Root Cause Analysis Example – No Hot Water
Problem Management and root cause analysis go hand in hand and are used in everyday life. As I have mentioned several times everyone is a Problem Manager and everyone performs root cause analysis frequently. I expect daily for the most part.
So today I wanted to highlight a real world Root Cause Analysis Example that happened to me recently.
No Hot Water Root Cause Analysis Example
During summer seemed like a good time to add an extra radiator to the house and move some existing ones to more convenient locations. So I commissioned a plumber to come in and do the work. After the work was completed a visual inspection was carried out and all looked good, including the central heating system working as designed.
Later that evening I ran my wife a hot relaxing bath, or so I thought. A scream from the bathroom and I am faced with an angry wife that has stepped into a freezing cold bath. No hot Water!
What do you do now? An initial assessment, see if a workaround is available? Seek additional expertise?
An Initial assessment:
Q: Is there hot water at other locations throughout the house?
A: No hot water in any of the house.
Q: Is the boiler working correctly?
A: No, error lights showing.
Q: Can the boiler be fixed easily?
A: No, a quick inspection and several resets suggests not.
Q: Is a workaround available for the impact (wife being unable to wash)?
A: several, most appealing is a shower (not attached to central heating system).
Identifying the Root Cause of No Hot Water
In this Root Cause Analysis Example several steps have already been taken to identify the cause of the issue and apply a viable workaround. Sounds like classic Problem Management and root cause analysis to me. You could argue a little bit of Incident Management thrown in there as well. What can I say I perform the whole Service Management Package, don’t even get me started on the public relations side of this fiasco to get me back in the wife’s good books…
Now to perform some root cause analysis (common sense)
Q: Has anything changed recently?
A: Yes Two radiators were moved and a third was added to the central heating system.
Q: Could this have caused the impact seen?
A: Yes, the radiators connect to the central heating system that provides hot water as well as heating.
Q: What is the likely cause of the fault?
A: A water flow issue of some kind.
In this root cause analysis example we have narrowed down the likely cause to a water flow issue in the central heating system. The most likely cause of the water flow issue is at the areas that work was taking place. However it may also be possible to identify a flow issue at the boiler itself, without having to perform any intrusive works.
A further review of the boiler confirms that the system has low pressure. I can restore the pressure but will that have any adverse effects? Now I know why I could not make my wife a bath, but I do not know why the central heating system lost pressure, causing the impact it did. Still further root cause analysis required…
Root Cause Analysis Example Digging Deeper – Central Heating lost pressure
At this stage I have learnt a lot about the issue in a relatively short period of time. Now I have identified that the issue is likely caused due to the Change work performed on my radiators I called the plumber who performed the work.
The plumber suggested the likely cause was a leak in the system. The leak was most likely where the work had been performed. The plumber confirmed he would be around in the next 24 hours to correct the issue. As I was not in desperate need of the central heating system or hot water I agreed and performed no further investigations into the specific cause.
I like to think this is where I become more of a Problem Manager. Bringing in additional technical expertise to identify the root cause and correct it. The plumber attended my house the next day and identified a lose pipe fitting, which he promptly corrected. He also rechecked all other pipes at my request to ensure he had made no other mistakes.
Root Cause Analysis Example Conclusion
In this Root Cause Analysis Example the cause was human error. The plumber made a mistake and did not fit a section of pipe correctly. Hopefully he will learn from this mistake, analyse the root cause of this failure and put steps in place to eradicate it. And so it continues the never ending process of root cause analysis.
Thanks for reading. Have you performed any interesting root cause analysis recently?
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The Problem Manager
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