What is FMEA?

Acronyms. There are acronyms for everything these days.  Take for instance FMEA. The acronym FMEA stands for Failure Mode and Effects Analysis.  But if you’re here with us reading this blog, you probably already knew that!  But do you think of it as a document or an analysis?

Document vs. Analysis?

Although many folks treat it like it’s a document, a FMEA is more of an analysis – it allows us to study the reliability and the cause and effect of various components in a system.  We keep hearing of it referred to as a “living document” from sources such as Wikipedia, as if it breathes or something.  But if that’s the case, it’s most definitely on life-support, being brought to life like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster – often too late in the product or process development and then left to die once the review process allows the check of the “done” box.

When engineers perform an analysis  (Monte-Carlo, designed experiments, finite element, stress, etc.), we present the summary of the analysis in a report.  Yet, the FMEA itself is so often treated like a long and boring, non-value-added document that drains our resources instead of the effective tool it can be.

It doesn’t need to be that way. If we treat the FMEA like an analysis – getting it done early in the design of a product or process, digging into it, interpreting and summarizing it, drawing conclusions from the results, and, most importantly, acting on those conclusions –  we would have a true-blue, value-added analysis that can really make a vital impact on minimizing risk.

I urge you to change your mindset and think of the FMEA as an analysis and maximize the wealth of information it provides to your benefit.  Doors will open and “value-added” will come pouring out!

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