Many of the techniques and methodologies in the Lean/Six Sigma area have their roots in the automotive industry. While failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) does not originate directly from there, it still sees a lot of active use by companies in this field, and it can bring many benefits to a modern manufacturing plant, as long as its leaders know how to apply it correctly and how to make use of the information it produces for them. FMEA can be a highly effective tool for minimizing the error rate in a system over a longer term and for identifying the underlying problems in any situation of failure, and itâ€™s not hard to find examples of that.
Optimizing Manual Processes Step by Step
A commonly seen example of FMEA in the automotive industry is in manual processes which are carried out in discrete steps. Itâ€™s often important to assess the risk level of each of those steps separately, allowing the operator to know when they should be paying more attention. On the other hand, in cases of failure, this can very effectively help guide the investigating team to the root cause of the problem. They can simply target the high-risk steps first and sort the list by that criteria, moving down as they check each one.
The true power of FMEA shines when it comes to breaking down each of those steps into its potential causes and recommended courses of action â€“ for example, when it comes to something like applying wax to a car door, you can prepare a list of specific potential failures for each step of the procedure, and the operator can study that list and know where to start looking in case something goes wrong. Whatâ€™s more, they will also know what details could potentially go wrong, and will be able to direct their attention to those areas when performing the task, minimizing the risk that they will mess up the job.
Optimizing the Construction of Safety Critical Parts
When it comes to cars, safety is a critical feature that has to be observed under a microscope at every step of the production process. FMEA can be used to assign risk levels to each separate part of the process when a worker is constructing a feature that can affect the safety of the car, giving the worker an opportunity to pay more attention to that feature and to potentially double-check it after completing the job.
This also carries over to post-production verification procedures, which can be made significantly simpler and more streamlined with the help of FMEA. The whole plant can work according to a standardized model that allows them to guarantee the safety of the parts they produce, and discard the ones that donâ€™t fit the criteria early on. A proper implementation of FMEA can significantly improve the overall safety of a plant, and it can reduce the expenses of the company in this area.
Failure mode and effects analysis is a technique that should be studied in a lot of detail by people operating in the automotive industry, and there are plenty of examples of its successful use in this area. It doesnâ€™t take long to find ways to apply it in a typical production plant, and as long as youâ€™re motivated to ensure that the work done by your operators is safe and at a high level of quality, this is one of the first steps you should take. There is a lot of information about it out there too, so you shouldnâ€™t have too much trouble getting up to speed with current trends.