FMEA as a modular system in the international context

FMEA present content with a high generic proportion. Generic in the sense that their content can in part be adopted for different products in one product family.

In no cases are risks ever generic!

Risks should always be viewed specifically in the context of the individual project, the specific application, and the detailed technical solution in question.

And yet, rather than always redeveloping the generic part, it makes sense to keep coming back to it.

In this text I outline a possible approach and a data strategy that enable generic content to be used without sacrificing the ability to specifically assess risks.

Success factor: Clarity and unambiguity of the terms used

1. Planning and preparation:
For planning and preparation, we recommend the use of block diagrams. In the first place, what we call block boundary diagrams should be used here. This diagrammatic form represents the inherent subsystems of an object of analysis as a “whitebox”. It also separates out the object of analysis: This means that the object’s interfaces are identified. The interfaces are also categorized (e.g. “exchange-related”: energy, signals, substances).

In the oft-cited ballpoint pen example, the following would be represented as inherent components:

  • Refill
  • Compression spring
  • Upper pen housing
  • Lower pen housing
  • Click mechanism

It’s now obvious that, for product groups (similar types of ballpoint pen), these block diagrams can be generically developed in a crude approximation and serve as an input variable for the planning of the analysis process and that they also offer us an initial structural analysis. In this sense, our recommendation is to develop generic block diagrams to support development and risk management.

2. System structure analysis
The system structure consists of system elements. In the design FMEA, these can be:

  • An entire system[/tooltip] (e.g. a powertrain)
  • A subsystem (e.g. the high-voltage system)
  • An assembly (e.g. the housing)
  • A component (e.g. a sealing ring)

Here we already have the first catalog, because the names of the above-mentioned system elements can be used in many places and are easy to catalog. Incidentally, this also results in a unified linguistic rule across all sites.The process FMEA features the following system elements:
  • The name of a manufacturing process (e.g. operation: MIG welding)
  • The names of the necessary resources according to the MMME model: (1M: Man/woman worker; 2M: Machine: MIG welding system; etc.)

As in the design FMEA, the names of the above-mentioned system elements are generic and can be catalogued and standardized company-wide, across the globe.

3. Functional analysis
In the D-FMEA, the functions of:

  • Systems, (e.g. powertrain)
  • Subsystems (e.g. high-voltage system)
  • Assemblies (e.g. housing)
  • Components (e.g. sealing ring)

… are described. The function of a powertrain or a high-voltage system is also generic in the first approximation. Functional catalogs for product families come in handy here. Since models of physical reality are built into the functional analysis, and physics has so far proved to be an unchangeable basis, they are, of course, generic. Where functions are specified by requirements (e.g. temperature ranges of the planned use), differences naturally result from changes to the project-specific requirements. Individual requirement catalogs (without target values) represent individual catalogs that are to be used in a data model.

The method described here can be used in the same way for functional analysis in the process FMEA. The functional description of the MIG welding system, for example, has a high generic content.

4. Malfunction analysis
Malfunctions are functions negated with expert knowledge from the functional analysis. In this respect, the working hypotheses from the functional analysis apply to the development of fault catalogs.

5. Risk analysis
In the first part of the risk analysis, the avoidance and detection measures are documented. Here, too, we recommend creating generic catalogs that depict the prevention measures for causes of faults in product development.

The same applies to the process FMEA. Here, however, it is advisable to build up or catalog the catalogs separately according to the MMME (man, machine, material, environment) model.

The second part of the risk analysis assesses the probability of occurrence and detection, taking into account the measures adopted. For this particular activity, any generic approach is out of the question! Here, the team of experts is required to carry out a risk assessment while taking into account expert knowledge, noise factors, and many other variables. This part must therefore be completely excluded from generic catalogs, data models, prepared styles, and copy functions, etc.

The previous explanations set out “stage1” of a multiple use of knowledge, namely cataloging and reuse. In a second phase, additional functional and fault networks can be developed through networking. This creates content for form views: Columns from the function description plus cause, fault, and consequence relationships are thus defined and documented and available for multiple use.

You could say that phase 2 is the actual preparation of FMEA to bring them up to “form level”.

“Supermarket principle” for block diagrams, catalogs, FMEA modules

[p]To develop a modular principle, we can now offer “prepared” FMEA for the components of our ballpoint pen: refill, upper housing, lower housing, etc. Depending on the structure of the overall system, these can be assembled as a modular system.[/p]

Warning: This only applies to the physical, generic part - in no case can risks be passed on to other project-specific analysis objects by copying them. Under no circumstances may FMEA be created by copying! Physical relationships that are mapped in the FMEA may of course be adopted (provided that the physics hasn’t changed in the meantime).

Let’s move on to the global aspect:
Globally operating companies often define competence centers for product development. These must be innovative, and yet, on the other hand, proven methods should usually also be used. This is where a global internal modular principle makes sense. All the more so since the generic contents of the FMEA and the catalogs can be developed very easily in many languages. The content’s simple syntax makes exact translation much easier and forces the user to find unified terms.

The FMEA thus optimally support the strategy specified in many companies to achieve cost savings through modularization, and reduced development time and expense.

The procedures described are an important component of our consulting services – especially for global roll-outs. If you need more information about this, please contact us.