an RCI. Depending on the complexity of the problem and the specific requirements, additional steps or variations in the procedure may be necessary. Regular review and refinement of the investigation process contribute to its effectiveness over time.





IRCI is crucial for companies that value continual improvement, quality, and safety. It treats the root causes of the problems rather than just masking the symptoms, which has long-term advantages and makes the system more robust and effective. A basic understanding of the root causes of problems helps the organization to manage and reduce risks more effectively.

To conclude, RCI is essential in preserving product quality, legal compliance, cost-effectiveness, risk reduction, and a continuous improvement culture in life sciences organizations. Companies can guarantee safer goods, more effective operations, and improved overall performance by addressing problems at their root.

If you found useful this description maybe you'll like to see:

We can make better science, together

Contact us to learn how we can help you make life-changing solutions.