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Failure Mode and Effect Analysis

FMEA | What is it…

Failure Mode and Effect Analysis – FMEA – is effectively a risk analysis tool utilised within several stages of the DMAIC improvement lifecycle (Analyse, Improve and Control). Its application or reason for use in each stage may differ but the overriding principle is to prevent an event from ever happening (think safety i.e. keeping trains aligned on a track) or to identify where possible defects could occur.



Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA) due to the nature of the analysis will take longer than one session to work through. This therefore necessitates strong facilitation skills and prior planning to keep your improvement project on track

FMEA | How to use it….

Before delving into FMEA there is some key terminology/acronyms to be aware of:

Step 1 – Be clear on the scope – Firstly, before commencing your FMEA exercise it is best to be clear on the scope i.e. which product or service are we analysing? And is it the whole product or service or are we breaking this down into smaller chunks?
Step 2 – Ensure collaboration – Once the scope has been identified as with most improvement activities collaboration will be key. So be sure to have the right representation from across the organisation and improvement team to effectively conduct the exercise
Step 3a  – Setting up your FMEA Template Analysis Section – Now your are good to begin. Start by drawing out a table with the following headers for the Analysis Section:

  1. Process Step (or product part)
  2. Potential Failure Mode
  3. Potential Failure Effects
  4. SEV (Severity)
  5. Potential Causes
  6. OCC (Occurance)
  7. Current Controls
  8. DET (Detection)
  9. RPN (RPN make a calculated field RPN = SEV multiplied by OCC multiplied by DET)
FMEA Analysis section of the template
Step 3b – Setting up your FMEA Template Action Section – Next lay out the following headers for the Action Section:

  1. Actions Recommended
  2. WHO?
  3. Actions Taken
  4. SEV
  5. OCC
  6. DET
  7. RPN
FMEA Action Section of the template
Step 4 – Analysis Elements 

  1. Process Steps – Within your table start by identifying all the process steps (of the product or service that is under review)
  2. Identify Failure Modes and Effects – Then for each of these steps (or sub-process steps)
    1. Identify the Potential Failure Modes that might occur
    2. And for each of these identify the Potential Failure Effects
  3. Provide a Severity Rating – Next provide a severity (SEV) rating to each of these Failure Effects. You may have an existing rating system within your organisation, if that is the case then use the existing standard. The grading works from 1 being the lowest severity to 10 being the highest. When you have classified all of severity ratings it can be helpful to test those scores against one another to ensure the correct application.
  4. Consider Potential Causes and Rate –  Here we identify what could cause the failure to happen. This time we rank the potential number of different occurrences that this cause could occur. As with the severity rating this is ranked on a scale of 1-10.
  5. Controls and Detection Rates – Next consider and record the current controls that are in place.. Then rate the likelihood of detection – very likely is a low score and very unlikely is a high score
  6. The Risk Priority Number is then calculated as follows RPN = SEV multiplied by OCC multiplied by DET (if you set the excel up first this can auto calculate the score for you)
  7. Repeat the above for each of the process steps. Depending on the issue at hand you may decide to identify all steps and analyse first before moving on to actions – or alternatively break the steps down into group and then assign actions


Depending on the size of your problem or project, this will most likely form a workshop on it’s own. At the very least you should split the session. This will prevent colleagues from jumping to actions and solutions and ensure the analysis is completed first.
Step 5 – Action Elements – Now we start planning to act on the results of the analysis by firstly:

  1. Setting recommended actions
  2. Identifying who will is responsible for the action and when they will complete the action by
  3. These are then reassessed on completion for their impact to the Risk Priority Number (RPN)


Watch out for debating the small stuff. Though we want to be accurate with ratings so we can align the necessary effort to risks, we must be careful with over debating the scoring. The score sheets help here but also use strong facilitation. If the group differ on whether an item scores a 2 or a 3 – let it go settle on 3 and move on to more pressing issues.

FMEA Template

Download Free to Use FMEA Template

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