When Management Elevates the Importance of FMEA, People Do the Right Things

Published on: February 14, 2019
By: Murray Sittsamer

Is your Failure Mode & Effects Analysis a document that you spend time crafting but then only file it away? Or is it something that really impacts a product design or improves what’s happening on your plant floor? In other words, does your organization treat the FMEA as a noun – a thing that is complete and saved – or as a verb – an ongoing reflection of risks and countermeasures?

We want you to think about FMEA the way we do, somewhat like a cardiac EKG: it is most useful when it functions as a real-time monitor, reflecting the actual controls and risks in your product design or manufacturing line. When thought of this way, it has the greatest chance of making your business better.

Why is this shift in thinking important?

When you find yourself burdened by problems that could have been prevented, it is an indication that you need to examine how FMEAs are developed and updated. These problems might include customer complaints, excessive scrap, or poor first-time quality. Perhaps you wonder “Why aren’t we getting it right? We hire great people; we invest in the right infrastructure!” But do you use that talent to ensure no defects can get to your customer?

On a very bad day, your boss (or customer) might ask you “what is it in your quality system that allows you to ship junk?!!!” That sure would be disturbing!

If you’ve been in or close to that situation, I suggest that you change the way your organization perceives the FMEA. Move from a compliance mindset (having the perfect document), to an action mindset (driving a quality system that prevents problems). By bringing the FMEA to life, you can improve the ways team members experience planning and execution, so all feel good about the business results.

Here are three ways to do that:

  1. Demand sincere management involvement. Actions speak louder than words and your team will do what you value. Demonstrate that you value FMEA by not just managing milestones, but also by looking at elements in the FMEA that deal with new features, or new technologies, or things you worry about.
  2. When an internal or external quality issue comes up, ask to see what the FMEA said about it. You might find that it was not considered in the FMEA, or planned controls were too optimistic, or even that recommended actions were not completed. Reviewing this sends a clear message that FMEAs should be used proactively and continually to reduce risk.
  3. Encourage team input. Improve your FMEAs by gaining inputs from people with different points of view. Their knowledge makes your product or process better, and involving them creates the buy-in needed to implement change. Help them block out time to focus on FMEA because, without focus, there are bound to be countless interruptions.

These three simple actions are an investment in excellence and have a high payback, but that’s only possible when you treat the FMEA as a verb… a real-time monitor and guide to action, not just a document completed for your customer.

Taking the next step

If you’re ready to shake things up, to think differently about using the FMEA, The Luminous Group has a few ways that you can start.

We’ve created a video series called Bringing FMEA to Life. Two of those videos deal with the people side of FMEA. Rich Nave and I share our insights on how your organization can better implement and benefit from the FMEA. Upcoming installments to this series will focus on Applying Preventive Thinking to FMEA and Making FMEA the Hub of your Quality Documents.

The Luminous Group also wants to make it easier for companies to start this change in thinking. Contact us to set up a time for a call or in-person meeting to talk through your goals and challenges. After learning about your current approach, we’d be glad to shed some light on using your FMEA to achieve real and lasting improvement on your journey to excellence.