Getting Started with FMEA – It All Begins with a Plan

We’re starting to populate an FMEA table with our team. We get it started, but then we get stuck in disagreements. Or we think we finish it and then we don’t know what to do with it.

We can avoid these headaches with a little planning (or maybe a lot of planning - it depends on the project). We talk about risk management planning as it relates to FMEA.

We can think of FMEA like a design test. It’s a thought experiment, after all, where we’re initially thinking about all the potential ways our product can fail and the potential root causes and effects of that failure.

Thinking of the way we test our designs, we wouldn't throw any old component on any test machine and just start doing stuff. We'd want to plan out what we're testing, how we’re testing it, and what limits we’re testing to. We have a test plan and a protocol which includes acceptance criteria that answers, “How are we going to judge if our test is successful or not?” Our FMEAs also need a plan of execution and acceptance criteria. Otherwise, we won't know how to start it, finish it or what we’re to do with the results. 

What to do today:

If you're involved in an FMEA right now, are you familiar with its plan? Does your team have all the pieces they need to do an FMEA with purpose? Do you have ratings or rankings that help you measure results, and do you understand how to apply them to the FMEA? Do you have acceptance criteria?  

Anytime you're invited to participate in an FMEA, look up the plan first and ensure you'll be able to contribute meaningfully to its results. If you don't understand the plan, ask questions before the FMEA working meeting so that you do. 

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