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Building Practical Maintenance Strategies from FMECAs

Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) and Failure Mode, Effect and Criticality Analysis (FMECA) are useful theoretical tools to build your maintenance strategy and plans. While they can provide great value, their output can also result in an overcomplicated system that does not provide its value for money or effort. Bluefield takes a practical lens approach to their FMEA development, ensuring the real-world benefits are realised by the maintainer, the maintenance department and the organisation.

Typically, organisations build the scope of their maintenance activities from OEM recommendations/service manuals or base them on similar equipment. These sources should definitely be considered and fed in, but an FMEA can provide direction and justification for a maintenance department to build a robust strategy. Having a well-considered FMEA as the backing to your decision-making can provide the evidence needed when questioned on the contents of your servicing and repair tasks.

In saying this, FMEAs can be a serious undertaking and approaching the task as a theoretical exercise can be a massive pitfall. In Bluefield’s experience, asking the question “how is this going to help the person on the job?” or “will this help the site/management get a result?” against the tasks you are proposing can mean the difference between a useable deliverable and one that frustrates and does not deliver any real-world benefit to the operation.

A practical FMEA also has the flexibility to incorporate inspections that are driven by an external source i.e. standards and regulations (electrical testing, fire systems, cranes and monorails, etc). This can simply be designated in a column indicating the ‘source’ of the line item (‘FMEA methodology’ or for example ‘AS 1851-2012 Routine service of fire protection systems and equipment’). This flexibility allows all inspection details to be contained in a single document that flows into Asset Management Plans, maintenance strategies and PRTs.

A powerful addition to a standard FMEA is the inclusion of criticality (FMECA). In particular, assigning a risk profile to the ‘do nothing’ scenario/no maintenance task scenario and then re-ranking following the mitigating maintenance tasks can show the reduction in potential exposure of workers to injury or fatality as well as business financial loss. Equally as powerful is having this information available when management make the decision to skimp on maintenance or cut maintenance budget/scope; presenting the risk profile and having the management sign off on the acceptance of that risk can shine a light on previous common practice within the industry and the up and down cycle of maintenance budget cuts followed by periods of overdue required maintenance.

A very relevant and related exercise to the FMECA piece is materials management and critical spares analysis (see Bluefield’s insight into the area). To assign accurate business financial impact, the lead time of critical spares is of real importance.

Bluefield have also found, where applicable, it is beneficial to exclude unnecessary specifics from the FMEA that narrow the ability to use the developed document for the same or for similar assets. For instance, where it does not affect the design or maintenance task, there is no value in adding ‘coal’ to an asset’s context and wording, as the same FMEA can be applied for other commodities that use the same or similar equipment. Additionally, having a standard template for a gearbox that can be used across multiple different machines reduces clutter. Improvements found on one machine can then feed into the whole fleet, site or organisation. Leveraging the efforts of your work to apply to the widest array of applications can maximise efficiency and reduce duplication.