Tailor-made FMEA for reliable performance at all wind speeds

What role can risk management by DIETZ Consultants play in the development of an offshore wind turbine?

Offshore wind energy presents wind turbine manufacturers with highly complex challenges. Detailed and custom-tailored failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) can contribute decisively to finding a solution. Identifying possible risks early can greatly improve the development process. The example of the development of one of the largest wind turbines in the world at the time of the project (in which DIETZ Consultants was closely involved right from the start) shows how this looks in detail. Developing a FMEA for this growth market was something completely new and one of the most exciting projects of recent years.

FMEA for one of the most powerful wind turbines

Flashback: The project aimed to develop innovative and reliable offshore solutions with reduced electricity generation costs. In developing one of the most powerful wind turbines required for this, many employees’ high level of experience in the field of wind power could be drawn upon. In order to deal with the highly complex challenges of this mammoth project while placing a strong priority on minimizing possible risks, the company relied on the experience that DIETZ Consultants had gained from numerous complex mechanical engineering and wind energy projects.

All told, more than 100 engineers from different European countries were involved. In addition to tackling the technical challenges involved, this meant forming a functioning interdisciplinary team with individuals who focus on mechanics, electronics, service, software, rotor blade design and the process, as well as finding communication channels and a uniform technical language.

A wide range of challenges for the FMEA

The FMEA had to meet two main requirements: On the one hand, the functional orientation of the product FMEA had to be defined. Here the main focus was on electrical, mechanical and control systems for wind turbines. The FMEA’s structure was designed to reflect the functional interrelationships and facilitate FMEA processing in small groups. This enabled, among other things, a hierarchical structure that depended on the basic functions and served as the basis for the function and error tree consisting of errors, their causes, and their consequences. DIETZ Consultants also generated a modular structure for further use and created a classification system based on responsibilities.

On the other hand, elaborating the FMEA involved focusing on the turbine’s reliability. To achieve this, the project partners jointly prepared evaluation catalogs for severity, occurrence and detection of possible malfunctions. The evaluation catalogs created in this way were intended to make the engineers reflect on their entire design. The most important questions for DIETZ Consultants were as follows: Can we take over design solutions, technologies or material from previous turbine models? Can we identify errors and their causes earlier? And how can we achieve greater robustness?

Getting to work – detailed elaboration of the FMEA

Following internal elaboration, a standard for the preparatory work was set from the very start. Before the FMEA sessions that took care of the operational work, several teams were formed for the various function groups. Each team worked out the structure, the main functions and typical errors of the respective components. As a result of this detailed preparation, all participants had a detailed knowledge of FMEA methodology and a better understanding of their component. Various responsibilities were also defined for the detailed elaboration of the FMEA. The project manager was responsible for the structure of the FMEA, while the chief engineers were in charge of the technical contents – i.e. the input and output of the FMEA. The FMEA moderators from DIETZ Consultants played a central role, steering the entire process and acting as contact persons for all parties involved.

The concrete work, in the end, took place during the team sessions. The complexity of the product and the planned time frame meant that more than one group had to work at the same time. The selected project software ensured that this took place without any problems. The FMEA moderators from DIETZ Consultants provided the final methodological guidance that was required, checked for completeness, made minor corrections and thus brought the development of the tailor-made FMEA to a successful conclusion alongside the customer.