Preventive Thinking is What FMEA is All About

Published on: March 13, 2019
By: Murray Sittsamer

I’ve seen a lot of Failure Mode and Effects Analysis over my career.  Many are done only for show.  Others – that have high-fidelity with the product or process it covers – enable problem prevention.  With the cost of customer problems being so high, wouldn’t you rather ensure your FMEAs reflect real life and prevent problems?

Preventive Thinking is a critical element to drive down the cost of problems, both before and after product launch. For those companies using FMEA well, congratulations and thank you for encouraging Preventive Thinking in your supply base.

Here are three things you can do to make sure FMEAs drive maximum cost savings. (More detail about each of these three points can be found in the “Bringing FMEA to Life” videos at the end of this post.)

1 – Provide appropriate training and technical knowledge

Knowledge of FMEA terminology and the interaction between the columns in an FMEA form is necessary to complete an FMEA properly. Without that, you risk producing a document that is not respected by peers or your customers.

“FMEA thinking” requires an alignment in how employees identify requirements, and enter failure modes, effects, causes, preventive controls and detection controls. When team members have a shared understanding, the resulting conversations lead to improvement.

Teams should have the correct FMEA Standard document and any relevant handbooks. There are many ways to obtain the right training, including eLearning or training workshops from our company.

2 – Do it early

When the design of a product or process is young, you are able to find opportunities to prevent problems with lower incremental costs. After the design is completed, the process is defined, and tooling is set; costs of change rise significantly.

Starting the Design and Process FMEA early allows the team to think creatively and ultimately save your organization money by reducing or eliminating changes later in the product life-cycle.

3- Keep it real

Tie the FMEA to reality.  Look at physical models and digital simulations. Go to the plant floor; go to the Gemba (Japanese term that means “the actual place”) and see how the part is made, and how errors occur. Develop your FMEA to reflect the actual preventive and detection controls that are in your design process or on the plant floor.

Looking at real-world data (internal ppm as well as your customer incidents and problem reports) will ensure that known problems are included – with their relative likelihood of occurrence – and dealt with in your FMEA to lower risk of recurrence.

Taking the next step

If you’re ready to shake things up, to think differently about using FMEA, The Luminous Group can help.

Our “Bringing FMEA to Life” video series includes three videos that focus on Preventive Thinking. Rich Nave and I share our insights on how your organization can better implement and benefit from FMEA. Other themes in the 10-video series deal with the People Side of FMEA, and Making FMEA the Hub of your Quality Documents.

The Luminous Group wants to make it easier for companies to start this change in thinking. If you want other ideas to drive Preventive Thinking across your company, contact us to set up a time for a call or in-person meeting. After learning about your current approach, goals and challenges, we’d be glad to shed some light on using your FMEA to achieve real and sustained improvement on your journey to excellence.