What is FMEA and how to apply it to improve processes and products?


O que é FMEA


Looking to gain a better understanding of what FMEA is? Well, regardless of the industry or company’s field of operation, we are well aware that quality is invariably linked to the end result. After all, those who outperform their competitors gain a substantial competitive edge.

However, what happens when processes deviate from their initially defined standards? And when products begin to exhibit defects? In certain instances, these issues can even jeopardize the safety of the end consumer.

One of the methodologies employed to address such problems and pinpoint causes and effects is FMEA

What is FMEA? Well, it may be the first step towards reducing errors and enhancing your product’s quality; directly impacting customer satisfaction and trust.

FMEA is a methodology used to decrease process errors. Another way to achieve this is through a management software that consolidates all essential information in one place. Check out: STRATWs One Siteware’s enterprise management software!

Keep reading and discover the two types of FMEA, their advantages, as well as where and how to apply them!

What is FMEA?

The acronym FMEA (Failure Mode and Effect Analysis) refers to a methodology that allows the analysis of eventual failures and their potential consequences within an industry. Furthermore, it identifies priority actions for improving products and services.

Its use began in military operations in the late 1940s. FMEA, since then, served to assess the reliability of systems and equipment failures. The goal was to reduce the occurrence of these failures, thereby increasing product credibility.

From NASA to Ford, today, this methodology is employed in various industries. This is because FMEA has become popular as a valuable tool to ensure safety and efficiency in both of its possible types:

  • Products: FMEA is used to identify and address any deviations from the established standards and project specifications.
  • Processes: in the realm of processes, we employ FMEA to proactively assess performance related issues right from the planning stage. This helps us spot and rectify any non-conformities in products.

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Advantages of FMEA

Now that we know what is FMEA, it is important to emphasize that its major benefit lies in the ability to reduce the frequency of failures or even eliminate them altogether. This results in more precise products and processes, with an unwavering focus on superior quality.

Another significant advantage of understanding and applying FMEA is the financial savings for a company. In industry, for instance, reducing failures in the manufacturing process directly correlates with less raw material consumption.

Using fewer materials means spending less, focusing only on essentials, thus avoiding waste and cutting costs for the company.

For the end consumer, this translates to a product that is unlikely to have manufacturing issues. The outcome is a quality product, customer satisfaction, and trust in the brand.

After all, as consumers, we know that when a preventable failure occurs in a company’s product, we tend to look elsewhere to avoid a recurrence. Regaining market trust in such cases requires significant marketing efforts, which consume time and money.

Where and how should you apply it?

FMEA is a tool used to enhance processes and products, whether by addressing potential future failures, existing issues, or preventing eventual problems.

For instance, in new processes or product development projects, it is valuable to assess the likelihood of failures upfront and take proactive steps to avoid various types of issues.

Read also: TQM (Total Quality Management) implementation in organizations: how to do it?

Step-by-step FMEA guide

First, it is important to identify potential failure modes. Ensure you gather the most accurate data, whether it is from engineering or the field.

Next, the risks associated with each identified failure mode will be assessed. How to do it?

You should assign a value on a scale of 1 to 10 for:

  • Severity of the problem (S): where 1 means “never” and 10 means “always”
  • Probability of occurrence (O): where 1 means “never” and 10 means “always”
  • Probability of detection (D): here, 10 means “never” and 1 means “always.”

Please note the scale (model below used for “S” and “O,” with an inverted scale for “D”):

The three numbers (S, O and D) are then multiplied to generate a Risk Priority Number (RPN). The RPN becomes the prioritized value that categorizes failure modes.

The higher the number, the more critical the specific failure, requiring a quicker response to prevent it.

In essence, this calculation aids in prioritizing potential defects based on their severity, frequency, and detection probability. The highest calculated number necessitates the most urgent improvement action.

If you are looking to understand more about what FMEA is, invest in your team’s continuous improvement. Read our post now and learn more about it!

What is FMEA and an example calculation

To calculate, following the explanations above, the formula for this “risk score” is as follows:

S x O x D = RPN

In the example below, shared by the MoreSteam platform, you can find more details about a seatbelt installation process in an automobile assembly line.

We can observe three distinct potential failure modes associated with the left front seatbelt. The first relates to the wrong color of the belt, the second to the latch/buckle not fastening securely, and the third pertains to misalignment of the component.

By calculating S x O x D = RPN, the highest number observed was for the second failure mode, yielding a result of 144. In other words, 9 x 2 x 8 = 144.

In this FMEA, the number 144 highlights that the second failure mode should currently be the top priority for process improvement within the company.

Whether in this or another example, the key takeaway is that once potential failures and their priority levels are identified, it becomes easier to work on preventive or corrective actions and develop an action plan.

Next steps

Now that you have a better understanding of what is FMEA, remember that the primary focus should always be on quality, whether it is in processes or products. This ensures your company remains competitive in the market with an unwavering commitment to quality and continuous improvement.

If you want to delve deeper into this topic, read this article on the essential quality indicators you need to measure.

STRATWs One is a corporate performance management software with specific features to track KPIs. It allows you to monitor teams and projects in real time with complete transparency. This makes it much easier to ensure the quality of your processes.

Revolutionize your company’s management with STRATWs One.