The earlier an error in the value chain is discovered, the cheaper it is to eliminate it. The cost increase rises exponentially from the design stage to the customer. Therefore the application of FMEA is most ideal in the planning phase.
The FMEA Analysis
Basically, three types of FMEA can be distinguished:
- Product FMEA analyzes the design and the requirements of the products and checks them for possible sources of error.
- The process FMEA examines the entire production chain and focuses on the processes that are necessary in the manufacture of products.
- In the system FMEA, the safety and function of the systems and subsystems in the production chain are in the foreground.
Origin of the FMEA analysis
At the beginning of the 1960s, FMEA first developed in the aviation industry with the aim of reducing the failure rate of safety-critical products. In the middle of the 80s FMEA according to VDA is used in the automotive industry. The implementation of FMEA according to VDA is now mandatory in the automotive industry.
The positive successes with FMEA analysis lead to its increasing use in other production industries. The fact that FMEA analysis is becoming so widespread is also a result of the development of software solutions that make the use of this tool clear.
Guidelines and specifications of FMEA in the automotive industry
The FMEA guidelines are industry-specific. In the automotive industry, FMEA according to VDA was established at the end of the 80s and is now an obligatory part of the product development process (PDP).
Basically, a distinction is made between two industry standards:
- the German approach according to the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA)
- the American Industry Group (AIAG)
Both standards pursue the same goal: ensuring product quality and processes that produce results. However, the two standards reach their final goal through different paths - which became the reason for the alignment of FMEA according to VDA and AIAG. In the future, different standards should be avoided because they lead to confusion and communication problems.
The 7 steps of FMEA according to VDA and AIAG
Thanks to the alignment, FMEA now follows seven instead of the previous five steps of FMEA according to VDA. The basic idea remains the same except for slight changes. Newly added are the first step: planning and preparation and the last step: documentation of the FMEA analysis. An FMEA software and adequate training of the employees should guarantee the success and quality of the product.
1. Planning and preparation of the FMEA
This step reflects the importance of using FMEA already during the planning stage. After all, FMEA analysis should be introduced as early as possible in order to avoid errors already during the planning of a product or process.
In this phase the scopes are systematically recorded and analyzed. A project plan is defined and a time schedule is established. An FMEA team is put together and each member of the FMEA team is assigned his or her tasks. This not only allows more transparency, but also an efficient process.
2. Structural analysis
In the second step the structure of the respective FMEA is analyzed and individual components are determined. It is defined whether it is a product, process or system FMEA. It must be clear whether the product or the manufacturing process is to be investigated.
In addition, a detailed analysis of the interfaces and interactions is carried out, for which FMEA software is particularly well suited, because all internal departments as well as external cooperation partners have access to the relevant data. FMEA software creates suitable visualizations in the form of structure trees and block diagrams and makes them available to the employees.
3. Functional analysis
In the third step the functions of the FMEA analysis are assigned to the relevant system elements.
Diagrams provide a good overview of the functionality of the product or process and the assignment of characteristics to the individual functions. A function network visualizes how requirements are related to the implementation and what influence a step has on the function of a product. With the help of FMEA software, a profound analysis of functional relationships can be easily created.
4. Failure analysis
Failure analysis identifies potential errors for each function of a system element. Each individual function is thoroughly examined with regard to errors, whereby an error network is built up. Potential error sequences and their causes are identified. It is practical that during the analysis of the structure and functions, the potential errors and their causes are analyzed simultaneously.
5. Risk assessment
After the defects have been detected, they must be evaluated in the next step. Each error is analyzed in terms of its significance and probability of occurrence and prioritized accordingly. The previous risk priority number (RPN) in FMEA according to VDA is no longer applicable and a task priority is presented in a new form, which results from the evaluation and the probability of occurrence. This is divided into 3 levels: high, medium or low.
Once measures have been defined, the risk is reassessed. In this phase, the focus is on increasing customer satisfaction. To increase customer satisfaction, complaints must be avoided. For this purpose, the measures for risk reduction must be defined and monitored. After implementation, the effectiveness of the measures is evaluated and documented in an appropriate form.
7. Documentation of the results
Well documented results secure basic data for the future and promote a continuous improvement approach. Therefore, the FMEA according to VDA is extended in this point. The results are documented in a suitable form and made available to both internal and external customers and suppliers. FMEA software is suitable for facilitating documentation and enabling data release.
Advantages of FMEA software
Mistakes can never be completely ruled out. Recall actions are expensive and damage the image. In order to avoid the worst-case scenario, you have to act preventively in order to maintain the good reputation of the company. Nevertheless, many companies shy away from using FMEA because this method is very complex and time-consuming, especially in its early stages. However, the process can be made much easier by the support of FMEA software. The use of FMEA software provides an overview of the entire production chain. It can be easily adapted to the different company divisions and covers the needs of the individual companies. In addition, money and time is saved. The motivation of employees increases as well as customer satisfaction.
Advantages of FMEA training
Employees must be adequately trained in the use of FMEA. Each team member contributes with his competence to his area of expertise. The employees who accompany the production process carry out the FMEA themselves. Errors can be easily logged using adapted forms and adapted to the specific needs of the company. For this reason it is necessary to familiarize the employees with the software. They need to be informed about how the error analysis proceeds in each step so that they can take action in time.
For FMEA to be applied successfully, it must first be planned in time. An FMEA team should be optimally staffed even before the design phase begins. Trained employees must be able to carry out the FMEA in accordance with regulations and implement the specified measures in good time. Management support should also be guaranteed.
The FMEA method requires a moderator who leads the group work and guides the team through the individual steps of the FMEA. Each step should be appropriately documented using FMEA software - this is the only way to minimize the risk potential of errors creeping in and endangering production.
FMEA is an integral part of the quality assurance of a modern company and serves primarily to reduce costs and to detect possible errors at an early stage. The functional safety and quality of products and processes is increased, which leads to increased customer satisfaction. Unfortunately, many companies shy away from this method because the time required at the beginning is relatively high, but this can be simplified by FMEA software and training.