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FMEA: Your Continuous Improvement Crystal Ball

When businesses are looking for areas to improve, the use of a FMEA chart can often work wonders. In some respects it is a crystal ball to help you predict where failures can happen. This is about being proactive with your continuous improvement projects rather than trying to pick up the pieces when something goes wrong!


FMEA stands for Failure Mode and Effects Analysis.

Basically, it gets you to look at individual elements of a process so that you can think about where the process can 'fall over'. It can also be used for products; looking at which components will fail.



The image above (click to enlarge) shows an example FMEA worksheet you could use.

For each failure mode (of each element) that could fail you determine the potential effects and the related root cause(s).

Once this has been done you get to score each failure mode in terms of its:

  • Severity (how much damage it can cause should it happen)
  • Occurrence (how likely it is to happen)
  • Detection (how obvious it is when it does start to happen)

Each of the above is scored from 1 - 10, with 10 being the worst outcome.

All three scores are then multiplied to give you the Risk Priority Number (RPN).

The sheet is then sorted by the RPN value, from high to low.

The items at the top of this list are the ones to go to work on first.


If you haven't used the FMEA approach before it is certainly worth trying out; it may even help you to form your 2014 improvement plans.

Enjoy.


Giles Johnston
Author of 'Business Process Re-Engineering', a practical plan to improve business performance.