What Is an FMEA? (Plus Uses, Procedure and an Example)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 2, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Identifying potential and past failures is an important part of achieving business success. There is a specific methodology that many businesses follow to identify and resolve such failures. Learning about this methodology may help you improve the success rate of future projects and business ventures. In this article, we discuss what an FMEA is, describe when to use one, explore the procedure for conducting one and give an example of a company conducting one.

What is FMEA?

FMEA is a methodology for addressing risk management during the design, development and manufacture of a product or process. A Failure Mode Effects Analysis (FMEA) involves reviewing all the potential modes in which a system, subsystem or component might fail. It is a systematic process for identifying possible malfunctions, defects and failures in a product or process and then estimating their probability of occurrence. The FMEA provides specific measures that, if taken, can reduce the likelihood of failure that are cost-effective with broad coverage.

When to use FMEA

Here is a description of instances where you may use FMEA:

To identify possible failures and assess the risk to the end user or process

You can use FMEA to identify potential failures and their root causes during the design or development stages of a project. You can then use the FMEA output to assess the risk of failure to determine if any preventive or corrective actions are necessary, to address a particular risk(s) at an early stage. FMEA is a powerful tool for preventing defects by pinpointing potential failure modes before they occur.

Related: 5 Effective Ways To Cope With Failure

To identify methods that can reduce the probability of occurrence of a failure or mitigate its severity

FMEA is a technical risk management tool that helps to identify the most significant failure modes for various systems and subsystems. An FMEA can assess the cause and frequency, cost of occurrence (COCO), capability to detect (COB), criticality and severity of failure. You can conduct a systematic review using an objective, quantitative risk assessment technique to identify which failure modes are considered significant by considering probability, threat and impact.

To prioritize and focus corrective actions on those failures that have the greatest effect on safety, reliability, or product performance

FMEA is a method to ensure that you address the highest risks first by identifying the potential root cause of failure. It involves using various tools such as fault tree analysis, checklists or audits to determine the severity of failures. You can use these tools to identify possible corrective actions or preventive actions to eliminate or reduce the risk and severity of failures.

Related: 10 Tips for Building a Successful Team

To get early involvement of all relevant disciplines in a project

FMEA is a participative activity that requires all relevant disciplines within an organization, such as manufacturing, quality assurance, research and development to participate in identifying potential modes of failure for each design stage or process step. You can use FMEA as a team-building process that you can use to plan and coordinate activities between different teams. Due to the cross-functional nature of FMEA, it provides a valuable forum for communication between departments, as personnel from all departments are involved in the process of identifying potential failure modes.

To track and monitor corrective actions taken over time

Both during initial design and later in the life cycle of a product, you may use FMEA to ensure that you meet any improvement goals in relation to reducing potential for failure rates, maximizing availability rates of equipment and identifying all failures consequences. You can use FMEA to track and monitor the corrective actions taken over time. This may provide a valuable historic record of improvements made over time in terms of reducing failure rates, improving reliability and achieving customer satisfaction.

What is the FMEA procedure?

Here is a description of the procedure for a typical FMEA:

1. Identify the product, process and/or system being reviewed

The first step of any FMEA is to identify the system or product that you are evaluating. This may depend on the type of project or activity you are managing. For example, you may be reviewing all failures in a process that result in scrap or rework, or you could be conducting an FMEA on a specific process step, device or system.

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2. Understand each potential failure mode

The next step is to list all possible failure modes for the project under review. You may identify failure modes by reviewing previous projects, reading about similar projects developed by other companies and researching popular trade journals and industry-specific websites. You may review common types of failures that you believe your company may experience.

You may also identify any possible modes of failure that you had previously not considered. This information may help you to determine which types of failure modes to include in the FMEA as they are likely to be important, occurring frequently or have a high impact on the project.

3. Review and assess the severity of each failure mode

You may then document each mode, such as the occurrence frequency, direct cost or risk to life or proper and assess the severity of each type of failure. This includes how it affects the end-users of the equipment or service, any safety concerns and any regulatory requirements. For example, you may determine that a given failure mode is likely to have a high occurrence frequency, result in significant costs to the company, violate regulatory requirements and may also result in injuries to customers or employees.

Related: 11 Business Analyst Goals for Achieving Success

4. Determine if you have addressed the failure mode in previous processes

You can now determine if you have included this error/failure mode in previous FMEAs. You can review your current and previous redesigns and maintenance procedures to see if you have previously analyzed this failure. If this is the case, you may include the mode in your FMEA and assess the severity of failure modes that are not included in previous processes but have been considered significant by previous FMEAs.

5. Determine if you can prevent future failures

If so, you can determine what corrective action you can take to prevent this failure mode from occurring. You can also determine if there is a high possibility for this failure mode to occur again. If so, you can further understand specific preventive measures you can employ, such as design modifications or changes in production or quality control procedures.

Example of a FMEA

Here is an example of an FMEA using a fictional company:

Archibald Manufacturing produces a variety of industrial products: hydraulic jacks, hydraulic presses, hydraulic pumps and compressors. Archibald has developed a new type of hydraulic pump called the H4400 pump. This is an improved design that is supposed to be better than the previous model. As part of this redesign, Archibald has decided to conduct an FMEA on this new model of pump as part of its design process. Archibald conducts an FMEA on the H4400 series of pumps to determine any failure modes prior to production launch.

They want to determine which failure modes are likely to occur, how frequently these modes may occur, what the effect of the failure may be and how they might prevent the failure from occurring. The company also wants to use this FMEA as a proactive approach in identifying any potential risks and problems that could affect production. As part of the FMEA process, Archibald has assigned a team of individuals who have expertise in manufacturing, design engineering and safety engineering to review all possible failure modes for this project.

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