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Using the Fishbone Diagram to tackle your reliability issues

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  • Community Leader

Hi all,

This week we will be discussing about one more defect elimination technique: Fishbone Diagram.

What is Fishbone Diagram?

This powerful Japanese tool was created by Dr. Kaoru Ishkawa, who was a Chemistry from Tokyo and worked in several industries, such as the Japanese army, chemical companies and universities. The purpose of the Fishbone Diagram is to provide a systematic approach to determine potential causes and root causes, by determining the relationship between causes and effects. Those are put in a diagram that looks like the skeleton of a fish, which explains its Fishbone Diagram name.

Figure 1 – Example of Fishbone Diagram


How should I use it?

First of all, define what is the problem that will be analysed. 

The brainstorming process plays a really important role here, so gather information and an experienced team. 

List all the possible causes for the failure event.

Analyse and verify each one (use as much data as you can) in order to understand if this can be a cause or if this can be ruled out until you find the root cause. 

Once this is done, create an action plan to eliminate the problem.


A Fishbone Diagram example:

See below an example of a Fishbone Diagram for a leaking pump:

Figure 2 – Example of a leaking pump Fishbone Diagram


When can I use it?

Similarly to 5Whys (see topic here), the Fishbone Diagram can be used for many different problems, from a piece of equipment failure to a process failure. Yet, it is usually used to solve simple events.


How about you? Have you used the Fishbone Diagram? Was it helpful to solve your problem?


Raul Martins

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  • 2 weeks later...

Excellent post Raul, thank-you for taking the time to write it out.


I work for a multi-national poultry producing company we use the fishbone diagram as part of our RCA process. The operations team use it to help solve some of their issues as well and the maintenance dept and it works very well.


I like that they can be done quickly and almost anywhere,  I have seen us pick five team members and have a quick RCA in the production office some of the things that come out of the brainstorm you never think of. Strangely having someone from outside the general area  tends to work well as they see the issue from a different viewpoint. 


generate the action plan.

assign owners and timescales.

you are ready to go!

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • Community Leader

Hi @Hadwll,

That is great! Everyone has to be involved in the defect elimination process, especially frontline operators and maintenance technicians, as they quite often know what are the causes and solutions for the failures. Yet, sometimes they do not have the right tools to solve such failures. 

Having someone from outside that will bring a different perspective and resources to solve them working along with them is key.


Raul Martins

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