Where can we start?

(Source: Dietz Consultants GmbH)

1. Target-oriented application of methods

This factor is not just coincidentally listed at the top: Despite FMEA having normative requirements, the method can be effectively applied in such a way that efficiency and effectiveness are the dominant factors. The following hypotheses are relevant in regard to this:

  • Goals and scope of FMEA. This includes, for example, restrictive questions and system states that are to be analyzed, and much more.

  • Identify, understand, and communicate the system boundaries of FMEA. For example, expressible via system interfaces, assemblies to be defined, or the limiting process steps in the Process FMEA.

  • The necessary granularity of the analysis: The “level” of the analysis must be logically related to the objective of the FMEA. To put it simply: If higher granularity (which requires much more effort) does not generate additional knowledge about risks, then this level should be avoided. For example, breaking down the function of a screw connection “transferring operating forces” into along list of corresponding design features of the screw connection is not expedient if the design and verification procedures that are determined by the risk can be copied for each of the features mentioned.

2. Data models / tools (use generic content many times)

Structural, functional, malfunction, and risk analyses have high generic content for the overwhelming majority of FMEAs. The explanation for this is simple: Models of physical realities are developed. It is known that the rules of physics are extremely stable. Project-related risks are however never generic! These facts must be used effectively in a data model.

From a high conceptual level, the following recommendations can be made:

  • Function and malfunction catalogs that include physically accurate descriptions are recommended and can be used for product families.

  • Categories for avoidance measures with generic knowledge are recommended.

  • Catalogued verification and validation measures (DVP) increase the efficiency of the team meeting.

  • “Smart copying techniques” of partial risk analyses can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of FMEA. Here, “smart” means knowledge persisting across the parent and child generations of the analyses. This is the only way to represent the activities of Lessons Learned in data-analytical terms.

  • Last but not least: A look into a future that has already begun: AI systems are already demonstrating capabilities that allow for the continuous updating of risk analyses through the use of big data.

3. Methodological modifications

The FMEA method is a thought model or tool. Therefore, there are tasks for which this tool is a perfect match. However, depending on the nature of the question at hand, this should prevent neither the use of alternative tools for risk analysis nor the methodical adjustment of the FMEA. The following is a list of examples of such tools:

Due to the scope of the content presented here, we would like to inform you about the 18th FMEA Forum Osnabrück, where this topic will be discussed in greater depth.

4. Qualification and competence of the moderator

The FMEA Moderator contributes significantly to the efficiency and effectiveness of the FMEA. Success factors:

  • The development of competence takes time! After just a few days of seminars, a new FMEA Moderator is not always capable of guaranteeing the desired level of efficiency and effectiveness.

  • The road to expertise includes professional coaching during real projects.

  • Of course, the personality of the FMEA Moderator plays an important role as well: A typical example is the enjoyment felt when communicating with experts in a goal-oriented manner. The ability to quickly “think up” technical connections on an abstract level is another characteristic of a moderator. This list is by no means complete.

5.Software tools for modeling risk analysis

Microsoft Excel, which is still of primary use in some companies, is not suitable for FMEA. Risk analysis carried out by brainstorming and combined with table-content filling leads to ineffectiveness: Those involved can sense the inconsistency of results (What is the cause? Type of error? Error sequence?) and can engage the FMEA Moderator in lengthy methodological discussions.

Therefore, appropriate software tools must be used for modelling the content of the FMEA independently of any form structures.

Forms are used to present work results, but they are not used to generate content. We have named an essential selection criterion for an FMEA software tool.

Software ergonomics is just as important. Scopes of analysis that are too complicated can only be understood visually, even by experts. Therefore, a software tool must be able to do this one thing: Visually represent the functional relationships of technical systems in a convincing and clear manner.A third selection criterion: the skillful application of available knowledge is necessary. See also the explanations above under “Data Model”.

Due to spatial constraints, the above points are examples only and are far from complete. If you want to dive deeper into the subject, register for our 18th FMEA Forum Osnabrück. At the 18th FMEA Forum Osnabrück on February 15 & 16, 2023, we will be taking an in-depth look at issues surrounding the efficient and effective use of FMEA.