Comparison of Three Analytic Problem-solving techniques
FMEA- Failure Modes and Effects Analysis
FMEA is a step by step approach to identify possible failures (defects, errors, etc.) in a process, product, service or system and identify ways to eliminate or reduce those failures. FMEA was originally used in the 1960s by the aerospace industry, and can be considered a risk mitigation strategy used in design and as a project management requirement prior to obtaining the signoff to proceed with a deployment.
Failure modes refers to the identification of the ways the process might fail, either potential or actual. They are prioritized based on the seriousness of the consequences, the likelihood and/or frequency or failure, and the ability to detect the failure. Effects analysis refers to the identification of the consequences of the failures, and includes criticality. FMEA emphasizes the documentation of risk/response, and the overall process includes:
- Assembling a cross-functional team
- Identifying the scope and process steps/systems involved
- For all functions within the scope, identifying the possible failure modes
- For all failure modes, identifying the functional or cross-functional effects or consequences
- Determining the severity rating for each failure (10 is catastrophic, 1 is insignificant)
- Determining the root cause for each failure
- Assigning the probability or likelihood of each cause (10 is inevitable, 1 is extremely unlikely)
- Identifying process controls for each cause
- Determining the detection rating for each cause/failure mode based on the identified process control (10 means the control will absolutely not detect the cause, 1 means it is certain to detect the cause)
After the above steps have been completed, calculate the risk priority number for each as defined by: Severity X Likelihood X Detection. Rank each process step by risk priority, and identify possible actions and action owners and timing for each. After the actions have been implemented, go back and re-score to identify new opportunities for mitigation.
SWOT analysis- Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats
The use of SWOT analysis helps you and your team to understand your strengths and weaknesses, the opportunities you may have and the threats you may have to face from competitors or outside forces. SWOT can be fairly quick and easy to do as compared to other problem-solving techniques, but may become subjective if a thorough analysis is not done. As a rule, it should be done at a more specific as opposed to a general or high level and should include specific measurables.
When to use?
SWOT analysis is often used in a marketing context to differentiate your product and/or service from the competition. In that context, you should identify strengths and weaknesses relative to the market and your competitors (for example, if everyone sells the same basic product at the same price, don’t identify low price as a strength. Your ability to deliver that same basic product with a shorter lead time can be classified as a strength). It can be used to analyze both internal (strengths and weaknesses) or external (opportunities and threats) environments. The results can be a strategic starting point to prioritize key actions. A SWOT matrix is constructed as follows:
Examples for each of the matrix quadrants may include:
- We have strong patents, but they will expire soon (specify which ones)
- We have a higher cost structure that our chief competitor due to union contracts (calculate the estimated difference)
- We consistently have the strongest brand recognition in our market segment
- Passage of proposed government regulations may impact our cost structure more than our competitors
- Due to the economic environment, we have the opportunity to purchase and integrate one or more of our key suppliers
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