Guide on FMEA – what it does and how to use it

In our last post on Risk Analysis & Strategies we mentioned FMEA as a tool that can be used to help identify risk.

In manufacturing the challenge is always to produce high quality products however in many cases this is a challenge and identifying risk can be a key enabler in doing so.

Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) is a tool that looks to highlight areas of risk and potential reliability issues allowing the company to put actions in place to mitigate future pitfalls.

FMEA is typically used early on in the development process and is used to capture potential failure modes,
understand thier potential impact on the product and then facilitate mitigation that can be put in place.

Through using FMEA the product can be designed to erradicate potential failures and improve reliablity.

Examples of Types of FMEA

FMEA’s are a broad tool that covers various different facets of business, types of FMEA include System, Design, Process, Software and Service

Why you should use an FMEA

The FMEA tool, when used properly can be highly effective providing various benefits, inluding improved product reliability and facilitating teamwork and brainstorming.

As a risk tool it helps in both the capture, priotisation and mitigation of issues and provides a set format for doing that.

Much the same a typical risk register the FMEA is kept alive during the project and updated througout, especially if the project goes through change (and assumptions require to be re-evaluated). It’s typically launched at the beginning of a project (at project initiation) and is extremely effective when a specific product or service is the project deliverable.

The FMEA Process

Much akin to a typical risk process FMEA isnt overly difficult:

1.Describe the project deliverable (typically a product, process or service)

2.Create a diagram that shows the major steps/components of the project (product/service). this should show the relationship of the projects steps

3.Using the diagram created at 2 list the particular steps attribtues (steps, components or other).

4.Identify Failure Modes. A failure mode is the way in which the deliverable (or project step could fail to meet it’s objective.
for example – in the case of a Project it might be a particular supplier may fail to deliver a work package
In terms of deisgn in might be a particular component failing

Note there maybe relationships between failures and various project steps

5. Prioritise each failure mode and also determine it’s probability

6. Brainstorm the cuase for each failure mode

7. Identify the current mitigation to prevent the realisation of the risk.

8. Assess the likelihood that the Current mitigation/control will prevent the risk (this is often termed a RPN)

9. For those items with a high RPN determine the actions required to mitigate

10.Assign owners and close out dates for mitigation actions.

During the project the FMEA can be updated as actions get completed (and likely impact/severity is then reduced). This will drive new priorities.


FMEA can be a very powerful tool in determining the risk and is often found in Engineering/design based projects. An improvement to simple brainstorming it offers a set methodology that can be used.

A quick google can derive any number of worksheets that can be used to support the FMEA process. You’ll also see examples of completed FMEA’s.

Queries about FMEA’s or you have experience you’d like to share? Fire away in our comments section below, we’d love to hear from you!!