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Introducing the 5 Whys Technique

5 Whys Technique

Many organisations struggle to identify the underlying problem with regards to non-conformance’s and find that what they have introduced to address any issues often doesn’t solve the problem and the same issues reoccur. There are numerous techniques that can applied to identifying the root cause of non-conformance’s, probably the simplest of these being the 5 whys technique.

Within IMS International, we use this technique ourselves when non-conformance’s have been identified and have found this problem solving tool to be very effective.

The system is straightforward to implement, and once you get the hang of the process you can generally work through most issues within a matter of minutes.

By asking the question “Why” you can separate the symptoms from the causes of a problem. This is critical as symptoms often mask the causes of problems.

How to Use the 5 Whys
1. Assemble a team of people knowledgeable about the area of non-conformance. Include
as many personnel as possible.
2. Have the team members ask “Why” the Problem as described could occur, and write the
answer down underneath the Problem description.
3. If the answer provided from 2 (above) does not solve the Problem, you must repeat the question “why” until you do.
4. If the answer provided from 2 (above) seems likely to solve the Problem, make sure the
team agrees and attempt a resolution using the answer. You may find that there are
more than one root causes to the problem.


The CNC Machine keeps failing.
• Why 1
Why did the equipment fail? Because the circuit board burnt out.
• Why 2
Why did the circuit board burn out? Because it overheated.
• Why 3
Why did it overheat? Because it wasn’t getting enough air.
• Why 4
Why was it not getting enough air? Because the filter wasn’t changed.
• Why 5 and Root Cause
Why was the filter not changed? Because there was no preventive maintenance schedule in
place informing the operator to do so.

Using the above example, you can change the circuit board and you can change the filter but it would not necessarily prevent the same thing happening again.  Those two items would form the basis of immediate correction action but not effective long term corrective action.  To ensure effective long term corrective actions you would introduce a preventive maintenance programme for the machine, at this point you should also review preventive maintenance plans with other machinery within the organisation as you could have the same issue elsewhere.

Although the technique is called 5 whys, you may ask the question more than 5 times so do not stop just because you get to the 5th why, continue until you are satisfied that you have identified the true root cause.

As you can see from the example, the 5 whys technique is very simple to use and if performed correctly it can be very effective in identifying and addressing root causes for non-conformance’s.

If you have any questions regarding the technique then please speak to one of our auditors, all of which are trained in the use of the technique and will follow the process when reviewing submitted corrective action plans by clients.

For further information you can download the IMS guidance notes

By | 2018-04-22T05:12:45+00:00 April 8th, 2017|AS9100, ISO 14001, ISO 9001, Tools of the Trade|0 Comments

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