In last month’s newsletter, we talked about executing the various programs arising from your risk mitigation plans. The risk mitigations can vary from minor technical order changes to major modification programs. We said that, at its heart, the execution of these programs is classic program management. That is, when working these kinds of projects and programs, approaches, rules, and general flow is very similar to what a development organization would do.
In that discussion, I introduced and gave a graphic of CLFA. That graphic is repeated here and we will provide more details in this article. (You can also view this image under the voiceover menu and listen to me explaining it.)
CLFA is MIL-HDBK-2155 FRACAS employed at a repair depot. The DAU has a great summary of FRACAS. For instance,
Failure Reporting, Analysis and Corrective Action System (FRACAS) provides a disciplined closed-loop process for solving reliability and maintainability issues at the design, development, production and fielding phases of the life cycle of a system. It is an essential element of any reliability and maintainability program found in defense systems.
In short, FRACAS keeps an eye on parts and systems failures in production and after deployment. A Failure Review Board helps decide if the system design, production processes or equipment, or other production areas require changes. FRACAS might lead you to switch parts suppliers, change your final acceptance test, improve your production equipment, upgrade your data systems, or any number of other facets of production.
CLFA, that is FRACAS in a repair depot, seeks to “close the loop” between the failure noted and the repair made. In its most basic form, it does this by asking the question as to whether the part ultimately replaced can logically be connected to the field failure. Thus the name: Closed Loop Failure Analysis or CLFA.
Why must CLFA be instituted? Won’t the repair depot automatically do this?
No. An affordable repair depot works to increase throughput while keeping costs down. Diagnosis is performed only to the extent needed to ensure a successful repair as judged by final acceptance test metrics. Large depots can contain many shops that perform their work somewhat independently of each other. A subsystem might be delivered to the depot and have a component removed and replaced and the subsystem is tested and sent out again. Meanwhile, the component may have a part removed and replaced and then the component is tested and placed on a shelf as a good spare. It is easy to ship bad actors back out to the field all the while your final acceptance tests look pretty good.
Have you ever tried to get something fixed, only to find it works OK when you show it to your repairman? Intermittent failures can cycle between depot and field, lowering field reliability rates while depot metrics seem OK.
Don’t get me wrong, the very affordable remove and replace strategy is a good one for speed, throughput, and efficient repair. But unfortunately, it has the potential to allow failed parts or components to remain in service and for emerging failure modes (those not thought of during design) to remain undetected.
Good and great sustainment organizations will enter into agreements with their depots to ensure repairs are traced back to failures and sufficient diagnostics are performed to ensure emerging failure modes are found.
What is sufficient? The more you do, the more you drive up your costs. Controls are appropriate.
Under CLFA, even if your program starts with 100% screening, it can quickly eliminate from scrutiny those failure modes and repairs that are well known or become well known after CLFA has functioned for a few years. For instance, you need not do a post mortem dissection on a faulty part with a well-known failure mechanism history.
On the other hand, a mature CLFA program will not limit its investigations to only weapon system operational failures. Subsystems and components can and do fail in the depot and elsewhere, revealing important weapon system assessment data concerning emerging failure modes. A mature CLFA program will also take the findings of its failure review board and use them to improve its own depot processes and equipment.
CLFA demands good processes and a good information management system to handle the large amounts of data generated and analyzed. These processes and data systems are also subject to improvements based on CLFA data.
Even with all these benefits to the depot itself, it is the sustainment organization that should step up and pay to start and continue CLFA at its depots. The diagnostic information is a key part of the “Observe System” step in the CSSMM we have been discussing in these articles.