Failure analysis is an elementary and necessary process for the development of projects and the management of industrial processes. Taking this factor into account and applying a failure analysis report effectively translates into benefits such as:
- shorter repair time;
- reduction of waste, rework, and losses in general;
- greater efficiency in work cycles;
- failure frequency reduction;
- prevention and elimination of repetitive failures;
- optimization of preventive maintenance.
All these advantages will lead to your operations being carried out with stability and at the lowest possible cost, promoting profitability and quality in the final results. Now that you know the importance of failure analysis, let’s look at some concrete tips to apply it successfully.
Employ the 5 “whys” technique
It is a technique used to arrive in a gradual and detailed way to the dynamics, characteristics, and root of the failure, obtaining, as a result, a real and coherent solution. It is simply a matter of clearly defining the problem in question and then considering 5 “whys” – or more, if necessary – around what some call the availability calculation.
For example, if a tractor or machinery does not start, these “whys” can be presented and answered:
- Why won’t it turn on and start? Because the battery is discharged.
- Why was the battery discharged? Because the alternator failed.
- Why did the alternator fail? Because the band that allows it to rotate broke.
- Why was the band damaged? Because the alternator is past its useful life and has not been replaced when appropriate.
- Why wasn’t it replaced? Because the manufacturer’s recommendations for part replacement are not being followed.
As we mentioned, there may be more than 5 questions to ask, in case these are not enough to reach the solution and root cause. If after several questions you cannot find the central fact, check the way you are posing them or if you defined and delimited the problem correctly and precisely.
Use the Ishikawa (cause-effect) diagram
This diagram allows us to present and organize the different theories related to the causes of a problem. It is especially convenient to apply it if you are having problems identifying the initial or general problem, and then make the necessary approaches until you reach the root.
To develop this fishbone diagram, you need to follow these steps:
- Draw an arrow and specify the topic to be addressed at the end of it, proposing an “effect” to solve.
- Identify the potential main causes in secondary arrows, which cross the main one, categorizing each one under the scheme of the 5 M’s: materials, equipment (machine), work methods, labor, and environment.
- Indicate secondary causes in small lines that start from the secondary arrows.
- Assign importance and characteristics to each indicated factor.
Finally, the analysis of all the specified elements can lead to the final identification of a cause or root.
Failure analysis is a complex process, consisting of different aspects and involving the knowledge, perception, and experience of different members of the work team. For example, in a manufacturing company, the participation and contributions of operators from different production instances are required to finally get to the root of the problem.
This reflects that brainstorming is an effective instrument to carry out rigorous, precise, and broad evaluations, which translate into a specific diagnosis and, later, into a concrete solution. A good brainstorming process starts from a basic or general approach, is nourished by a significant number of perceptions, and is optimized with group analysis and prioritization.
Make failure analysis: an organized process with clear objectives
Each failure analysis must be a small project so that it can be carried out correctly and that it meets the expected and needed results. Among other things, it has to be aimed at identifying the mechanism and mode of failure.
It is also necessary to determine the root cause and recommend prevention methods for the same problem or similar events. The entire analysis and resolution process must be documented. This will serve to speed up future evaluations and facilitate the study of operations.
Identifies the phase of the failure and makes decisions based on it
Yes, the faults consist of different stages, which determine the tasks to be used to solve them, as well as the analysis methods to be applied. For this reason, in addition to the above, we recommend that you start your evaluation process by identifying the stage of the problem. This can be one of the 3 that we will address below:
These faults are recurrent, so the problem will be familiar to you. Here we find defects in equipment, incorrect installations, and poor management of resources and artifacts, due to the ignorance of the operators. By identifying these types of problems, even if they are initial, you will need to make important and root decisions to face them, such as changing pieces of equipment, training operators, or rethinking the design of facilities.
It is one that is constant but does not completely paralyze the operation. It is generally a consequence of external elements, such as fortuitous accidents and poor operation, but not due to specific problems and deficiencies of the equipment. Once you detect it, you must make the necessary changes so that these external elements stop affecting the operational dynamics.
As its name reflects, it is one that occurs as a result of the natural wear of the equipment and the exceeding of its useful life. It leads to an increased error rate if replacements and preventive maintenance are not carried out to avoid corrective maintenance.
And ready! You already know what you must do to carry out an effective and solid failure analysis. Do not forget that the profitability and stability of operations depend on this work, as well as the use of time and available resources.