Standards and guidelines published by industry groups or standards organizations typically undergo an extensive review process prior to acceptance. A number of drafts may be required to refine the content and format into a structure approved by a committee of decision-makers.
As one might expect, the draft review and approval process is not consistent for every publication. The number of drafts, time to review, and types of changes requested will vary. Though each review is intended to be rigorous, errors often remain in the approved publication. The content may also require interpretation to employ effectively.
This is certainly true of the aligned AIAG/VDA FMEA Handbook. In this installment of the “FMEA” series, the Handbook’s errors and omissions, opacities and ambiguities will be discussed. Where possible, mistakes will be corrected, blanks filled in, and clarity provided in pursuit of greater utility of the Handbook for all FMEA practitioners.
AIAG compiles errata documents to inform users of known errors within its publications. The most recent version of the AIAG & VDA FMEA Handbook 1 Errata Sheet (English – June 2020) is 10 pages long. It contains many corrections of terminology and formatting, many of which are simply “copy/paste” or “find/replace” errors.
With an ostensibly rigorous review process in place, why did so many simple, blatant errors go unnoticed until after publication? Many readers will not have the Errata Sheet at hand when learning the aligned method; some may not even be aware of its existence. This puts those readers at risk of confusion, misapplication, and ineffective analysis, negating the expected benefits of the aligned approach. It is disappointing that a highly-anticipated release of an update of this magnitude be so seemingly carelessly done.
This discussion is not intended to be a line-by-line analysis of the Handbook; that would be redundant and futile. Rather, it aims to highlight areas where clarification is needed or other improvement opportunities exist.
The installments of the “FMEA” series that discuss the AIAG FMEA Handbook are written to parallel the presentation of information in the Handbook (mostly – more on that later). This is done to simplify referencing both the original (the Handbook) and the companion resource (“The Third Degree”) concurrently, whether to learn the aligned method or to aid subsequent FMEA activities.
The “FMEA” series also uses the copy/paste shortcut to maintain consistency, for example, between DFMEA and PFMEA discussions. Therefore, it exhibits the same potential for error as the Handbook. However, “The Third Degree” has no committee of reviewers whose responsibility it is to ensure the accuracy of the initial publication; it relies on the author’s proofreading and editing. Reader feedback is appreciated to facilitate further correction and improvement.
In addition to offering recommendations to improve the efficiency of analysis, the installments of this series that present visual AP tables (Vol. IX) and recommended formats (Vol. X) also contain some critique and caveats that would be appropriate to include here. Readers are encouraged to review those remarks in the context of the full discussion rather than reiterating them here. Critical remarks are intentionally limited in other installments of the series to maintain focus on the 7-Step Approach as presented in the Handbook.
The Handbook discusses the use of a “foundation” or “baseline” FMEA as a starting point for analysis of a new product or process. This practice is similar to that described in “P is for Process,” where existing product and process information is stored for use across many programs. The key difference is that the Handbook explicitly states that the intention is to modify the foundation FMEA to suit the new product or process, whereas “P is for Process” focuses on direct reuse. Stated another way, the Handbook prescribes using the foundation FMEA to look for differences, while “P is for Process” looks for similarities between the new product or process and the existing.
In this series, “FMEA” is expanded to Failure Modes [plural] and Effects Analysis. Many sources, including the current and previous AIAG and VDA Handbooks, use the singular form of mode. It may seem trivial, but it is an important reminder that a Focus Element may have multiple Failure Modes and that thorough, effective analysis requires remaining cognizant of this simple fact.
Other terminology used in the series also may differ slightly from other sources. Examples of interchangeable terms include:
A series of comments, points of concern, and suggestions are presented below. Though there is some overlap, or applicability to more than one FMEA type, the remarks, again, approximately parallel the Handbook’s presentation order (i.e. Design FMEA, Process FMEA, FMEA-MSR). Given that, the remarks are still somewhat disjointed, precluding a coherent, flowing discussion; therefore, a bullet-point format is used to reflect this.
2) When status is “Not Implemented,” remove the action information from the form, place a “*” in the Remarks column, and provide justification for rejecting the recommended action in the FMEA Report.
3) Use “On Hold” status to identify actions that have been approved, but are not in progress. Provide the justification for postponing the action in the Remarks (FMEA Report). Possible reasons for placing an action “On Hold” include resource limitations, pending regulatory update, pending design change, etc.
The preceding collection of remarks is certainly not comprehensive. Errors that have not been identified in the Errata Sheet and other confusing or misleading elements that have not been discussed here remain in the Handbook. These, and other deficiencies, must be navigated at least until the next edition is published. The more cynical among us might suggest that AIAG’s catalog of onsite and virtual training sessions limits the organization’s incentive to ever produce a clear and coherent document. But only the cynical. Experienced practitioners will interpret, adapt, and share their FMEA wisdom as they have done for decades.
Outside the automotive industry, there is little reason to adopt the new FMEA methodology. Many of the supporting tools, such as structure trees, can be applied to classical FMEA, if desired. The investment required to transition to the new approach may be unwarranted, unless the products of interest contain diagnostic systems that would benefit from the additional scrutiny of FMEA-MSR. An online search yields presentations by both advocates and opponents of the aligned approach. Readers are encouraged to consider both positions, whether to inform a decision on transition or to best utilize the new method when required.
For additional guidance or assistance with Operations challenges, feel free to leave a comment, contact JayWink Solutions, or schedule an appointment.
For a directory of “FMEA” volumes on “The Third Degree,” see Vol. I: Introduction to Failure Modes and Effects Analysis.
[Link] “FMEA Handbook.” Automotive Industry Action Group and VDA QMC, 2019.
Jody W. Phelps, MSc, PMP®, MBA
JayWink Solutions, LLC
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