What the heck is an FMEA?

What is an FMEA? FMEA is an abbreviation for "Failure Mode & Effects Analysis".  The short and simple explanation is that an FMEA is nothing more than a matrix that helps you track all of the ways you can screw something up and how big the potential screw up would be.  In every thing we do, there are risks (failures) and varying effects of those risks - some major (i.e. death) and some minor (i.e. make your kids stomp off in anger).

With life as hectic as ever, brought on by the increasing expectations of doing more with less, an FMEA is a pro-active tool that is very valuable if used correctly.  Instead of trying to tackle every possible risk at once, each risk ("failure mode") is ranked based on 3 aspects - severity, occurrence and detection.

  • Severity (S) = How bad could the failure be?
  • Occurrence (O) = How frequent does the failure occur?
  • Detection (D) = How visible is the failure?

A little math problem --->  S x O x D = RPN

The focal point of the FMEA tool is the RPN or "risk priority number".  The concept is simple.  The higher the RPN, the higher risk.  Therefore, the RPN number is a means of helping you prioritize your actions with the existing resources.  RPNs give a value to the different potential failures.  In the ideal world, we would solve every problem all at once, but as this is rarely possible, the FMEA helps us organize, prioritize, minimize (risk) and continually improve those processes in which we choose to manage.

An excerpt section has been created listing bullet points in a bit more techinical language.

For more informatoin on FMEAs, visit the wonderful world of Wiki - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Failure_mode_and_effects_analysis