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Team-Based Problem Solving Methods and XFRACAS

[Please note that the following article — while it has been updated from our newsletter archives — may not reflect the latest software interface and plot graphics, but the original methodology and analysis steps remain applicable.]


The organization's Failure Reporting Analysis and Corrective Action System (FRACAS) is a valuable tool for capturing the details related to incidents for a product or process (i.e., failures, events, suggestions, etc.) and following up with the appropriate corrective actions. When there are many incident reports that all result from the same underlying problem, the organization may choose to assemble a team that has the responsibility to take whatever actions may be necessary to effectively resolve the problem.


There are many different approaches to team-based problem solving, each with its own acronyms and buzzwords. Some methodologies can be described with four steps, such as PDCA (plan, do, check and act) or DCOV (define, characterize, optimize and verify). Some methodologies use five steps, such as DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve and control) or DMEDI (define, measure, explore, develop and implement). Other methodologies, such as the 8D (TOPS) approach, use eight steps.


This article provides a brief overview of three commonly used problem solving methodologies -- 8 Disciplines (8D), Six Sigma DMAIC and the PDCA cycle (Deming Cycle) -- and describes how ReliaSoft XFRACAS system can be configured to fit these and other problem solving approaches (from 4 to 8 steps).


8 Disciplines (8D) - TOPS The 8 Disciplines (8D) approach, sometimes also referred to as "Team-Oriented Problem Solving” (TOPS), was developed within Ford Motor Company in the 1980s. As the names imply, the approach involves a cross-functional team following eight guidelines (or steps) that have been designed to enable the team to understand a problem, resolve it and take steps to prevent the same or similar problems from recurring in the future. The approach consists of the following 8 Disciplines (8Ds).


  • D1 - Use Team Approach: Establish a team (with an effective team leader) that has the knowledge, time, authority and skill to solve the problem and implement corrective actions.
  • D2 - Describe the Problem: Fully describe the specific problem in measurable terms.
  • D3 - Contain the Problem: Define and implement intermediate actions that will protect the customer from the problem until permanent corrective action can be implemented. Verify the effectiveness of these actions. 
  • D4 - Identify/Define and Verify Root Causes: Identify all potential causes that could explain why the problem occurred. Test each potential cause against the problem description and data. Identify alternative corrective actions to eliminate the root cause.
  • D5 - Choose Corrective Actions: Choose corrective actions that will permanently resolve the problem for the customer and will not cause undesirable side effects. Define other actions, if necessary, based on the potential severity of the problem.  
  • D6 - Implement/Validate Corrective Actions: Implement and validate the permanent corrective actions that have been identified. Choose ongoing controls to ensure that the root cause has been eliminated. Once in production, monitor the long-term effects and implement additional controls as necessary.
  • D7 - Prevent Recurrence: Identify and implement steps that need to be taken to prevent the same or a similar problem from occurring in the future.
  • D8 - Reward the Team: Recognize the collective efforts of the team and take the appropriate steps to make sure that the organization learns from what they did.


Six Sigma DMAIC The DMAIC process (often pronounced duh-MAY-ick) which is a key component of the Six Sigma methodologies, provides another structured approach to understanding and addressing an identified problem. This approach consists of the following five steps.


  • D - Define: Define the problem that needs to be resolved.
  • M - Measure: Develop and implement a plan to collect any data that may be required to understand and address the problem.
  • A - Analyze: Analyze the data to determine the root cause of the problem and evaluate what corrective actions would be appropriate. 
  • I - Improve: Identify creative solutions to address the problem. Develop and deploy the implementation plan for the corrective actions.
  • C - Control: Establish an ongoing monitoring plan and take whatever steps may be necessary to keep the issue under control in the future.


Plan - Do - Check - Act Cycle The Plan - Do - Check - Act cycle (also called the PDCA cycle, the Deming Wheel or the Shewhart cycle) is another commonly employed problem solving approach. In use since the 1940s and 50s, this four-step process was designed to be repeated until an effective solution has been employed. This approach consists of the following steps.


  • Plan: Select and clearly define the problem to be analyzed. Set a measurable goal for solving the problem. Analyze and identify the root cause of the problem.
  • Do: Consider possible solutions to the problem. Select, plan and implement the solution on a limited (pilot) basis.
  • Check (or Study): Gather data and analyze the pilot implementation for the proposed solution. If the solution did not prove to be effective, repeat the process in order to develop and test an alternative solution. 
  • Act: Identify and perform the actions that are required to implement the solution on a larger scale and plan for ongoing monitoring of the solution.


The cycle begins again when the organization identifies the next problem or further opportunities for improvement.

Configuring XFRACAS to Support Your Process ReliaSoft XFRACAS system is a web-based, closed-loop, incident (failure) reporting, analysis and corrective action software system (FRACA / FRACAS) designed for the acquisition, management and analysis of product reliability, quality and safety data from multiple sources, along with the management of problem resolution activities.


Although XFRACAS provides the tools necessary to address and "close the loop" on each reported incident independently, a team-based problem resolution approach can be more efficient and effective when individual incident reports signal an underlying problem that needs to be resolved. XFRACAS provides a flexible framework for this via the Problem Resolution Report (PRR) interface. With the PRR approach, you can assign multiple incident reports to a single PRR. Resolving the underlying problem addresses all related incidents and improves the design and/or the process to prevent similar problems from occurring in the future. The system administrator can configure the PRR interface to support any problem resolution methodology, from 4 to 8 steps. For example, Figure 1 shows the XFRACAS system configured for the DMAIC approach while Figure 2 shows an 8D configuration.


XFRACAS configured for DMAIC


Figure 1: XFRACAS configured for DMAIC


XFRACAS configured for 8D


Figure 2: XFRACAS configured for 8D


The PRR utility provides a configurable array of tools to enable you to coordinate and manage problem solving activities. In addition to the system’s powerful closed-loop action management capabilities (with automated e-mail notifications, easily generated status reports, etc.), XFRACAS also allows you to create checklists, link or attach related documents, query the “knowledge base” of past issues/solutions, identify stages (gates) that require formal review/approval, and much more. For more information on the XFRACAS system, please visit the product website at or contact ReliaSoft.