FMEA Competence Center | Dipl.-Ing. Helmut Goiginger
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What is FMEA?


In the world of product development and quality improvement, there’s a powerful and time-tested method that’s been proven effective across diverse industries: Failure Mode and Effects Analysis, or FMEA. This systematic approach, rooted in military history, has evolved into an indispensable tool for analyzing processes. Whether you’re new to FMEA or looking to deepen your understanding, its relevance is clear. From its role in reliability engineering to its applications in fields like automotive, aerospace, healthcare, and software development, FMEA’s impact is extensive. In this article, we’ll take you on a journey through FMEA, covering its origins, evolution, types, key components, industry-specific uses, real-world examples, and potential future trends.

Understanding FMEA

Definition and Methodology of FMEA

Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) is a systematic approach used to identify potential failures in a product or process. It’s a proactive method that enables teams to anticipate and mitigate risks before they become problems. FMEA involves identifying potential failure modes, their causes, and their effects on the overall system. It’s a tool that helps teams prioritize risks based on their severity, occurrence, and detectability. This methodology is often referred to as FMEA analysis or FMEA process.

Role of FMEA in Product and Process Development

In product and process development, FMEA plays a crucial role. It’s used to analyze potential failure modes during the design phase, preventing issues before they arise. This proactive approach enhances product quality and process efficiency. FMEA also optimizes maintenance plans for repairable systems, contributing to control plans and other quality assurance procedures. It creates a knowledge base of failure modes and corrective actions for future troubleshooting efforts.

FMEA and Reliability Engineering

FMEA is a fundamental tool in reliability engineering, ensuring systems are robust, reliable, and designed to withstand various failure modes. It prevents failures through cost-effective analysis that leverages the collective knowledge of the team to identify and resolve issues before they occur.

History of FMEA

Origins of FMEA

FMEA’s origins date back to the 1940s when the U.S. military first developed this systematic approach to identify potential failures in designs or processes. Its primary goal was to enhance the reliability and safety of military equipment and systems, laying the foundation for its later use in various industries.

Evolution of FMEA

Over time, FMEA has evolved significantly, expanding beyond its military roots. Its effectiveness in reducing risks and improving safety led to broader applications. FMEA adapted to different contexts and became a versatile tool used in manufacturing, healthcare, and more. Today, it’s employed across industries to enhance the reliability and safety of complex systems.

Adoption of FMEA in Various Industries

FMEA’s adoption across industries is a testament to its effectiveness. Industries like aerospace and automotive were early adopters, recognizing its value in improving safety and reducing recalls. Today, FMEA is used in a wide range of fields, from manufacturing to healthcare, to identify potential failures and enhance the reliability and safety of complex systems. Its usage continues to grow as more industries recognize its value in improving processes and products.

Types of FMEA

In risk management and quality control, various types of Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) are used. While there are several specific types, two main ones stand out:


Process FMEA (PFMEA)

DFMEA focuses on identifying potential failures within the design of a product. It explores issues like product malfunctions, reduced product life, and safety concerns stemming from factors such as materials, geometry, tolerances, interfaces, and environmental factors. DFMEA enhances engineering by applying cross-functional expertise to review design progress and prioritize failure modes.

PFMEA, on the other hand, targets the process rather than the design. It identifies failures impacting product quality, process reliability, customer satisfaction, and safety. These failures can result from human factors, processing methods, materials, machinery, measurement systems, and environmental factors. PFMEA helps discover potential failures within processes, enabling their prioritization and mitigation.

In both FMEA types, early failure detection is key, as addressing issues late in development or production incurs higher costs and risks.

Key Components of FMEA

To dive deeper into FMEA, it’s crucial to grasp its key components, which form the foundation of any FMEA analysis:


Elements are part of the scope of analysis. It can be a product, its systems and subsystems or components when talking about DFMEA. In case of PFMEA it can be a single process step or process station.


Functions describe the intended purpose of the element under analysis. It’s essential to understand what the system, product, or process should achieve under normal conditions. For instance, a car tire’s function is to support the vehicle’s weight, provide traction, and ensure a comfortable ride.

Failure Modes

Failure modes identify potential ways something could fail. These are the „what could go wrong“ scenarios. For example, a failure mode for a car tire could be a puncture or excessive wear.


Effects determine the consequences of each failure mode. In the case of a car tire, a puncture’s effect would be the inability to support the vehicle’s weight, leading to a breakdown.


Causes uncover the reasons behind failure modes. It’s about understanding why a failure might occur. For a car tire, a cause of puncture could be driving over sharp objects like nails or glass.

Risk Assessment

Risk assessment ranks the severity, occurrence, and detectability of failures. Severity measures the impact on the customer or process, occurrence tracks the frequency, and detectability evaluates the likelihood of detecting the failure before it affects the customer or process.


Prioritization determines which actions and risks should take precedence based on their severity, occurrence, and detectability. It focuses improvement efforts where they will have the most significant impact.

FMEA in Different Industries

FMEA in the Automotive Industry

In the automotive industry, FMEA is a critical tool for identifying potential failures in vehicle design and manufacturing processes. It helps pinpoint issues that could lead to engine failure, brake malfunctions, or safety hazards. By addressing these concerns early, manufacturers improve vehicle safety and reliability while reducing recall and warranty costs.

FMEA in the Aerospace Industry

In aerospace, FMEA ensures the safety and reliability of aircraft and spacecraft. It identifies potential failures in design, manufacturing, and assembly processes, such as engine issues or structural problems. By tackling these problems proactively, aerospace companies enhance safety and reduce rework and warranty claims.

FMEA in the Healthcare Industry

In healthcare, FMEA enhances patient safety by identifying potential failures in processes and systems that could harm patients. It uncovers issues with medication administration, surgical procedures, and patient care. By addressing these concerns, healthcare providers improve patient safety and reduce medical errors.

FMEA in Manufacturing

In manufacturing, FMEA is vital for identifying potential failures in product design and production processes. It detects issues in materials, assembly, and final products, improving product quality and reducing rework and warranty claims.

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