What is FMEA, and why is it important?

What is FMEA?

FMEA is the acronym for failure mode and effects analysis. It is the process of reviewing every aspect of a product’s manufacture, assemble, and performance to identify potential modes of failure. This may be done to determine why products failed or as a part of risk management during product development.

Why is FMEA important?

Do you want to improve the reliability of your product? FMEA allows you determined likely failure modes. Then you can assign the risk of it happened as well as the cost. Some failures hardly matter, because it doesn’t cost much to fix and doesn’t hurt anyone when it happens. You can choose to ignore them or warn people what not to do to minimize the risk of it happening.

Other failures are dangerous or deadly. These are the failures you desperately want to prevent. A classic example is anything that causes a plane or car to crash or the failure of a medical device that puts a patient’s life at risk. Know that it isn’t just planes, cars and medical devices that can harm people. Any electrical device presents the risk of electrical shock. Items with moving parts could pinch fingers or send things flying into someone’s face.

Investing in FMEA during the design and production process can reduce your potential legal liability later. If you can show that you did a thorough analysis of the product and addressed likely or dangerous issues, a bizarre failure that causes someone to get hurt is less likely to lead to a class action lawsuit.

Taking the time to do FMEA and make improvements to the product’s design can reduce known costs, as well. If the product is more robust, you’ll have fewer product returns to process and repair. You’ll also maintain your reputation for quality. This can lead to greater sales. On the flipside, a product that sees a wave of massive failures will quickly stop selling. A classic example of this is the first generation of hoverboards. They often caught fire while charging or being ridden. The next generation of the design had better charge controlling, but parents were much more afraid to buy the product for their children the next year. It takes years to undo the reputation for poor quality or danger. And in a worst case scenario, a bad product release like this can put you out of business.

How can you learn more about FMEA?

FMEA is a standard part of most engineering school curricula. However, you can take classes on FMEA outside of school. You can take FMEA training modules at places such as this website here. They offer design for FMEA or DFMEA classes that are ideal for product engineers, quality engineers and supply chain professionals. PFMEA or process FMEA is perfect for process engineers and industrial engineers. They can learn how to design processes so that quality is literally built in or simply reduce the risk of errors and problems that contribute to unexpected equipment breakdowns. PFMA is also a good idea for QA and QC technicians, since they can make changes to the assembly or quality control process to reduce the risk of defects and increase the odds you catch problems before the product ships.

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