Risks are common occurrences in the daily operations of organizations. They may result in loss of value or other immeasurable qualities. Organizations must have risk control measures to ensure that risk identification, analysis, and mitigation are carried out effectively. They spend a substantial amount of their budgets in developing risk management strategies. There are different tools that they employ in risks reduction practices (Sower 2011).One of them is the Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA) that allows a company to detect possible failures. It is an intensive risk control measure that determines the possibility of the failure and possible consequences of such failures. Failure modes refer to the problems in a product system. On the other hand, effect analysis is concerned with the consequences and impact likely to occur as a result of the failure. The analysis also defines the system and outlines requirements to prevent possible failures. The system can be an important tool to integrate with an environmental management system to reduce the risk of the environmental failures.
FMEA has a history that began in 1940s in the United States where it was used to outline and determine failures in the systems and equipment of the military. It has also been used as a risk assessment tool in aerospace industry to ensure that chances of failure are reduced to manageable levels. It is important to note that environmental systems are prone to failures (Sower 2011; Jones & Robinson 2012). This it necessary to integrate risk assessment tools such as Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA). Failure Mode and Effect Analysis has two categories where one is concerned with the product while the other is process related. For it to be effective, an organization must ensure that the two categories are integrated into the system. The product related Failure Mode and Effect Analysis is also referred to as the design FMEA and is mostly used by design engineers to ensure that all potential failure modes causes and effects are catered for in terms of design. The other category ensures that the failures causes and effect of the system process are taken care of (Handfield 2008).
For a proper integration of this risk assessment tool in the environment system, it is imperative that certain critical steps must be followed. This process will ensure that the risk management team identifies all possible failures, their causes and effects and possible control or risk mitigation measures.
The organization must ensure that they look at the system, determine the start, and end processes. This gives the team an opportunity to face the possible failures, causes, and their effects head on. The integration process is teamwork where engineers, designers, developers, and team managers are expected to cooperate (Hoyle 2007). The participation of all these people will ensure that their different capabilities will result in an effective control system. It will also enable them identify the possible failures. Use of diverse expertise will help give ample prevention and control measures to possible failures.
The next important step in Failure Mode and Effect Analysis integration is a brainstorming session. All the team members in the environment organization must have a brainstorming session where the process and its possible failures are discussed at length. During this session, flow charts can be designed to evaluate the possible risks and their causes. This forms an important step since it offers a chance to determine whether the environmental failure is by design or the process. The brainstorming session also offers possible prevention and control measures (Panagiotis 2008).
The integration process also requires an outline of the areas likely to be affected greatly by the possible failure. At this stage, it is important that we understand where the failure will have great effect. It is also important to identify the effect itself now and in future.
FMEA integration must also consider the severity of the risks involved in the environmental management system. To achieve desired results, it is important the least severe risks are recorded first and classified in order of their severity. This step will also help determine the failures with greater impact to the process (Enterprise risk management today is leading research and best practices for tomorrow’s executives. 2013).
In order to have the best prevention and control measures, it is important that all possible causes of failures be properly identified. All aspects and anything are likely to cause failure in the process are identified by the risk management team (Haimes 2011). After identification of these causes, proper fixation should be carried out and effect changes where necessary. This process may entail looking at the various parts of the process to enable the team unearth any possible cause of failure. It is at this point that technical problem-solving skills are essential. In essence, this step involves identifying all the facts regarding a particular cause and possible solutions to such problems (Qfinance 2009).
FMEA is likely not to give desirable results if the failure occurrence rating is not fully determined. This process involves identifying the probability of a certain failure and the frequency at which it occurs. It is at this point that it becomes essential to determine the likelihood of failure and the failure rate. This rating is given numbers one to ten, as is the case with severity rating with the least occurrence rated as one while ten represent a high probability of occurrence. This is a very important step since it enables effective decision-making especially in matters pertaining minimization of such high probabilities (Carlson 2012).
After identifying the failure occurrence rating, the next step must involve identifying the causes of these failures. The occurrence and severity ratings will be vital components in this step since they provide guidelines to the necessary changes aimed at reducing such occurrences. The causes may because of the system failure that requires putting devices in place to detect failures before they occur (Breyfogle 2008; Hoyle 2007). It is also at this stage that it may be necessary to install instruments necessary to prevent problems and malfunctions within the environment system.
FMEA integration will also require its checks and control measures. This important step involves determining the effectiveness of the control measures put in place. Detection ranking becomes an integral part of determining the success level of the risk assessment technique. At this stage, the team has an obligation of ensuring that all instruments, devices, and control measures in the system fulfill their intended purpose. All the instrument and devices installed in the latter stage of failure detection are assessed, and their effectiveness analyzed. This is a vital stage since it ensures timely detection of failures to prevent further failures in the process now and in future. It also plays a significant role in ensuring that such failures do not lead to other failures in other parts of the process (Enterprise, Business-Process and Information Systems Modeling 15th International Conference, BPMDS 2014).
After identifying the different failures, their causes and impacts, the other step in the FMEA integration process involves calculating the risk priority number (PRN). This is a very important stage in the integration process since it classifies the failures in terms of occurrence and severity ratings (Sower 2011; Sharp & McDermott 2009; Hossenlopp & Hass 2008.). It plays a pivotal role in decision making since the failures with the highest risk priority number are considered first. These failures require great attention and more focus to ensure that the process is successful.
The last step in the integration process involves dealing with the problems in accordance with the PRN ratings. To deal with the failures, causes and impacts in a system, one must derive corrective and control measures. This step also introduces the changes in a controlled and traceable way (Gray & Larson 2008; Hoyle 2007), which serves as a reference point just in case such problems are noticed in future. It is, however, important to ensure regular review of the process. Any new changes implemented in the process must also be reassessed prior their installation to approve their authenticity. It is also imperative to have a system that will detect new problems swiftly to ensure speedy corrective measures.
The Benefits of FMEA
From the above discussion, it is clear that FMEA integration process is a tedious process and requires a lot of effort to be implemented. Nevertheless, the process is associated with several benefits. For instance, Failure Mode and Effect Analysis allow examination of possible failures and their effects on the process and the customers in both the short run and long run (Kendrick 2009).
The implementation process involves a lot of documentation and recording. The documents provide essential information on particular failures, causes as well as the corrective measures that can be employed against them. This serves as an important cost-saving measure since such information can be sued to prevent such problems just in case they occur in future (Carroll 2009; Kachru 2007). The information remains a vital organization asset both in the short run and in the end.
Another major reason FMEA is a good idea is that new ideas presented and put forward can be recorded for future environmental projects if not used. This plays an important role in ensuring that the organization always strive for improved and effective results. It will also be important in time-saving just in case such ideas are needed to solve future problems (Chapman 2013; Kendrick 2009). The completion of one process gives birth to new designs and expectations thus making the implementation a reliable process.
Additionally, Failure Mode and Effect Analysis play a pivotal role in designing the best possible process and system to maximize on service delivery and clients satisfaction. The implementation process also allows the team to identify clearly all the possible failures and their short and long-term effects on the process. The critical analysis helps in ensuring effective risk assessment and control measures are put in place (Smith & Mobley 2008).
Despite the several advantages associated with the risk analysis method, it has a few limitations. The process is time consuming and tedious due to the detailed exercise. It is worth noting that the completion of FMEA process can take hours or even days depending on the complexity of the task. This poses a great challenge in the implementation of the process since time is a critical concept in risk analysis and management (Kendrick 2009; Sharp & McDermott 2009). Additionally, the process requires recruiting the right participants for effective results. This may be additional cost to the organization since getting the right participants requires more investment in the human resource department.
Moreover, examination of human error is limited and sometimes overlooked. The analysis of causes and effects is superlative and prone to human error, and the occurrences have devastating effects. Follow up sessions are also vital for effective FMEA analysis. These sessions are additional costs to the organization and erode profits (Carlson 2012).Given the need for experienced and well-trained professionals to implement the system, upcoming organizations might find maintaining it non-cost effective. This puts them at the mercy of their competitors who have the resources to hire a proficient workforce to implement the system
FMEA is an important systematic tool for risk assessment and management. The underlying concept in the FMEA framework is outlining organizational failures and the process of minimizing their effects on the process and the clients. The system has proved beneficial for improving project management results and increasing customer satisfaction. FMEA also has some disadvantages. It yields better results only if used in conjunction with other tools such as the six sigma and others. FMEA is time consuming and requires employing of an experienced and well-trained team to implement it. The system also cannot detect some human errors, and that makes it less efficient. In addition, it is costly to maintain. Nevertheless, the benefits associated with the process outweigh its limitations thus making it a recommendable tool for risk assessment and management.
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