FMEA, AIAG, VDA, quality, quality management, QMS

In June 2019, the US Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG) and German Verband der Automobilindustrie (VDA) published the Failure Mode Effects Handbook in a joint effort to improve and harmonize Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA). Will it be a game changer to drive real improvements in quality and effectiveness of FMEA? 

Will the New 2019 Failure Mode Effects Handbook Improve FMEA?

Let’s first understand the changes and objectives made compared to AIAG’s prior version of the handbook – FMEA 4th Edition (published 2008).

  1. 7 Steps – These steps are the same regardless of the type of FMEA to provide a systematic approach to FMEA supporting team clarity and focus to provide results that are clear, true, realistic and complete.
  2. 5Ts – These are designed to align the cross-functional team working on the FMEA.
  3. Action Priority (AP) Replacing Risk Priority Number (RPN) – RPN has long been criticized for overemphasizing detection. AP puts emphasis on severity, then occurrence, and finally detection. It results in a High, Medium, and Low assessment of each risk where High risks should have a risk reduction action defined.
  4. Monitoring and System Response (MSR) FMEA – This is an entirely new FMEA type. It is intended to define fault mitigation during customer use to maintain a safe state or a state of regulatory compliance. This is a needed FMEA as we venture into more automated devices and transportation to ensure maximum safety during a failure or fault.
  5. Foundation and Family FMEAs – The handbook recommends the use of foundation or family FMEAs to institutionalize your knowledge, gain the efficiency of that knowledge and keep it a living document that will improve over time and which can be incorporated into existing or new products.
  6. Work Elements – In a Process Failure Mode Effects Analysis (PFMEA) the handbook details a framework to think about the types of work elements (e.g. man, machine, etc.) applicable to the PFMEA. This increases the likelihood the team will consider all reasonable potential failures or sources of variation.
  7. Multiple Levels of Effect – The handbook requires thought beyond the generic “effects” of a failure mode and identifies effects on your plant, the ship to plant, and the end user of the product. By understanding the application of the product by the end user, the severity of a failure mode can be determined.

FMEA Practices that Can Put Your Business at Risk

Let’s consider some commonly observed practices that can put your business at risk:

Lack of Management Funding of FMEA

Notice that I specifically did not call it “Management Support”. To truly make your FMEA effective, it takes care and feeding, which means funding. Generally, I see a lot of instances where management does not make it a safe space for people to work on FMEA. Addressing a current customer issue almost always trumps this work. But what are you sacrificing? When you only pay lip service to FMEA, you don’t get the intended benefits. Everyone wants dependable, high-quality and safe products, but few think about the impacts of not taking the time to do FMEA effectively.

 Consider the impact of a quality escape caused by your organization. For a simple example, these are 26 steps to ensure you maintain your original commitment to fulfill the customer’s order:

FMEA, AIAG, VDA, quality, quality management, QMS

The red steps are the effort required by the customer. This is a huge waste of resources and some organizations have entire departments that only do this. Why do we accept this chaos? How can we prevent this? Changing our behaviors to plan for quality rather than embracing detection and fire-fighting that leads to very high cost of quality, customer satisfaction issues, margin erosion and brand risk. The new FMEA Handbook lays out a framework to help facilitate behavioral change, but it will likely not happen if management does not fund, demand and monitor adherence and outputs.

Checking the Box

I have also seen customers do FMEA after the fact. While this may have some noble aspects (e.g. the fact that you did some risk analysis), the majority of cases are just efforts to “check the box” which does not lead to any of the great benefits of doing FMEA. It can lead to two fundamental problems: inspecting something that has really low risk, driving up the appraisal cost and/or not inspecting a critical feature that can lead to recall, injury or worse.

To do FMEA efficiently and effectively, it requires time from your best resources – those that have the most experience in various functions, are highly observant, and are eager to build quality into the part.

The new FMEA handbook requires documentation of the planning, risk analysis, optimization of the high priority items, and documentation of the results of the FMEA exercise. 

Copying from a Prior Part

Another observation is that customers often copy from a prior part’s FMEA, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but is risky if that practice lacks appropriate follow through. Many customers copy a prior part’s FMEA and only add failures specific to the part. What they may not incorporate are:

  • Improvements to FMEA made since the prior part copied from
  • Adjustments to severity based on application/use of the product
  • Adjustments to occurrence and detection based on new data

The new FMEA recommends a foundational or family FMEA that is living and can be used not only to create FMEA for new parts, but also for updating existing part FMEAs with those changes as applicable.

The Verdict

The new 2019 AIAG/VDA FMEA Handbook has some very sound practices to help a team, improve culture and prevent quality issues. However, if management does not fund and hold people accountable for solid FMEA work, there will be little impact. Use this new handbook as the catalyst to make the cultural change, remove the chaos, and improve your brand and margins. Companies will always pay for the quality of their products, it is simply much more expensive when done reactively.

Brian Brooks
Brian Brooks has over 25 years of leadership experience in manufacturing software and technology and is an expert in the management, design and development of quality management systems. Brooks has BS in Electrical Engineering and Physics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked at Ford Motor Company for 5 years as an engineer. He then co-founded his own quality management software company where he sold, designed, developed, consulted and implemented quality management systems for hundreds of manufacturers ranging from small and mid-sized to fortune 500 companies. Working with these organizations, he helped them identify, correct and prevent quality issues, resulting in reduced costs of quality at their facilities and in their supply chains, and lead to improved customer satisfaction and increased profitability. Brooks joined QAD in 2012 and has served in many roles including professional services consultant, technical services manager, and senior architect. In 2019, Brooks moved to his current role as Senior Manager of Product Management for QAD EQMS and applied his extensive experience to drive development of world-class quality solutions for global manufacturers in Automotive, Life Science, Industrial, Consumer Products, Food and Beverage and High-Tech industries. His goal is to develop solutions that have rapid time-to-value, are highly adopted and easy to use, which allows customers to prevent quality issues up front and reduce repeat occurrences.