FMEA and planning for problems.

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In our projects, we always talk about performing a FMEA (Failure Mode and Effects) analyis, but I find that most Belts do not do one. I have found it to be one of my preferred tools because it provides a look at the problem separate from the brainstorming qualitative view.

I was triggered to write this after my last week of training when I had a PC failure for the first time in over 10 years of remote training. My HD or the HD controller completely failed, dead. Because of a FMEA done many years ago, I only lost 15 minutes of training. I have carried a cd with all the training files with me for over 10 years, and this is the first time I needed it.

This is an example of why I recommend a FMEA for all DMAIC projects, and major personal events. If you just go by opinion and history, you do not consider the very infrequent catestrophic events.

For teaching, the loss of the PC is a catestrophic event. It lead to a loss of the training materials and my business email. Because of the FMEA driven activities, I had a copy of the training material on a CD so I could use my client’s PC to teach along with a phone that could be configured to get my work email. With those two things in place, I lost only 15 minutes, it trying to get my pc back up, then I gave up and kept going.

For a project, many training sources use the FMEA as a tool to further develop causes that are selected out of the cause and effect matrix. It is what we teach as a default. But I believe there are other successful ways to use the tool. I prefer to use the 5-whys at the end of brainstorming to take the too general causes and drill them down to a set of actionable causes. Sort of like you would do in a Root Cause Analysis (RCA). Because of this, I do not need the FMEA to perform this task. This frees up the FMEA to do an actual risk assessment. I almost always find a number of Low-Hanging-fruit items to fix right away and I find a couple of catestrophic failure modes that we have no backup plan to work around. This is where the pc failure issues were found and addressed.

An FMEA on air travel led me to always keep one day of necessities with me all the time, medicine and such. I also carry two forms of ID (DL and Passport) on all travels. Of course I do not keep them together. And when I am teaching, I make sure I have everything for the first day of teaching in my carry ons. One other action is that I always schedule my travel to a client in a way so I never am taking the last flight into the town. This gives me a backup on a late flight or a cancellation. So far, I have never missed a first day of class.

I hope these thoughts will help you in your work, and travels!

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