Updated: May 18, 2021
FMEA Meaning, Usage, Simple Example, and Free Template!
What is FMEA?
FMEA stands for Failure Modes and Effects Analysis. It is a technique adapted from the aerospace industry to help more effectively anticipate and avoid problems. While often delivered in a way that can seem overly complex, it is in fact a fairly simple tool. FMEA has been applied to almost every industry, and is simply a method to assess and plan for problems which could impact safety, reliability, customer satisfaction, profits, etc. It is also a tool for process owners to allocate measurement and prevention resources (normally put into place in the Control phase of DMAIC). The main attraction of FMEA comes from the fact that it focuses on prevention rather than fire fighting, and ultimately promotes better solution implementation and more proactive ongoing management.
The FMEA process
The Failure Mode and Effects Analysis process helps to evaluate risk based on three criteria;
Severity: consequences if failure does occur
Occurrence: likelihood failure will occur over time
Detection: probability failure could be detected promptly if it occurs (or before it occurs)
The FMEA steps are as follows;
Identify potential problems or “failure modes”; Focus on critical or complex steps, key requirements, List the potential “failures”
Rate each: Severity, Occurrence & Detectability; 1 to 10 scale (10 meaning “worst case”), Helps to “operationally define” the scale
Calculate the risk-priority number (RPN); Multiply Severity x Occurrence x Detection (max = 1,000)
Focus prevention; contingencies and/or alarms on highest priority areas
FMEA Simple Example
So let's say you have a big meeting with a client coming up to present a brand new mobile app, and you want to anticipate and avoid all the problems that could occur to mess the big moment up. What a perfect time for a FMEA!
While often delivered in a way that can seem overly complex, FMEA is in fact a fairly simple tool.
Looking back at the FMEA steps, you must first identify the failure modes (potential problems) from the beginning of the process (or in this case, the big day) . You come to the conclusion that being late for the meeting would be the first potential problem. After rating, calculating, and finally coming up with your RPN (risk priority number). We can simply visualize the process like this;
With that high "detection" rating and high "occurrence", that RPN is a little too high for comfort, but let's keep going with the process. Another potential problem could be that during the presentation, the mobile app isn't working! Here is another simple way to visualize our FMEA;
By going through the FMEA process, we can see that our highest priority problem here is being late for the meeting. Now how to go about avoiding these problems?? Let's just say that's a whole different skill set...
Of course, problems that modern-day organizations run into are much more complex than presenting a mobile app, but the same concept can be applied to the most complex of problems. Below is a real and practical example of a completed FMEA.