Using FMEA Templates to Speed Up and
Improve the Quality of FMEA or RCM Analyses
When used properly as a brainstorming tool,
FMEA Templates can be very effective to reduce the time required to perform
an FMEA or RCM analysis. In addition, they can provide an arguably even more
important benefit by helping to improve the depth and quality of the
analysis to better facilitate decision-making. This article describes how
FMEA Templates can be used to speed up and improve the quality of an FMEA or
RCM analysis and presents a brief summary of the ways that ReliaSoft's
FMEA Accelerator products
can be used to support such analysis techniques.
The Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) methodology has been
used for many years in many different industries to help analysts to
understand the potential failure modes in a design, then to evaluate the
risk posed by those failures and identify the most appropriate corrective
actions. The same analysis technique is a central component of the
Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) analysis methodology, which has
also proven to be effective for developing safe, reliable and cost-effective
maintenance policies for equipment. In both cases, the analysis process can
be labor-intensive and time-consuming to perform correctly, causing many
analysts to be eager to find ways to reduce the time required to complete
their analysis projects.
Approaches that may speed up the process
but result in poor quality analyses that do not effectively support
decision-making are, of course, not recommended. However, at least one
technique, the proper use of FMEA Templates, has been used effectively by
many analysts not only to accelerate the analysis process but also to
improve the quality and usefulness of the analysis to improve the design or
In the context of this article, "FMEA Template" refers to a generic analysis
that has been prepared in advance by analysts who are experts in the FMEA
analysis methodology and familiar with the type of component or equipment
for which an organization may wish to perform a specific FMEA or RCM. It
contains general descriptions of typical functions, failures, effects and
root causes that have been observed or anticipated by the subject matter
experts who prepared the template. In some cases, it may also contain
general information about potential mitigation strategies that have proven
effective in the past.
For example, a template to be used for
performing an RCM analysis on a pump might consist of generic descriptions
such as the following:1
- Function: Move X fluid while
maintaining Y flow rate.
- Functional Failure: Pumps less
than the required flow rate. Suction valve partially closed.
- Effect: Process impact and
pump impeller damage.
- Cause: Valve component
Such templates might be prepared internally
within the organization by engineers who have performed a large number of
FMEAs and wish to share their experience in an organized fashion with
engineers who will perform analyses on similar items in the future.
Likewise, high quality analysis templates may also be prepared by
consultants who have extensive subject matter expertise and a great deal of
experience with facilitating FMEAs for a variety of clients.
Using FMEA Templates as a Brainstorming
Of course, it is highly unlikely that a particular FMEA Template will have
been prepared for exactly the same item used in exactly the same operating
context as the one that the organization wishes to analyze. Therefore, in
most if not all situations, an FMEA Template cannot be used to completely
replace the organizations own specific analysis effort. Rather, the most
appropriate way to use an FMEA Template is as a brainstorming tool to speed
up and improve a specific analysis that the organization needs to complete.
There are many ways that this could be accomplished depending on the
situation and the work process of the particular analysis team. One possible
approach is to use the Template as a starting point for the analysis and
then delete portions that are not applicable for the specific analysis,
modify other portions to make them fit the specific situation more closely
and finally to add information that was not included in the Template but is
relevant to the particular analysis being performed. Another approach is to
use the Template data in the form of "pick lists" so that the analysis team
can browse through the information and select portions to insert into the
current analysis whenever appropriate.
For example, when an organization begins to
perform an RCM analysis for a specific pump in a specific operating context,
the analysis team could review an FMEA Template like the one referenced
above in order to determine which functions and failures might be applicable
to their own particular analysis. Relevant descriptions could be imported
and adjusted to meet the specific situation. The team would then add any
relevant functions and/or failure modes that were not anticipated by the
Template and also perform the risk analysis and identify the mitigation
efforts that are appropriate for the specific circumstance.
Some of the benefits of using an FMEA
Template as a brainstorming tool include:
- Saves the time that would have been
required to identify and enter the basic functions and failures that are
common to most items of a particular type.
- Expands the depth and breadth of the
engineering experience that goes into performing the analysis by
ensuring that the analysis team considers specific functions or failure
modes that they may not have thought of on their own (or that would have
taken more time to arise in the discussion).
- Helps to ensure consistency of data
entry if commonly occurring descriptions are always imported from
Templates rather than entered manually.
Xfmea, RCM++ and FMEA Accelerator
ReliaSoft's Xfmea software
facilitates analysis, data management and reporting for all types of
FMEA/FMECA analysis. The companion
RCM++ software provides full
support for RCM analysis and data management. Both products provide a
variety of tools to help analysts to find and re-use data from existing
analyses when applicable, thereby providing extensive support for the
Template-based approach to FMEA or RCM analysis. Available tools include but
are not limited to the following:
- Import Spreadsheets: A choice of
four Excel templates that can be used to import function, failure,
effect, cause and related data directly from outside data sources. Most
delimited file formats for this type of data can be converted to one of
the import spreadsheets with a reasonable amount of effort.
- Import Items and/or FMEA Utility:
Allows the user to browse for and import all or portions of an existing
- Import Wizard: Allows the user to
search for and import existing FMEA(s) using up to three keywords and
Boolean operators to identify the item of interest.
- Bulk Add / Select Existing Utility:
Allows the user to search for and select existing function, failure,
effect, cause or related descriptions directly from an existing analysis
- Copy/Paste: Allows the user to
easily copy/paste portions of one analysis into another analysis.
All of the capabilities mentioned above can
be used to access FMEA Template data that is stored in outside data files,
existing analyses that have been performed in Xfmea/RCM++ and/or pre-defined
Phrase Sets that have been prepared by users within the software. In
addition, with the release of CRV 4.0.2 in April 2007, both Xfmea and RCM++
can now be integrated with a new resource, the FMEA Accelerator FMEA
Template Collection. This database-driven knowledge base provides a
selection of FMEA templates for a wide variety of components. These
Templates were prepared by experienced analysts who are knowledgeable about
the components and the failure mode analysis process and can be purchased by
collection or individually, depending on the organizations particular needs.
1. These particular
descriptions have been copied from one of the FMEA Templates available in
the MRG Physical Asset FMEA Collection, prepared by Management Resources
Group (MRG) and available for purchase via the FMEA Accelerator.