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Answered February 04 2020
One of the most basic yet effective approaches to optimizing your preventive maintenance (PM) program is through FRACAS.
Preventive maintenance is all about being proactive. Not only does this strategy involve determining the cause of a breakdown, but also it identifies the conditions that are precursors to breakdowns. The problem with a proactive maintenance strategy is that you potentially might be performing too many maintenance tasks on an asset. Of course, on the other end of the spectrum is reactive maintenance, which also might not be the best strategy for your team. A reactive approach leaves room for sudden failures and can cause significant losses to production.
To achieve a balanced PM strategy you want to reduce unnecessary PM tasks, without sacrificing the reliability of your operations. A PM optimization process is your best bet for achieving this balance.
FRACAS is an acronym that stands for Failure Reporting, Analysis, and Corrective Action System. The term originates from the Department of Defense and was first recorded in the military standard, MIL-STD-2155, published in 1985.
FRACAS is a three-step process that was used as a tool to achieve the reliability and maintainability potential of military equipment systems. Its initial scope focused on defense, aerospace, automotive, telecommunications, and the likes. Nowadays, FRACAS has evolved into a tool that can virtually benefit any industry.
This three-step approach forms a closed-loop system. Each step is methodically carried out before moving onto the next one. The following steps are described in more detail below:
As with any problem-solving process, FRACAS starts with stating the problem. Failure reporting is the process of gathering everything that you need to know about a failure or an issue.
The level of detail in these reports is expected to vary across different organizations and industries. FRACAS would usually be customized to suit the unique requirements of each company. Typical information that would be included in a failure report are:
With a CMMS software in place, data required for failure and incident reporting should be more readily available. All that you would need to do is ensure that your assets are set-up and properly accounted for in the system. You would also want to align your team on the procedures to perform and update maintenance tasks in your CMMS. This way, you can maximize your software to do the work for you.
After gathering all the available information, the next step is to investigate the failure and its origins. The primary goal of the analysis phase is to identify the root cause of the issue. Finding out the reason behind a failure paves the way for future solutions.
Technical people, engineers, or team leaders are usually the ones that perform the analysis. Their knowledge and experiences help inform the root cause analysis and endorse corrective action.
After identifying the steps to resolve the issue, the last thing to do is implement the corrective action. In this step, specific tasks to resolve the issue are developed, documented, and implemented. Applicable tests should also be performed to verify that the resolutions are adequate.
Remember that FRACAS is a closed-loop process. It is only until after the implementation of the corrective action that a case can be considered “closed out."
At this point, you can see that FRACAS is pretty straightforward. It gives you a basic framework of how to make sure that your facility’s concerns are addressed. The next sensible question is how to start implementing it.
The key to effectively implementing FRACAS is ensuring that your data is maximized. It is not enough to have an abundance of data. Additionally, it is equally important to ensure that your data is organized. This allows you to more clearly identify associations between your observations and your conclusions. To ensure that you’re not missing any crucial points, it helps to follow the following phases of implementation:
The first phase requires you to identify each task that needs to be performed. This includes the accountable person or unit, specific procedures involved, and the approval processes, if any. Definitions and standards should also be set at this phase.
There are a few steps that need to be determined at this phase. To name a few, you should identify definitions of failure, descriptions of failure, verification procedures, failure modes, and RCA procedures. At the end of this phase, ensure that all processes are well-documented.
The next phase aims to streamline your requirements. After identifying all the prerequisites in the discovery phase, you would want to create a system that sustainably provides for your needs.
Each activity should be planned out in the design phase. Tasks can be classified to be either human work or document-based tasks. Human work requires manual intervention and should be assigned to a point-person or an execution team. Document-based tasks, on the other hand, can be thought of as analysis tasks that are usually in the form of reports.
The enactment phase is the process everyone has been waiting for. Enactment involves putting your planned activities into practice. Members of the team should be aware of their tasks, schedules, and updating methods. To ensure that the progress is accurately tracked, members should notify the team of their status in real-time using a CMMS. This prevents inefficiencies, such as redundant tasks and unnecessary standstills.
As technology and communications expand, so do the innovations in the approach to solving problems. What used to be offline strategies have been incorporated into widespread industry standards. For example, workflows that are tailored to fit a company’s FRACAS process might be based on other existing problem-solving methods, such as the Eight Disciplines (8D) or DMAIC methods.
The 8D Approach is a methodology for solving problems, focused on improving products and processes. This method was developed by the Ford Motor Company, initially used by professionals working in the automotive industry.
The following steps summarize the eight disciplines:
Before anything else, 8D starts with a plan. In this step, you identify any steps you would need to take to solve a problem.
The next step involves forming a team. The idea behind this step is that each member provides various vantage points to the same problem. Each person’s knowledge and experience is utilized to have a broader view of the situation.
The problem is then defined and described in detail. Basic questions to ask in this stage are – Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? And How Many?
After a problem is identified, it is important to isolate the problem from the customer and usual operations. In this stage, actions are taken to keep the problem contained and under control.
The root cause is then identified using root cause analysis techniques. Examples of RCA techniques are 5 Whys, Ishikawa Diagram, and Fault Tree Analysis. Each situation may require one or a combination of these techniques.
Identifying the root cause puts you in a better position to identify corrective actions that will address the actual source of the problem. This next step aims to choose the most appropriate corrective action that is verified to provide a permanent solution.
The chosen corrective action is then put into practice. The specific steps of the implementation process are identified and then carried out. This step also includes, through observed evidence, the validation that corrective actions are effective.
Aside from identifying a solution to the problem, it is also important to take preventive measures against possibly recurring failures. This step includes changes to existing systems and procedures to improve organizational readiness for future events.
To wrap up the 8D approach is the recognition of the efforts of the whole team. This highlights the achievement of everyone in the company to improve processes.
DMAIC is an acronym that stands for – define, measure, analyze, improve, and control. DMAIC is a problem-solving approach that is also an important tool used in the Six Sigma method. The acronym DMAIC stands for the five main phases in this method:
In the first phase, the problem, improvement opportunity, objectives, and actions are defined and identified. Aside from the initial problem statement, the resources, benefits, and even timelines should also be specified in this stage.
This next step is done to establish a quantitative baseline to be used as the basis for the effectiveness of any further action. A huge portion of this step is allotted to data gathering and collection. Having a CMMS or EAM software in place should relieve you of a lot of the manual tasks related to this step.
As with the previous problem-solving methods, this step ensures that the root cause is identified. This step aims to identify the primary cause of failure and assess the effects of the identified root cause. In this step, investigations are performed to identify the true origin of an identified breakdown event.
The next step aims to implement a solution to the problem. A detailed outline of the steps should be developed in this phase. This will act as the outline of procedures that need to take place.
The last step emphasizes that DMAIC is an ever-evolving process. It is geared towards continuous improvement and promotes the same culture to the team. Through this stage, activities are tracked to gauge the stability and sustainability of the problem-solving processes.
There are huge advantages to incorporating FRACAS into the everyday operations of a company. Knowing that it is a closed-loop process should giver you the confidence that issues are being addressed for the long term. Some key benefits of FRACAS include:
A systematic approach to correcting failures reduces the need for rework. This directly translates to a reduction in material costs and labor costs for any repair that might be needed. Surplus stock and leftover materials are also avoided if corrective actions are well planned out.
FRACAS promotes a culture of continuous improvement, with a data-driven mindset. The discipline of checking the status of an asset and performing required actions gives you lower chances of failure. This, in turn, contributes to increased equipment reliability and overall performance.
In relation to reliability, FRACAS can lead to metrics that could reveal potential inefficiencies. Mean time between failure (MTBF) and mean time to repair (MTTR), for example, are metrics that would typically be the focus of equipment failure reports. Having a comprehensive view of the inefficiencies within the plant can lead you to form concrete actions to address the problem.
To maximize the benefits of FRACAS, a company should be aware of some of the common mistakes and misconceptions associated with it. The following points are some of the common issues that organizations will potentially struggle with down the road:
FRACAS is used by multiple teams within the organization. At the same time, multiple people are also accountable for putting in data. This makes the process vulnerable to inefficiencies such as double-handling and unnecessary work.
To improve on this issue, it helps to identify the scope of work that each team is required to complete. The capability to provide input can be limited to certain responsible groups to ensure that every step is assigned to the proper person.
Another challenge in implementing FRACAS is the differences in perception when it comes to the prioritization of goals. Each functional group might focus on different aspects of a certain project.
A relatable example is when implementing FRACAS under a constrained budget. Under such conditions, corrective actions may be performed with insufficient data and limited analysis. This would have been handled more effectively if goals were clearly listed and prioritized. This way, the resources would have been more focused on resolving the most pressing concerns.
Data is the foundation on which FRACAS procedures are built upon. Without confidence in your data, the following steps in FRACAS won’t work to your advantage. The tricky thing with data is that it needs to be consistently tracked to provide usable information. One good data point can easily be put to waste if the next data point is inaccurate.
With multiple assets running, it can be a daunting task to keep track of each piece of equipment at all times. This is where your software can come and save you loads of work. Modern software systems can keep track of your asset data in real-time. Manual activities that would have taken you valuable man-hours can be automated and set up with the right information.
Increasing preventive maintenance tasks is surely one way to reduce failure events. However, this is not necessarily the best option out there. Instead, you would want to be as efficient as you are effective.
There are other smarter ways to optimize PM activities, without breaking the bank. FRACAS is one of the first steps to streamlining your PM strategy. By systematically identifying the problem and coming up with solutions, processes become more sustainable in the long-term.
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