4 easy to avoid FMEA mistakes

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Vishy Chandra

Failure Modes and Effects Analysis is one of the essential tools in any Six Sigma practitioner’s toolkit. But like most basic things in world, it can be easy to go wrong in using this tool.

This article does not explain how and why you should use the FMEA template (for more on Process FMEA see this PEX primer). Instead, I look at 4 common mistakes I have seen people doing while updating this relatively simple tool. Here’s what they are.

Mistake #1: Not involving the process expert

Careful - don't slip up!

Good Six Sigma practitioners often take out the Process FMEA template as early as the Measure phase of a DMAIC cycle and start adding variables that they have identified by brainstorming and using a Cause and Effect Diagram. But hey, did you consult your process expert before adding them in to your template?

You may have updated a variable as uncontrollable, but for all you know, it may well be controlled. How many of you consult your process experts before updating the Process FMEA?

Mistake #2: Not creating a way of prioritizing risk that’s meaningful to your organization

Most Process FMEA templates come with a standard guideline - Risk Priority Number (RPN) - for rating three factors: Severity, Occurrence and Detection. The mistake? People take the standard as STANDARD rather than making the ratings talk about the process defect.

Instead, modify the way you want the ratings to look but be consistent in your approach. Remember that project teams after you may want to use the template depending on how you use it.

Mistake #3: Using the Process FMEA only ONCE

With SO MUCH EFFORT having gone into creating this tool, why wouldn’t you keep updating it? Dear friends…a process FMEA is like a living document, which needs to be updated every time there is a process change.

Mistake #4: Spending too much time preparing a control plan

Good practitioners will actually spend very little time connecting their Process FMEA to control plans. If you are having preparing a good control plan, just look at what you did to your FMEA. You may have not treated it properly!!

Think of these 4 mistakes you may have done in your process FMEA templates in the past, and try to avoid them. Of course, you can add on to them and make this one huge list.

But what do you think? Are there other common mistakes that I’ve missed?