Failure Mode and Effects Analysis

FMEA stands for Failure Mode and Effects Analysis. This is a complex and important process for manufacturing operations to perform. This process can be lengthy, but the rewards that come from it are worth the wait.  In a recent USA Manufacturing Hour Chat on Twitter, Host, Nigel Packer, from Pelatis Online led a discussion on FMEA and its benefits.


Delays that Affect Your Business

The chat kicked off with participants answering the question “If ships block the Panama Canal and the Suez Canal, will it affect your business?”

Chris Giglio from Rovere Media said, “It may affect a few of our clients but a lot of our business has to do with domestic manufacturing with not a lot of shipping.”

Gina Tabasso said, “Heck yes! Supply chain disruption. It happened during covid.”

Host, Packer replied, “he butterfly effect Gina. Something that happens half way around the world can have a big impact on your business and your life.

Felix P. Nater from Nater Associates said, “The business and educational institutions face these obstacles every day wishing they had creative, cost effective solutions.

Steve Chin from Steve and April said, “For the Real Estate industry, we're experiencing a boom in new construction. Delays in shipping would affect the new construction supply of appliances, building materials, etc... It would also affect existing homes that are remodeling to sell.

Host, Packer replied, “Steve, If only there were manufacturers in the USA? Transport problems in distant lands would not have such an impact.

Shaun from Patrick Stephen Limited said, “My primary business, yes because there will be a lot of knock on effects such as condition surveys, compliance extensions and force majure situations.

Host, Packer said, “Hi Shaun, Yes it can have a devastating effect on almost every part of the economy. Hope you are well.

Ruby Rusine from Social Success Marketing said, “Not directly immediately. But had it persisted, I know that it would.”

PENCOM said, “We have customers with different oceanic routes, but I suppose it will affect our business indirectly.

Anna Scheller from Capri Temporary Housing said, “As it stands right now, no. We don't have any clients involved in those areas of the world or traveling through them, so we probably wouldn't be affected too much.

Host Packer said, “We experienced this on 23 March 2021, when the Ever Given, a container ship run aground in the canal blocking it for six days. The effects of which were still being experienced months later.”


Possible Pain Points for Your Business

Next the chat then discussed what failures, in suppliers, in-company, in deliveries locally, nationally, or internationally could cause pain or damage to their business.

Chin said, “During Covid, supply chain disruption meant everyday things like appliances couldn't get to new homes being built, or house remodels to sell weren't getting done. Some of the new home buyers were existing home sellers waiting to buy, so they didn't sell yet.

Host Packer replied, “Yes a conveyer belt of delayed sales existed. here in the UK as well. It affected people all over the world. The number of ships queuing to pick up and drop off in Shanghai was enormous.

Chin then replied, “At the time we had a listing for sale in San Pedro, CA, which is on a hill overlooking the twin ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach. You could see all the container ships just anchored out there waiting for their turn to offload.

Nater said, “As a solo security consultant I am called to address existing failures in the company’s inability to roll out comprehensive workplace violence prevention policy, plans protocols in minimizing damage to their internal & external image.”

Host, Packer replied, “It often takes an outsider to see the failures and offer suitable solutions. You are a Master of your craft Felix.

Tabasso said, “Every business has dependencies. An example from this week: Our regular printer had their equipment go down. We couldn't get our flyer printed for the tradeshow. I had to find a printer in Branson (only 3). We could not get the paper we wanted and had to pay $$$.

Scheller said, “They're so numerous it could take quite a while to list... But the primary ones are as follows: Furniture delays Chip shortages/delays Halt in appliance production Apartment Construction delays Supply delays such as Pesticides and Plumbing parts To name a few...!”

Janice McKee with Burger & Brown Engineering said, “Too many to list: late delivery, poor quality, wrong delivery quantity, wrong product altogether

Pencom said, “Late orders, Delivery issues, Quantity discrepancies, Last minute price changes.”

Host Packer said, “We do not often think about failures in our business, until something goes wrong. What if there is a way to predict a failure and stop it before it happens? What if we could prepare a solution to kick into action when something does go wrong which reduces the effect it has on the business?”


Risk Mitigation

Participants then shared ways we can reduce or mitigate the risk of unforeseen events on the smooth running of our businesses.

Kirsten Austin from  DCSC Inc. said, “1.) Work harder to source locally & find multiple suppliers. 2.) Network with others as much as possible to open up communications 3.) Try & plan for the worst & hope for the best 4.) Modernize your manufacturing w/ real-time data to know exactly where you stand.

Host, Packer said, “Great answer. It is also important to calculate the cost implications. Would any actions to mitigate failure be more costly than not doing anything and firefighting when something goes wrong?

Austin then replied, “Prevention and preparation are key. Honestly, I don't think anyone was completely prepared for the last few years. We all learned a lot of lessons both good and bad.

Packer replied, “We should never stop learning. It has been a lifelong quest.

Giglio said, “Always have a plan in place and be prepared for anything. Other than that making sure you have a reliable/flexible team around you is essential.”

Packer said, “Or if you are aware that there may be a problem change your systems and processes to mitigate the possibility of it happening... and a plan B.”

Nater said, “In my work the best way to reduce or mitigate the risk of unseen/unexpected events is through my critical workplace violence prevention vulnerability assessment. You want to know what could harm the workforce and the business NOW.”

Host Packer replied, “FMEA is being aware of the risk and, I am sure you will agree Felix, many of your potential clients are not. Have a great week.

Tabasso said, “contingency planning, near shoring, reshoring

McKee agrees, “what Gina said, multiple vendors already vetted for outside processes

Pencom said, “Planning based on the Murphy's Law. Good to streamline logistics and have different options as a backup.

Rusine said, “My initial thought here is: Don't put ALL your eggs in one basket.”

Nater said, “You would want to know which of these areas are contributing to the risk factors and interfering with visibility of the organizations ability to see the problems. Alignment with other policy and programs is foreseeability at work.

Chin said, “Have backup vendors you can rely on if the primary can't come through?

Host Packer said, “Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA) is commonly applied to manufacturing production lines and processes. It can also be used in service business processes and logistics. It is at its best, applied to the complete supply chain of your business, from the raw materials being mined to the customer receiving the goods and using them.”


FMEA Steps

Next, the chat shared what they think the steps of FMEA are.

Rusine said, “Here are some of my thoughts about this. Identify the cause of failure. Evaluate the severity of the effects. Determine if it's likely to happen again. Prepare to detect 'symptoms.' Develop an action plan or response. Implement necessary changes and monitor.”

Host, Packer replied, “Ruby, consider removing the issue before it happens. This is one of the benefits of FMEA.

Rusine then replied, “I see... could you elaborate on that?”

Packer replied, “Ruby, FMEA is a process to identify issues before they occur. By doing so we are able to change the process to reduce any affects it may have on the business. Say you have an employee working with a client account. They phone in one morning to say they are ill. The client is expecting the broadcast of their content that day. In this case I would suggest that each account manager would have a buddy who could step in to deliver as part of the process. Give me a call and I will explain it fufailure_mode_effects_analysisrther if you need help. You could also speak to David Crysler who is familiar with the subject.”

Tabasso said, “Like anything Six Sigma/Lean related, put together the team”

Host, Packer replied, “Investigate beyond your own factory. Look at the suppliers and what can affect their processes. It is a benefit for both companies especially if the supplied component is mission critical to your business.

Scheller said, “Not very experienced in this, but here's my thoughts. First step should be preventative. Look at current processes and identify likely failure points. Assess each failure as it happens, gather all of the information on it, then make changes.

Pencom said, “I noticed that FMEA is effective when employees are effectively trained on it and implement the procedures.”

Host Packer said,

STEP 1: Review your process from the raw material to the customer.

Every part of the process including those for which you are not responsible. Create a schematic to visualise each step of the way.

Step 2: Brainstorm potential failure modes (What ifs.) at each step of the process.

This is a challenging part of the process. You must imagine all scenarios, over and above the things that occur regularly. Computer hacking, electrical failure, supplier company goes insolvent, employees leave, a competitor becomes aggressive, you stop getting raw materials from Tibet…

Step 3: List potential effects of each failure.

What would likely happen if one of your failure modes occurs? How will it affect your business?

Step 4: Assign Severity rankings.

How bad will this failure be for the company? Disrupt manufacturing for an hour? Close your business down? Assign a ranking from 1 to 10.

Step 5: Assign Occurrence rankings.

How often is this likely to happen? Every year? Once in two hundred years? The longer the time, the less needs to be done about it. But it is good to be aware of it.

Step 6: Look for mitigators to reduce the severity if the failure.

Can you introduce something to remove or reduce the effect of a failure? A Plan B or remove the problem altogether?

FMEA Benefits

They then shared some of the benefits of FMEA.

Pencom said, “It is the backbone of any procedure and can help reduce frantic panics and be strategically prepared for any challenges.”

Scheller said, “There's lots! The biggest ones are catching problems before they materialize and therefore saving energy and funds with preventative measures, as well as preparing for when chaos and problems do come up and therefore organizing a better response to them.

Rusine replied, “+ 1 here! We love this answer, Anna. Preparation is the key.”

Packer replied, “The FMEA process is to identify issues before they happen so you can make suitable changes to mitigate risk. Many solutions are small and simple to do. I also would say that often there is nothing you can do but you are aware of the issues.

Tabasso said, “Address problems before they occur instead of after. Proactive vs. reactive.

Host Packer said, “There are numerous benefits from conducting FMEA in your business processes:

  • Improve product/process reliability and quality.
  • Increase customer satisfaction.
  • Early identification and elimination of potential product/process failure modes
  • Prioritize product/process deficiencies.
  • Capture engineering/organization knowledge
  • Emphasizes problem prevention.
  • Documents risk and actions taken to reduce risk.
  • Provide focus for improved testing and development.
  • Minimizes late changes and associated cost.
  • Catalyst for teamwork and idea exchange between functions.


How Long is the FMEA Process

The chat then shared how long it takes FMEA to expedite.

Austin said, “I have no clue.

Rusine agreed, “We're going to wait for the expert's answer here.”

Host Packer replied, “A Good answer Kirsten. I delivered an FMEA project for an engineering company I worked for back in the 90's They had 700 employees and were based out of 9 sites. It took us 3 months to go through everything and we saved the company £000's and made us more efficient and effective. The project continued after this but was much less onerous occupying a few days a month.

Pencom said, “I think this would depend on the severity of the issue and the structure of the company. But I hope it doesn't take too long...

Host Packer replied, “It is dependent on the size of the company, number of stages in a process and the number of processes involved.”

Tabasso said, “depends on the complexity of the system and the product. Hours to days.

Host, Packer replied, “Keep a record of everything and revisit every few months to take into account any new technologies or suppliers that become available.”

Scheller said, “I'd imagine it really depends on the size of the company. Smaller companies are going to be able to pivot and adjust and asses far more quickly than larger companies.

Host Packer said, “Conducting an FMEA on your entire business can take months. A full business FMEA is achieved by breaking each part of the business down into manageable chunks with each department dealing with their own section of the process. You will need a leader to oversee the process with each department carrying out their FMEA work in parallel. This will reduce time scales to weeks. Regular meetings between departments will also improve transition times between said departments.

Your FMEA is a living document and should be reviewed annually to look for further improvements as innovative technologies and processes become available.

With the development of AI, the process can speed up so eventually your business will benefit from the incremental improvements achieved.

By involving all those in the business, they become invested in the process making FMEA a core competency with all your employees.”





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