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About the importance of FMEA

19 July 2016: Christine Schmitt, ZF Friedrichshafen

Nowadays, the automotive supply industry only places an order, if the supplier has a carefully created FMEA (Failure mode and effect analysis) and has analyzed their manufacturing processes in advance for possible failures, with the view of offering reliable delivery. But far too often, the FMEA plays no part in the following quality assurance process. Instead, it tends to end up in a drawer after an order has been placed and is not used to its full potential.

The ZF Friedrichshafen AG in Friedrichshafen also decided to make greater use of the potential that lies dormant in their FMEAs, and started the search for a CAQ-software that links FMEAs and SAP Complaints Management in the quality control loop. The search was successful and the company found the solution at iqs Software GmbH with its headquarters in Bühl, Germany.

Bühl / Friedrichshafen - With pride, the ZF Friedrichshafen AG can look back this year on one hundred years of history, having evolved into a leading technology company, specializing in Driveline and Chassis Technology and developing active and passive safety technology. The company, which took over TRW Automotive in May 15, 2015, is now represented in around 230 locations in 40 countries. In 2014 the companies, both independent at that point, achieved sales of over 30 billion Euros, employing 134,000 associates.

Quality Campaign

This kind of market position can only be held when applying the highest quality standards. ZF, with its headquarters in Friedrichshafen, also acknowledged this fact and launched a quality campaign in 2007, designed to examine efficiency and performance of their quality assurance system for assembly. The campaign demonstrated that FMEAs, created with great effort and expense, were not used for the subsequent manufacturing process after placement of order, but lay unused and archived in a drawer. Potential for development was also discovered in other areas: the initial sample inspection report was still stamped manually at this time and Measures Management managed with MS-Word and MS-Excel. The aim was now to use the large and untapped potential of FMEAs and make them part of an integrated, preventive and efficient quality management system.

Increased integration of FMEA

The search began for a software solution that was able to integrate FMEA in the quality control loop. It started with an in-house project and subsequently 40 suppliers of quality management software received a question catalog to determine the CAQ-systems that fulfill the desired requirements (integrated approach, structure based on databases). Eight CAQ-providers were shortlisted and invited to make a presentation to Friedrichshafen. A large group of participants from all concerned departments assessed both technical aspects as well as the credibility of the presentation. iqs Software GmbH received top marks and won the contract. 

Experimental phase with real data

The initial approach was to carry out an iqs test installation, linking the FMEA via an iqs-programmed interface with the assembly quality database and feed it with master data. In a narrowly defined area of assembly, the iqs FMEA was fed with real failures, i.e. real data from the Complaint Management of the quality database as part of the pilot project. Failures were analyzed in weekly failure management meetings, attended by all product managers, quality staff, foremen and associates involved in the project. The pilot phase showed at an early stage that when posing new software questions like "What is the cause of the failure?" or "What happens when the failures occurs?" they could now be answered by the software-system – questions previously only answered by very experienced staff.

The pilot phase also revealed that the new software could be used not only in assembly, but also in manufacturing to increase profitability. After six months, the pilot project was successfully completed. It was decided to acquire a site license for the location Friedrichshafen and plan the rollout (...).

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