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Concept of FMEA - Failure Modes and Effects and Analysis in Process Control

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: Jean Scheid • updated: 7/6/2011

The purpose of FMEA is to identify the potential failures and the consequent risks designed into a product or process and take steps to minimize the risk factors and prevent possible damages.

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    The acronym FMEA, for readers who are less familiar, stands for Failure Modes, Causes, and Effects. FMEA can be described as a tool for evaluating potential failures and the related causes and resultant effects in a Six Sigma process. FMEA is used to prioritize potential failures, in order of their severity, and attempts to minimize, if not totally eliminate, the probability of such failures happening.

    Failure modes’ signify lapses or defects in a manufacturing process or shortcomings in services that can have adverse repercussions and imperil customer relationship. ‘Effects’ means researching the fall-out of those failures. It is important to understand that the role of FMEA is not problem solving but it is merely a facilitating tool for determining methods aimed at problem solving.

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    Basic purpose of FMEA

    One can attribute a lot of reasons why organization wish to use FMEA. There are companies that use FMEA selectively to sort out a specific problem. Then there are companies with vision who wish to use FMEA more as a preventive measure to forestall likely failures. Some manufacturing companies opt for FMEA more as a company policy to constantly monitor and ward off or lessen failure potential.

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    How FMEA operates?

    FMEA draws up a comprehensive list of all potential failure modes and their potential effects. If the list becomes too long, it has to inevitably be broken into subunits. For arriving at detailed findings, each subunit is to undergo a separate FMEA. This is particularly true if the manufactured goods involve a huge number of components and a long assembly line.

    The potential possibilities of failure are generally rated on a scale of 1 to 10 and the higher the number, the greater the perceived failure risk. For FMEA methodology to become more effective, the ability to find and preempt the failure prior to to it producing damage is also rated on a scale of 1 to 10. This in-depth analysis will enable FMEA users to take prompt remedial action and contain damage.

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    How FMEA study is done?

    Once the product or process to be investigated for failure mode and their likely effects have been identified, a small team is created pf peoplewho have divergent views about the concerned product or process. The concept is that FMEA findings are more accurate when things are done collectively instead of by any single individual. As the fundamental purpose of FMEA is to achieve a better quality product and improved process, many diverse industries have begun to use FMEA.

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    How make FMEA findings accurate?

    Despite the growing popularity of FMEA, many people are not familiar how FMEA has to be done. The reason is the FMEA methods appear quite simple and therefore people seldom realize that the actual FMEA process can turn out to be cumbersome, particularly for first-time users. The people chosen to form the FMEA team must undergo FMEA training, before embarking on a FMEA project.

    There is a proven method for conducting FMEA and it is imperative that all team members on FMEA study group are properly informed. FMEA training is available through seminars and by studying books available in various stores. Even if FMEA findings of potential failure modes and effects are accurate, no benefits will accrue unless FMEA user takes necessary follow-up measures.