A Failure Mode and Effects Analysis, or FMEA, is a step-by-step method designed to identify and fully understand a given product’s potential failure modes — and the causes and effects of those failures.

Through a standard framework, FMEA facilitators assess the risk associated with the discovered failure modes. A product developer can then prioritize and carry out correction actions to address the most serious concerns.

That whole process could take a while, though, right?

In a live webinar this month titled The Quality of FMEAs, a Tech Briefs reader had the following question for Carl Carlson, Owner of Carlson Reliability Consulting:

“How much time should an FMEA take, excluding the mitigation efforts? Is it best to tackle it all at once, or over many weeks?”

Read Carlson’s edited response below.

Carl Carlson photo headshot, Carlson Reliability Consulting
Carl Carlson

Carl Carlson: There are two approaches, which both have pros and cons. One is what I’ll call it a “blitz,” where you just push through and get the FMEA done: All day long, two days, three days, whatever it takes. The benefit there is you know the failure modes, causes, the risks, and what you need to do in a given slice of time. The negative, however, is that you’re not paralleling the product development process, so you’ll need to update periodically as the product development process goes on.

The second approach is to schedule a couple hours a week, or a couple hours a few times a week, and parallel the product development process. Here, you’re moving through the FMEA but you’re also updating, based on changes in the product development, as well as changes driven by the FMEA itself.

I’ve seen FMEAs that are very simple and take a couple hours. I’ve seen FMEAs for a more complex system that take many, many days. The time an FMEA takes totally depends on if the product is new, or if the product is only being given a small change. Or whether it’s a component or a large system.

We want to keep the scope well defined; we don’t want to try to do everything all at once. In other words, we keep the scope defined based on the FMEA block diagram or process flow diagram.

To see the diagrams, watch the full Tech Briefs presentation: The Quality of FMEAs.

Have you conducted a Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA)? Share your comments, questions, and lessons learned in the comments section below.