FMEA: Finding the fix before things go wrong

Here’s a provocative question: Are workplace accidents ever really accidents? For an equally provocative answer, watch this 30-second video from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board of Ontario – though the squeamish should be warned.

cautionUnanticipated events at work occur because of a combination of multiple factors. It is a result of interaction between human beings and loosely built processes and systems. However, when errors occur, the common response from managers is to remind the employee to do better, rewrite job responsibilities or simply fire him or her. There are better ways to address errors other than blaming and shaming the people who made that error.

To understand why mistakes could occur, I introduced our Master of Business Operational Excellence students to a method called Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA). FMEA helps create robust processes and systems by proactively anticipating the vulnerabilities in them, prioritizing the risk they may cause and developing an action plan to address them.

One of the outcomes of an FMEA can be standardized work that addresses the variability in the processes. Standardized work defines the best-known method to perform a particular process that provides the maximum value to the customer. When you develop the standardized work you also need to train your people to perform the work optimally. Gary Butler, an executive in residence with Fisher’s Department of Management Sciences, spoke to our students about Training Within Industry, which focuses on breaking down the work into various job elements, explaining how it is done, and why it is done until the employee internalizes it. This also involves having help available if the employee has any questions or issues when they start doing the work.

The philosophy of lean is to have clear expectations of work, reduce complexities in the processes, and build systems that are mistake-proof or make it easier to detect mistakes. This prevents catastrophic events occurring.

So go ahead and shield your organization before things go wrong!

The flow of the 411

Most of our MBOE students have now finished creating the value-stream maps that they can work with for their capstone projects, the culmination of our year-long program. The flow of information, one of the key components within a value stream, many times gets neglected. It is very important to indicate the flow on the map to highlight the intricacies and the challenges faced by the people who do work on a daily basis.

info flow symbols value stream map
A quick how-to on value-stream map symbols

In health care, the staff might be using the Electronic Medical Record for the most part to access or enter information. But if some staff members don’t have access to all modules, they might wind up making a phone call or writing an e-mail to someone who does. This adds a layer of complexity and non-value added activity to the work.

In manufacturing, lead time sometimes can be hidden when the customer places an order until the sales and operations group has made a decision to go into production.

In transactional processes, information flows through an online system, e-mail, fax, and phone or in-person conversation.

Regardless of your value stream, it’s important to show in detail how information flows. This highlights how long it takes to get to the receiver and what kind of decision he or she makes as a result. Does this information help provide a signal or authorization on whether to produce a product or advance an application – or does it just result in a need for more clarity or information? A value stream must expose all possible wastes that could be affecting lead time.

The key thing to remember here is that whether it’s a pull or a push system, information always flows from left to right in the value stream. You can use symbols in the picture to show manual and electronic information flow. Use symbols to indicate phone or fax or e-mail. Indicate rework, redundancies or breaks in information flow using angry clouds or starbursts.

In the end, any information flows in the value stream must have a purpose. Everything else is noise.

Sponsors: The secret weapon of a successful MBOE student

In Fisher’s Master of Business Operational Excellence program, we just completed the “Gate One” review of our students, the first of four evaluations they undergo. Gates are the points where students are assessed based on the progress they have made on their capstone project. Coaches and faculty follow a rubric that assesses students for their growth as lean thinkers and how they are applying the principles they learned in the classroom and from the gemba to their own organization.

At Fisher, we have created a rubric that helps the faculty and coaches make a fair assessment of the student’s progress irrespective of their experience with operational excellence methods. We assess students based on:

  • The consistency of the problem statement they have chosen to work on for their capstone project;
  • How well they use value stream mapping along with their team to understand the problem; and
  • The application of A3 thinking for their problem solving process.
mboe rubric
A snapshot of our grading rubric for Gate 1

Jumping to solutions addresses only the symptoms. We like to see an in-depth analysis of the root cause of the problem in the form of a cause map and how well the countermeasures are connected with the root causes. In addition, we also assess how students communicate with the coach, sponsor and relevant stakeholders from areas outside the realm of their control. Creativity is yet another dimension we consider to assess the students especially for the countermeasures they implement to successfully solve the problem.

The student’s individual efforts and the coach’s guidance can lead to major progress only if the sponsor plays his or her part well. The more involved the sponsor is, the more likely the student is to succeed. So how can a sponsor get involved?

  •  First of all, we interview the student and the sponsor together before the student can get in the program. The sponsor weighs in on the capstone project that the student chooses to work on. We encourage them to select a project that is expected to have an impact on the strategic goal.
  • We expect our students to keep the sponsor informed on what they learned in class and their plan of action for bringing out improvement.
  • We invite our sponsors to attend any lectures during the MBOE session that might interest them. This way they learn about what the student is learning in class and are in a position to support the students in implementing the tools, methods and strategies they are learning in class. To facilitate this we will start sending out to our sponsors announcements that the students receive that provide the details of each MBOE week session.
  • We also engage the sponsor in evaluating the student and also share the outcomes of the evaluation having reviewed with faculty and other coaches.
  • Last but not least, we also invite them to read this blog to see what was covered in the lectures and also read about some of the concepts and methods used to achieve operational excellence.

The wheel of success turns only when the three cogs – student, coach and sponsor – move synchronously.

Airport tour added as COE summit moves closer to sell-out

The Center for Operational Excellence’s Leading Through Excellence summit is a little more than 30 days away and we’re selling seats at a rapid clip. If you haven’t pulled the trigger on registering just yet, we’re recommending you act fast as parts of the event are selling out.

leading through excellence logoAs of this week, three of the originally scheduled four plant tours for Wednesday, April 10, have been completely booked. We still have a few seats left to our trip to Mills James for a look at operational excellence in creative spaces and, to accommodate demand, we added a trip to Port Columbus International Airport. This, however, only amounts to fewer than 20 slots, which we expect to book soon.

We’re thrilled to have additional features to announce for the summit as well. Summit sponsor LLC is running a workshop Friday, April 12, from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on process design. This is a critical skill for every organization – but it’s too often left to chance. Every day, people are busy designing new processes with not much more to work with than good intentions. But process design doesn’t have to be a complicated engineering exercise – and MoreSteam is planning to outline some simple tools and common-sense methods to help get the job done.

And finally, we’re pleased to announce that we’ve booked a special appearance by Jon Waters, the director of the Ohio State University Marching Band, a.k.a. the Best Damn Band in the Land. He’ll be speaking at lunch on Thursday, April 11, in the middle of a day packed with simulations, workshops and case studies led by our Fisher faculty.

So what are you waiting for?