How to Utilize Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) 

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Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) is an effective tool for identifying and mitigating risks in any given system. In this post, we discuss how to create an FMEA, and the benefits it can bring to your organization. We cover the four steps of FMEA creation, and the importance of assigning risk scores and corrective actions. 

What is failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA)? 

Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) is a process improvement tool used to identify potential failure modes in a product, system, or process. The process involves identifying possible problems, ranking them based on severity and likelihood, and deciding on appropriate actions to address them. The FMEA process can be used to identify and reduce risks in any product, system, or process.  

To have an effective FMEA, it is important to identify and prioritize risks in advance. This enables taking preventive action. The FMEA process involves the use of a Risk Priority Number (RPN), which allows for the calculation of the risk associated with different failure modes.  

The RPN is determined by multiplying the severity, occurrence, and detection of a failure mode. The higher the RPN, the greater the risk associated with the failure mode. By using the RPN, the FMEA process can help reduce the risk of a system failure or process control issue. 

Steps for a successful FMEA 

The FMEA process is useful for improving processes and reducing risks. It can be applied to enhance the design and performance of any product, system, or process. 

To ensure the success of the FMEA process, the following steps should be followed: 

Define the scope 

The first step is to define the scope of the FMEA. This involves defining the boundaries of the system or process that will be analyzed and determining the objectives of the analysis.  

Once the scope is defined, a team should be chosen to lead the FMEA process. It is important to clearly establish the roles of each team member. 

Gather data 

The next step is to gather data related to the system or process. Data can be gathered from existing documentation and from interviews with stakeholders. This data should provide an in-depth understanding of the system, its components, and its processes. 

Create an FMEA worksheet 

The FMEA worksheet is a tool used to document the FMEA process. It is important to ensure that the worksheet is properly designed and contains all the necessary information. The worksheet should include fields that are relevant to the system or process being analyzed.  

It should also include fields that allow for the calculation of the Risk Priority Number (RPN). This number is used to determine the severity of a particular failure mode.  

Identify potential failure modes 

The next step is to examine the system or process in detail. This examination is done in order to identify all potential failure modes that could happen. This step is crucial as it helps in understanding the vulnerabilities and weak points within the system.  

To conduct this analysis, a thorough review of the entire system is performed. This involves examining each component and subsystem to identify any existing or potential failure points. For example, in a manufacturing process, failure modes could include equipment malfunctions, material defects, or human errors in operation.  

It is important to consider both human and machine errors when identifying potential failure modes. Human errors can include mistakes made during operation, improper maintenance, or lack of training. Machine errors can include mechanical failures, software glitches, or electrical malfunctions. By considering both types of errors, a comprehensive understanding of the potential failure modes can be achieved. 

Once all potential failure modes have been identified, it is essential to document them on the Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) worksheet.  

The worksheet is used to store all the identified failure modes. It is a clear record of the potential risks and their associated effects. 

By documenting the failure modes, it becomes easier to prioritize and address them in the subsequent steps of the analysis. 

Evaluate the risk associated with each failure mode 

Once all potential failure modes have been identified, it is essential to evaluate the risk associated with each one. This involves assessing the severity and likelihood of occurrence of each failure mode.  

When determining the level of risk, one must consider the impact on the system or procedure, the financial repercussions, and the potential for injury or death. 

The likelihood of occurrence should be determined by considering factors such as the reliability of the equipment, the competence of the operators, and the complexity of the system.  

By assessing the severity and likelihood of each failure mode, it is possible to identify the most serious risks and prioritize accordingly. This can be done by assigning a risk priority number (RPN) to each failure mode. The RPN is calculated by multiplying the likelihood of occurrence and the severity of the risk. The higher the RPN, the higher the risk priority and the more urgently the failure mode needs to be addressed. 

Utilize the FMEA tool to develop a corrective action plan 

Once the failure modes and their associated risks have been identified and prioritized, the next step is to use the FMEA tool to develop a corrective action plan. This plan should include strategies for mitigating the risks associated with each failure mode. These strategies could include process control methods, system upgrades, or additional training for operators. 

By utilizing the FMEA tool, it is possible to effectively identify and address potential failure modes in a systematic manner. This ensures that the analysis is comprehensive and that the corrective action plan is both effective and efficient. As such, the FMEA tool is a valuable tool for process analysis and improvement. 

Determine the appropriate action 

Once the risk priority numbers have been determined, it is possible to assess the severity of each failure mode and identify the appropriate corrective action to take. This could include process control solutions, system upgrades, or additional training for operators. It is also important to track the implementation process to ensure that the corrective actions are being implemented in a timely and effective manner. Finally, it is essential to evaluate the effectiveness of the corrective action to ensure that the risks are adequately addressed. 

  • Develop a plan to address the risks associated with each failure mode 
  • Track the action plan and implementation process 
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the corrective action 


Failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) is a structured and systematic approach that allows organizations to proactively identify and mitigate potential risks in product development projects.  

During the FMEA process, an accomplished team consisting of experts from various fields collaboratively assesses the entire lifecycle of a product or process. They regularly analyze and prioritize potential failure modes by considering their likelihood of occurrence, severity of impact, and measurability. This helps organizations to focus their resources and efforts on the most critical risks, ensuring that they are adequately addressed. 

By utilizing FMEA, organizations can identify weaknesses in their processes and products early on, before they lead to costly failures or safety incidents. By proactively addressing these weaknesses, organizations can develop corrective action plans to mitigate or eliminate the associated risks. This allows them to improve the overall safety and reliability of their products and processes, ensuring that they meet or exceed customer expectations. 

Moreover, FMEA studies enable organizations to enhance their overall efficiency and effectiveness. By identifying potential failure modes and their causes, organizations can implement preventive measures to eliminate or reduce the likelihood of these failures occurring. This not only minimizes the potential for rework or recalls but also optimizes production processes, leading to improved productivity, cost savings, and customer satisfaction. 

Additionally, FMEA promotes a culture of continuous improvement within organizations. By regularly conducting FMEA studies, organizations can learn from past failures and incorporate these lessons into future product development projects. This iterative approach ensures that organizations always strive to enhance their products and processes, staying ahead of the competition and meeting evolving customer needs. 

In summary, FMEA is a powerful tool that enables organizations to identify and mitigate potential risks in product development projects. It empowers organizations to identify weaknesses, develop corrective action plans, and improve the overall safety, reliability, efficiency, and effectiveness of their products and processes. By embracing FMEA, organizations can drive innovation, ensure customer satisfaction, and achieve long-term success in the marketplace. 

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