Learn what FMEA is, its types and how to use this risk management tool to improve quality and safety in your company.

The automotive sector is one of the most demanding and competitive in the market; therefore, it requires a high standard of quality and reliability for products and processes. To ensure this, it is essential to apply risk management tools, such as FMEA (Failure Mode and Effect Analysis).

If you want to learn more about this tool and how to apply it in your company, this post is for you. Here, you will learn what FMEA is, its types and how to conduct it, in addition to presenting an example of its use.

Finally, we will highlight the benefits of FMEA for continuous improvement of quality and customer satisfaction. Keep reading!

What is FMEA?

FMEA is the acronym for Failure Mode and Effect Analysis, which consists of a structured technique to identify the possible causes and consequences of potential or actual failures in a system, product, or service.

The objective of FMEA is to prevent or minimize the effects of failures, increasing reliability, safety, and quality.

How can FMEA be used?

FMEA is a method that makes us think: “if this failure happens, what are the consequences?” The goal is to reduce the chance of a failure occurring as much as possible, removing what causes it.

This tool works as a knowledge summary, which allows creating a record based on past experiences with similar products/processes and use this information for future improvements.

Using FMEA consistently prevents failures and makes the service safer and more reliable. This provides greater security and satisfaction to customers. In addition, it has a positive impact on the company’s financial return, as it reduces or eliminates potential failures in production processes.

FMEA Types

FMEA can be used for different purposes, but they all have the same goal: to avoid failures. The most common FMEA types are:

  • Design or Product FMEA: Used to prevent problems in the product design before manufacturing it. For example, if the product might break, have a short lifespan, cause accidents, or not comply with laws.
  • Process FMEA (PFMEA): Used to prevent problems in the steps of making or changing a process. It can be a manufacturing, assembly, sales, or service process.
  • System, Service, or Software FMEA: Used to prevent problems in complex systems, service provision, or computer programs.

In each FMEA type, the team analyzes potential failures and the causes that can generate them. Thus, they can take steps to avoid or reduce the risks.

How to conduct an FMEA analysis?

Now that you learned a little more about what FMEA is and its main types, see below the first steps before starting its implementation:

  • Understand your customer needs.
  • Define the FMEA scope (design, process or other).
  • Select a multidisciplinary work team and involve the related areas.
  • Choose the format for your FMEA form.

Completing the steps mentioned above, we can move on to the steps that will help you implement FMEA. Identify:

1. Failure mode

Gather the team and brainstorm potential failures that may arise and affect the process, product, service and likely the customer.

2. Potential effect of failure

The effect is the consequence of the failure in question. More than one effect can be identified for each failure.

3. Severity (S)

This is the degree of severity for the failure effect. Usually, a scale of 1 to 10 is considered, where 10 corresponds to an extremely severe/high failure consequence and 1 to a negligible/low consequence.

4. Failure causes

Determine all possible causes for each failure mode.

5. Probability of occurrence (O)

It is the probability that a given effect will occur and result in a failure. The occurrence can be rated on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 corresponds to an extremely low probability and 10 to a very high probability.

6. Process controls

These are the current controls employed for failure prevention and those employed for failure detection. They can be tests, procedures, or mechanisms to prevent failures from reaching the customer. These controls can prevent the cause from happening or reduce the probability of it happening. They can also detect failures after the cause has already occurred, but before the customer is affected.

7. Detection (D)

It is an estimate of the probability of detecting the failure with current process controls. It can be rated on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is extremely likely that the control will detect the failure and 10 is unlikely/impossible that the failure will be detected (for example, if there is no control).

8. Risk Priority Number (RPN)

The risk priority is calculated by multiplying the severity, occurrence, and detection (S x O x D).

This value helps classify and prioritize the detected failures, that is, in which order they should be resolved and whether they require immediate action.

FMEA Example

Below is a detailed step-by-step on how to conduct an FMEA. Please remember that this is just a simple and didactic example to make it easier to understand.

1. Process step

Let’s consider the process of testing a finished car at a car manufacturer plant.

2. Failure mode

In this FMEA example, we defined two failure modes:

  • The car does not brake
  • The car does not start

3. Failure effect

So, we ask the question: “If this failure occurs, what could happen?”. We have as effect of these failures:

  • Accident
  • The consumer would be unable to reach their destination

4. Severity (S)

As the accident is the worst possible scenario, we rate the severity value as 10 and for the second effect, not so serious, we rated it as 7.

5. Failure causes

“What could cause these failures?” We list two probable causes for each failure mode:

  • The brake system not working or the wheels slipping during the test.
  • Battery problem or fuel shortage.

6. Probability of occurrence

As it is a new car that just left the manufacturer, we consider:

  • Probability of occurrence 7 (high) for the probability that the problem is in the brake system and 2 (low) for the problem to be in the wheels.
  • Probability of occurrence 5 (moderate) that the problem is in the battery and 3 (low) for fuel shortage.

7. Process controls

As mentioned earlier, process controls can prevent the cause or detect it after it has occurred. In this case, the indications we have for problems are:

  • In the brake system would be noise. Brake pads emit different types of noise and each of them represents a different failure. These include high and low frequency squeal, judder, groan, moan, rattle, clack, chirp, and creak. That is, a fully functioning brake system ideally does not make noises.
  • Another control would be the TWI (Tread Wear Indicator), which measures the thickness and depth of the tire grooves.
  • The car’s dashboard works as a control to detect both the battery and fuel shortage problems.

8. Detection (D)

The lower the detection value, the greater the chance of detecting the failure. We have the following detection scores:

  • Brake noise as 2 for extremely likely to be heard and 3 for tread wear indicator.
  • Battery problem as 1 and fuel shortage as 4.

9. Risk Priority Number (RPN)

Finally, we calculate the RPN. The higher the RPN value, the higher the priority of that item in the preventive action plan.

In this example, the highest number was for the first failure mode (the car does not brake), which means that verifying it should be the automaker’s priority for improvement.

FMEA Results

After finishing the FMEA, what to do with the results?

This last step is the most important, and if not done correctly, all previous steps will be irrelevant to your product or process.

After finishing the FMEA, we use the results to:

  • Mitigate high-risk failures.
  • Reduce the severity of consequences and probability of occurrences.
  • Add controls to increase failure detection.
  • Create action plans with dates and people responsible for implementing each improvement.
  • Reassess to ensure objectives are achieved.

FMEA Benefits

FMEA provides several benefits to organizations that use it, such as:

Increases the reliability and safety of products and processes

By identifying potential or actual failures, FMEA allows correcting or eliminating the causes of these failures, preventing them from recurring or getting worse.

Reduces costs and waste

FMEA prevents or minimizes the effects of failures, reducing costs and optimizing resources.

Improves customer satisfaction

FMEA delivers high-quality and reliable products and services, anticipating customer needs and expectations.

Improves risk planning and management

FMEA analyzes and prioritizes failures, monitoring and evaluating improvement actions.

Promotes continuous improvement

FMEA documents and records failures, learning from mistakes and applying best practices.

Meet SoftExpert FMEA

You have learned what FMEA is and how to apply it in your company. Now, how about learning more about SoftExpert FMEA? It is a solution that helps organizations increase productivity and reduce costs, complying with international standards and regulations such as IATF 16949 and ISO 9000.

Do you want to find out more about the advantages and benefits of SoftExpert FMEA for your company? Then talk to our experts. They will analyze your challenges and suggest how best to use the FMEA solution to solve your needs.

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Bruna Borsalli


Bruna Borsalli

Business Analyst at SoftExpert Software, holds a Bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering from Univille. Experienced in EHS (Environment, Health and Safety) and a Quality Management specialist as well as a certified Six Sigma Yellow Belt and Internal Auditor for ISO 9001 | 14001 | 45001 Integrated Management Systems.

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