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6Sigma Tools: Failure Models and Effects Analysis (FMEA)

published on February 13, 2012

It’s that time again, so let’s delve into the world of Failure Models and Effects Analysis, otherwise known as FMEA. Often touted in 6Sigma circles but rarely used due to the perceived complexity, it is one of 6Sigma’s secret weapons. FMEA stands for Failure Models and Effects Analysis, that’s a big name so let’s find out what it is exactly.

What is Failure Model and Effectiveness Analysis?

FMEA started as an engineering quality tool and it is basically used to recognize and isolate potential factors that could cause failures. It’s most easily understood as a preventative measure, so here is the low down.

There are 5 types of FMEA: system, design, process, service and software. Here’s how the breakdown.

  • System: focuses on universal system functions, think company-wide processes like security protocol or project structures.
  • Design: focuses on apparatus and subsystems, think equipment and e-mail follow up responses based on protocol.
  • Process: focuses on your process, for example those e-mail protocols I mentioned in the Design portion.
  • Service: refers to service functions, like how you handle customer service or after service for your sales for example.
  • Software: refers to the functions of your software, the most relevant application of this is the automation of much of the software we use today.

What does FMEA look like?

Chart explaining how to implement the ASQ fmea model

ASQ FMEA Template

What can I use it for?

FMEA has a wide range of applications and consulting your belt will give you a specific direction that aligns with your company goals. There are some universal applications of this method that you can use as a guideline to get started. You can use FMEA for:

  • Reducing product/service failures.
  • Assessing customer needs.
  • Eliminating potentially harmful design settings.
  • Helping to target possible risks
  • Creating a way to identify failure that prevents them from affecting customers.

What doesn’t it do?

Like all 6Sigma tools, the effectiveness of FMEA lies in the practitioner. And while it has a lot of benefits, there are few things to remember when you implement it.

1. It only identifies failures, it does not eliminate them.

2.  Staff implementing FMEA has to be aware of what to do with the failures once they have been identified.

3.  The emphasis of this tool is on prevention, not reaction.

FMEA is a wonderful tool and creates many valuable opportunities in your organization. When properly utilized the savings that FMEA can create will lead to the type of quality environment that positions your organization as an industry leader.

published on February 13, 2012

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