FMEA in Six Sigma Methodology

The acronym FMEA stands for "Failure Modes and Effects Analysis". It represents a technique aimed at averting future issues in project processes and eliminating risks that may hamper a solution.

Implemented within the Six Sigma methodology, FMEA, or Failure Modes and Effects Analysis, further identifies and evaluates defects which could potentially result in reducing quality of a product.  Defects within the methodology are defined as anything that reduces the speed or quality at which a product or service is delivered to happy customers.  While Six Sigma techniques are implemented to discover and reduce the variables in processes which cause non-random fluctuations, FMEA is used to discover and prioritize aspects of the process that demand improvement and also to statistically analyze the success of a preemptive solution.

How FMEA is Implemented:

Process mapping is achieved by graphically mapping the area of your company or organization that is exhibiting issues and showing what and where the vital inputs and outputs are at each stage of the process. For example, the simple process step of digging a hole involves a shovel and location (inputs), and a specific hole size (output). Potential for failure is created when an output is generated that contains an error (defect). This effect is then experienced by several areas relating to the process--customer, end users of the product, or stations receiving the product which lie in between the customer and end users. After all modes of failure are recorded and statistically analyzed, a correlation and regression technique is used to compare the modes in order to find the weak points that will need improvement.

After Improvements are Made:

Failure Modes and Effects Analysis is examined using a spreadsheet that categorizes data found when implementing these strategies. Lists are also made which provide step by step guidelines to follow when evaluating process maps which include listing:

•    Key process stages
•    Probably failure modes for each stage
•    Effects of this failure mode
•    Severity of effect on scale of 1-10
•    Identification of failure mode causes
•    Identification of controls being used to detect problems
•    Statistical analysis of data collected
•    Allocation of necessary actions to responsible individuals
•    Re-evaluation of the process

One of the biggest complaints upper-level managers have when FMEA is used to assess a process is that it is stored away after completion and no longer referred to when additional problems occur in the course of developing supplementary projects. FMEA is considered a dynamic Six Sigma Tool and  a valuable piece of  information which contains beneficial implications regarding the product or process of the product. It should be further utilized when similar issues occur in future projects, which could save time, money and useless expenditures of energy and manpower.

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