Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) an analytical tool that is used in Risk Management to identify various ways in which systems element can fail and what’s their overall impact (consequence) to other elements and/or the overall system.  The results are processed thru Failure Modes Effects and Criticality Analysis (FMECA) in which each potential failure is classifies/prioritize according to the combined influence of its severity and its probability of occurrence. These results can be achieved either quantitatively or qualitatively. The quantitative process uses existing failure data, while the qualitative approach uses a subjective ranking procedure conducted by a team of people with an understanding of the system under review. [1]

A FMEA should be initiated as soon as preliminary design information is available. [1]

The Reliability Information Analysis Center (RIAC) is a database developed by the DoD that is comprised of failure rates and failure modes. It’s the technical focal point for information, data, analysis, training, and technical assistance in the engineering fields of Reliability, Maintainability, Quality, Supportability, and Interoperability (RMQSI). [2]

The use of FMEA and FMECA [1,2]

  • Development of system requirements that minimize the likelihood of failures
  • Development of methods to design and test systems to ensure that the failures have been eliminated.
  • Evaluation of the requirements of the customer to ensure that those do not give rise to potential failures.
  • Identification of certain design characteristics that contribute to failures, and minimize or eliminate those effects.
  • Tracking and managing potential risks in the design. This helps avoid the same failures in future projects
  • Highlight single point failures requiring corrective action
  • Aid in developing test methods and troubleshooting techniques
  • Provide a foundation for qualitative reliability, maintainability, safety and logistics analyses
  • Provide estimates of system critical failure rates
  • Provide a quantitative ranking of system and/or subsystem failure modes relative to mission importance
  • Identify parts and systems most likely to fail
  • Minimize overall costs by identifying single point failures and other areas of concern prior to manufacturing
  • Provide a baseline for troubleshooting that can be used for identifying corrective actions for a given failure
  • Results can be used to perform a variety of other analyses, such as Fault Tree Analysis (FTA), or/and Reliability Centered Maintenance Analysis (RCMA)

Fault Tree Analysis (FTA) is a “top down” method of analysis compared to Failure Modes Effects and Criticality Analysis (FMECA) which is a “bottoms up” method.

See Damage Mode & Effects Analysis (DMEA)


  • The single biggest failure people make with FMEAs is to spend time completing the document and then storing it in a filing cabinet. The FMEA is the ultimate dynamic document, meaning that it should survive as long as the process or product with which it is associated.

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Updated: 7/29/2017

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