Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA): A Beginner’s Guide

Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) is a proactive technique that can be applied to the early detection of failures or defects in products and services. It is a systematic risk assessment process used by analysts looking to reduce the chances of faults by detecting problems and their possible repercussions in time for remediation.

More specifically, FMEA is a qualitative and highly structured technique which aids predicting what problems might result with products and services. Aside from identifying the potential pain points and their adverse effects, FMEA also assists in singling out the potential root cause and the probability of a problem arising.

Some teams adapt the FMEA process to analyze problems at the initial stage of development and implementation, giving them the advantage of taking prompt action in the face of predicted failures.

HOW DOES FAILURE MODE AND EFFECTS ANALYSIS WORK?

FMEA is an industry standard practice that can be customized specifically depending on the requirements. For example, a process or system may be the object of analysis. In this article however, we will discuss the general steps commonly carried out in Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) exercises. 

TEAM OF EXPERTS

To have a successful FMEA, the team should comprise the right people who can share their expertise on identifying potential problems effectively. Collaboration is an important part of the process and the audience, comprising customers, suppliers and other participants can contribute to gathering fresh perspectives. Knowledge sharing and brainstorming is a vital part of the process of identifying all the parts, procedures and features that could fail to meet performance benchmarks.

COVERAGE OF FMEA

As with any approach, a well-defined scope is needed to set realistic goals and expectations. In addition, clearly defined and well-structured coverage can help members understand the FMEA process in detail. The study should also set a clear function and goal such as “What is the purpose of this product, or service?”, “What are the expectations at the end of this activity?”

For each function and goal, participants are required to identify all the possibilities of problems happening. These are the predicted pain points. A SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic & Time Based) approach is the most effective way of setting goals for the FMEA exercise.

Identifying Failures and Their Effects

After the scope is agreed, participants can then check the potential issues and consequences that may arise due to perceived issues. Important activities include determining the chances of each negative occurrence happening, the probability of total failure, performing tests, identifying the current mechanisms in place and predicting the effects of each problem. 

PRIORITIES

After the problems that could happen with the services or products are identified, the team can now set priorities. This is a paramount milestone for resolving problems in a timely manner and making sure the availability of services or products is not severely affected or, worse, suffer complete outage. The ratings are usually measured using a number scale between 1 to 10, where 1 is unimportant and 10 is disastrous. There might be numerous effects of a problem, and so effects should be addressed based on priorities.

CORRECTIVE ACTIONS

The final step of FMEA is to highlight proactive countermeasures and recommended solutions. This step will ensure that if a problem arises due to the identified risks, it will be resolved promptly with minimal side effects. As they say in health science, early detection is the best way to get the necessary treatment. This is also true of resolving issues for products and services.

The team should assess and determine the proposed effectiveness of each corrective action. These assessments may be helpful if the team decides it needs to enact new corrective actions.

CONCLUSION

Without a doubt, FMEA is an important technique that can be used by analysts to greatly improve the problem resolution and design processes of their products and services, which will ultimately result in improved customer service, reduction of production defects and higher quality products.

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