Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA)

The Failure Mode and Effects Analysis is a procedure aiming at reducing consequences of potential failures by implementing appropriate measures. This involves determining systematically the failures and malfunctions such as their consequences for the system under investigation. For most companies, this analysis has become an integral part as a practical quality tool. This is not true only for the fields where the analysis originally had been implemented – the aviation and automotive industries – but to an increasing extent also for the areas of services as well as process and project management.

FMEA’s main field of application comprises reliability prognoses of new developments as well as changes of safety-relevant systems – independent of any specific sector. Its preventive approach allows for the identification of weak points, recognizing and assessing their relevance in order to initiate measures for their prevention or detection accordingly. On the other hand, already employed products or processes can be investigated that way, too (as a corrective approach).

There are several types of this analysis procedure. The main types of the FMEA include:

-System FMEA:

Analysis of the overall system. On the basis of the documented system requirements the functional coaction of the systems components and their links to avoid failures concerning system selection and design as well as field risks form the focus of the investigation.

-Construction and Design FMEA:

Analysis on the level of component parts. According to the system requirements the construction and design of components is investigated in order to prevent from development failures and constructively influenceable process failures.

-Process FMEA:

Analysis of process planning and performance. Aiming at the prevention of planning and manufacturing errors, the process FMEA is intended to ensure that the end product corresponds to the costumer’s expectations.

There are further extensions of the classical Failure Mode and Effects Analysis. The most important comprise:

– FMECA (Failure Mode, Effects and Criticality Analysis – extension of the FMEA concerning the determination of concrete failure rates or the calculation of an indicator for the critical state of a fault condition)

– FMEDA (Failure Mode, Effects and Diagnostic Analysis – extension of the FMEA concerning quantitative parameters for the assessment of the system’s diagnostic capability)