If you want to make sure your Failure Mode and Effects Analysis is a bust and a waste of time, here are 10 sure-fire ways to derail an FMEA.

1:  Use FMEAs to prioritize risks, but don’t do anything to reduce the risks.

  • The initial output of a Failure Mode and Effects Analysis is the prioritizing of failure modes based on their risk priority numbers (RPN).
  • Prioritizing does not eliminate the failure mode.  Additional action (that might be outside the FMEA) is needed to mitigate risks.

2:  Assign one person to conduct the FMEA on his or her own.

  • Identifying failure modes is best done with team brainstorming.
  • A comprehensive list of failure modes is the basis of a solid FMEA.
  • One person acting alone cannot be expected to develop a rich list of potential failures.

3:  Do the FMEA in an afternoon.

  • It takes time to get into the details that are necessary for a strong Failure Mode and Effects Analysis.
  • FMEAs conducted over several sessions allow time to gather relevant data, solicit input from others not on the team and for team members to absorb information and question findings.

4:  Make the scope of the FMEA really broad.

  • Taking on an entire process (or design) will be a daunting task for the FMEA team.
  • Break a large process down into manageable chunks.
  • If the team starts to feel that the scope is bigger than initially expected, break it into two or more smaller FMEAs.

5:  Make sure that people who work in the process don’t participate in the study.

  • Experienced operators should be on the team to add their perspective.
  • They often have good information on failure modes and on the effectiveness of control systems.
  • They might have information on occurrence as well.

6:  Avoid getting into the details of the product or process.

  • A superficial look at the process will miss many failure modes.

7:  Focus only on external failure modes and ignore internal failures.

  • Many FMEAs focus only on the customer requirements (specifications).
  • Sometimes internal productivity losses, equipment damage, scrap and rework have very severe effects on the company.

8:  Don’t bother customizing the Ranking Scales used to evaluate Severity, Occurrence and Detection/Prevention.

  • Ranking scales should be meaningful to everyone in the organization.
  • The generic rating scales might be confusing to some teams.
  • Management will not be able to compare RPNs in order to prioritize activities between teams.

9:  Don’t bother with mistake-proofing techniques as part of Action Plans to mitigate risk.

  • FMEA is a prioritization tool. It doesn’t eliminate failure modes or effects by itself.
  • Mistake-proofing is one of the most powerful ways to reduce risk.
  • If the occurrence ranking can be reduced to 1 the RPN for that failure mode will be slashed.
  • This is especially true with failure modes that have very severe effects.

10:  Don’t tie the FMEA to a Control Plan.

  • The control plan tells people how to react when a failure mode occurs.
  • The FMEA will not be a living document if it is not tied to the control plan.

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