Failure Mode and Effects Analysis

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Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) is a method, originally developed for systems engineering, that is used to examine potential failures in products or processes. It's used to evaluate the priorities of risks, and helps determine remedial actions to minimize the risk of the failure. It is used in many formal quality systems such QS 9000 or ISO/TS 16949.

The basic process is to take a description of the parts of a system, and list the consequences if each part fails. In most formal systems, the consequences are then evaluated by three criteria and associated risk indices:

  • severity (S),
  • likelihood of occurrence (O) (Note: This is also often known as probability (P)), and
  • inability of controls to detect it (D)

Each index ranges from 1 (lowest risk) to 10 (highest risk). The overall risk of each failure is called Risk Priority Number (RPN) and the product of Severity (S), Occurrence (O), and Detection (D) rankings: RPN = S × O × D. The RPN (ranging from 1 to 1000) is used to prioritize all potential failures to decide upon actions leading to reduce the risk, usually by reducing likelihood of occurrence and improving controls for detecting the failure.

Applications Edit

FMEA is most commonly applied but not limited to design (Design FMEA) and manufacturing processes (Process FMEA).

Design Failure Modes Effects Analysis (DFMEA) identifies potential failures of a design before they occur. DFMEA then goes on to establish the potential effects of the failures, their cause, how often and when they might occur and their potential seriousness.

Process Failure Modes Effects Analysis (PFMEA) is a systemized group of activities intended to:

  1. Recognize and evaluate the potential failure of a product/process and its effect,
  2. Identify actions which could eliminate or reduce the occurrence, or improve detectability,
  3. Document the process, and
  4. Track changes to process-incorporated to avoid potential failures.


FMEA is useful mostly as a survey method to identify major failure modes in a system. It is not able to discover complex failure modes involving multiple failures or subsystems, or to discover expected failure intervals of particular failure modes. For these, a different method called fault tree analysis is used.

History Edit

The FMEA process was originally developed by the U.S. military in 1949 to classify failures "according to their impact on mission success and personnel/equipment safety". FMEA has since been used on the 1960s Apollo space missions. In the 1980s it was used by Ford to reduce risks after one model of car, the Pinto, suffered a fault in several vehicles causing the fuel tank to rupture and it to subsequently burst into flames after crashes.

See also Edit

External linksEdit

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