In the context of quality management, FMEAs are living documents, and you should always remember this fact. Improving design is the ideal when creating FMEA documents, yet far too many manufacturers simply file away FMEA paperwork, which never again sees the light of day – until a serious problem occurs.
Here are 3 ways to improve FMEAs today to give your company a competitive advantage.
Thoroughly Investigate Why Some FMEAs Tend to Fail and Why Some FMEAs Work
You should always remember that the entire purpose of FMEAs is to lift design quality. For example, process FMEAs need to focus on improving the design of manufacturing processes, as opposed to refining these processes by “classic” methods like extensive post-production testing. As you recap your FMEA documentation, you may notice that some FMEAs seem to be more successful than others, but why? The answers very likely relate to who is doing the FMEA and how you integrate your FMEA documents from a company-wide point of view with IT tools. As a general rule of thumb, quality management software must be intuitive for end users to feel comfortable using the system. As such, when you revisit your FMEAs to pinpoint ways to improve, your IT toolbox is one aspect you should keep in mind. Simply put, look for ways to leverage IT to your advantage. For example, your department may be very skilled at using a certain software system, but employees outside of your quality department may resent using a software that they do not understand. In this scenario, workers may very likely resort to manual filing methods and rely on hard copy to edit FMEAs, which only breaks down communication and makes tracking revision histories to documentation incredibly difficult.
Create a Cross-functional Team, Don’t Tackle the Problem Alone
To have accurate and effective FMEAs, you should not tackle the problem by yourself. On a broader scale, another way to think of how to improve FMEAs is to look beyond the walls of your department. For your FMEAs to improve moving forward, you have to build a cross-functional team of experts to give you the input you need to improve quality. For example, your company’s design team may have an enormous amount of influence when creating FMEAs, but what about procurement, or logistics? The shop floor is the last place you want issues to occur since it is so late during the production process. Costs will only rise, so why not bring every department that has a stake in quality to the table? Only you have the right expertise to decide which departments to call to action based on how your company is structured. From another perspective, FMEAs afford you the chance to spread the message of continuously improving quality throughout your company via meetings with stakeholders. Holistic quality management software is certainly important, but if all workers do not buy-in to the new system, your efforts will not bare fruit – and costs will continue to rise.
Automate FMEA Processes
If you do not work closely with stakeholders in IT, you will not be able to make the most out of investments in software and automated systems. You should never forget that any software can only do what it is told to do. As such, you have to work closely with IT even if you do not understand the technical intricacies of how manufacturing software systems work on the back end. The good news is that you have plenty of options at your disposal, and automating FMEA processes via an upgraded software system is one option to consider. Too many manufacturers today rush through implementing a new quality management software. In truth, proper enterprise software implementations take time to get right the first time. Without a calculated implementation, the time-consuming inefficiencies of manual, paper-based FMEAs lock-in, which only makes the new system nothing more than “paper on glass.” When you are able to automate FMEA processes and integrate this data into your company’s quality management system, paper-based FMEA processes may obsolesce themselves as more workers buy-in to the new software system. Certainly, creating and analyzing FMEAs is a time-consuming process. As such, FMEAs tend to be one area that you can highlight for continuous improvement. This two-part blog series covered the most important aspects you should keep in mind. The next step is to take action and finally gain a handle on your FMEA documents.