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FRACAS: An Essential Ingredient for Reliability Success

Software Used


→ XFRACAS

Reliability engineering not only involves the use of statistical tools (e.g., Weibull analysis, degradation analysis, accelerated life testing, system simulation, etc.) but also involves the use of efficient management methods. In this article, we will briefly discuss the history and the role of failure reporting, analysis and corrective action system (FRACAS) in a reliability program, and introduce ReliaSoft's XFRACAS. This web-based FRACAS tool provides an organization wide platform that connects together all reliability-related management and analysis activities.

What is FRACAS?

FRACAS stands for Failure Reporting, Analysis and Corrective Action System. The FRACAS process originated from the defense and aerospace industries in the 1970s. It was an essential element in the early and sustained achievement of the reliability and maintainability potential inherent in military systems, equipment and associated software. Since the late 1970s and through the 1980s, major players in defense, aerospace, automotive and telecommunications worldwide invested millions of dollars to develop and support in-house FRACAS-related software. In 1985, the MIL-STD-2155 standard was created with the intent to standardize the scope, definition and implementation of the FRACAS process.

The FRACAS method is used in many applications, such as safety/risk reduction systems, process control systems and incident reporting systems. It provides a disciplined and aggressive closed-loop process for solving issues at the design, development, production and deployment stages. The fundamental tasks include:

  • Recording and capturing information about failures and problems
  • Identifying, selecting and prioritizing failures and problems
  • Identifying, implementing and verifying corrective actions to prevent recurrence of failures
  • Providing information from failure analysis and corrective actions in order to support reliability data analysis
  • Providing report summaries of incidents counts, and providing data used for reliability and quality metrics

What can FRACAS do?

The FRACAS method promotes the reliability of a product or process by establishing a formal process followed by the entire organization. It gives the following benefits:

  • Provides engineering data for corrective actions and preventive actions
  • Identifies developing patterns of deficiencies
  • Provides failure data for reliability analysis
  • Helps avoid recurrence of failures in future designs
  • Provides a centralized location for lessons learned, helping to reduce time and effort for resolving both individual incidents as well as problems
  • Essential for Quality/ISO certifications and audits

The FRACAS method also promotes reliability improvement throughout the life cycle of a product. It can be used and applied during:

  • Initial product design/redesign to identify and eliminate known issues
  • In-house development testing to improve the product, process or service
  • Field testing
  • Production and operations to increase efficiencies
  • Capital equipment installation, reducing costs and time
  • Product support in the field (end-user/customer)

With the advancement of computer technology, FRACAS has evolved from a paper-based single-person tool to a web-based multiple-user system. It is also no longer limited to simple failure reporting, analysis and correction, because formal management methods such as DMAIC and 8D approaches can be successfully integrated into FRACAS. For example, the following figure shows a DMAIC process as implemented by ReliaSoft’s XFRACAS software tool.


Figure 1: XFRACAS configured for DMAIC

The figure shows the Problem page, which provides a flexible framework for team-based problem resolution. With this approach, you can assign multiple incident reports to a single problem. This enables you to resolve the underlying issue, which addresses all related incidents and improves the design and/or process to prevent similar issues from occurring in the future. The Problem page can be customized to support any problem resolution methodology.

XFRACAS can also be configured to capture the details of failure analysis investigations. This gives a complete record of your organization's response to a particular failure. ReliaSoft's Weibull++ and RGA software applications are integrated with XFRACAS, enabling you to easily use the failure data to perform reliability analysis.

XFRACAS also provides database features such as querying, tracking and reporting. You can easily track the progress of projects and uncover bottleneck problems, as well as track the status of each team member's current tasks. In addition to the system’s powerful closed-loop action management capabilities (automated e-mail notifications, easily generated status reports, etc.), XFRACAS allows you to create checklists, link or attach related documents, query the "knowledge base" of past issues/solutions and identify stages (gates) that require formal review/approval.

How to implement FRACAS?

There are different ways FRACAS can be applied. Each application might appear to be different, but at the core, they are similar. Here are some of the best practices for implementing a FRACAS system:

  • Tailor the FRACAS system to meet your specific needs
  • Define and develop your FRACAS process and educate your teams
  • Ensure there is a clear distinction between incidents and problems
  • At a minimum, provide support for incident reporting and resolution, failure analysis and problem resolution
  • When possible, strive to create a data repository of lessons learned and reliability data to support further analyses

FRACAS Lessons Learned: Avoid Failed Implementations

Although FRACAS is a useful tool and should be used in every organization, it involves a change in the company culture and many different departments in an organization. Some of the lessons learned are:

IT Issues: Many organizations already have systems in place that have some functions related to FRACAS. However, most pre-existing systems were not designed for solving reliability- and quality-related issues and so do not provide a closed-loop problem resolution process. For example, it is sometimes not easy to convince IT departments to implement a full FRACAS system due to the inherent resistance, security and resource concerns.

Organization Issues: During the FRACAS process, various functional groups can be involved. In many cases, the interactions of these groups can be very complex and competitive. For example, one group may assign an incident or action to another group, with the latter group assigning the incident or action back to the original group or to another group, making the resolution of the incident an "infinite" loop.

Undefined Goals: It is crucial that goals and expectations are clearly defined before embarking on a FRACAS system implementation. Any constraints (cost, data availability, etc.) should be analyzed in order to determine how thorough the FRACAS process should be.

It is typical for organizations to evolve an internally-developed FRACAS system over time as their needs and sophistication grows. It usually takes more than 2 – 4 years to see the benefits of a FRACAS system. Here are some suggestions to help overcome resistance during the process:

  • Change involves changes in the culture, the people and the processes; make sure you address all three.
  • Demonstrate implementation benefits to all parties involved and get management support.
  • Get everyone on board as early as possible to minimize the perception that the change is against them and to include their wants and needs in the system requirements.
  • Training different groups will help the entire organization see the benefits and get "buy-in."
  • Perform ROI studies and get results of surveys and case studies that show reduction in costs, improved efficiencies, improved customer satisfaction and improved market share.
  • If the required support is not present, start small with a proof of concept implementation that can grow as it demonstrates success.

Summary

In this article, we discussed the benefits of the closed-loop incident resolution process of FRACAS. Using ReliaSoft’s XFRACAS tool, you can set up a formal process for reporting, analyzing and resolving reliability-related issues during the product life cycle.

Correctly using FRACAS will benefit the entire origination by speeding up the development process, reducing waste, accumulating useful information and making final products more reliable. However, implementing a FRACAS system involves multiple functional departments and, sometimes, a need to change the company’s culture. It may take years and support from management to make the implementation successful.

 
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