With design, it pays to anticipate problems — and solve them — during product development.

One way to find failures early is the FMEA. The “Failure Mode and Effects Analysis” uses a step-by-step approach to identify a range of errors in design and process.

By systematically determining failure modes — and the severity of each failure — an engineer can then begin prioritizing mitigation methods.

But how can you ensure that the FMEA is done correctly, and not just conducted quickly to "check the box" for customers? And what role should top management play in an FMEA?

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

Carl Carlson

“What would be the greatest enabler to help top management ensure FMEAs are in fact quality FMEAs that help prevent problems, and that they are not done as just a deliverable to satisfy their customers?"

Read Carlson’s edited response below.

I’m going to answer that in two ways.

1) I tell this to top management. I want top management to review high-risk issues from FMEAs on a regular basis. This can be tacked on to the same meetings where you review field issues or test issues. So, bring those issues to top management on a regular basis.

And review them very quickly. It doesn’t have to take a long time. I’m not looking at the entire FMEA — just what the highest risk issues are, what the the failures potentially are, what the causes are, and then the recommendations.

I want to get management buy-in and support for the recommendations — or feedback if they don’t support it. This gets management in touch with the quality of FMEAs. It makes the teams feel like they’re monitored and being supported.

2) A good audit process, done in a positive way. Identify the strengths as well as the weaknesses in the FMEA.

Do you agree? Have you conducted an FMEA? Share your comments and questions below.