FMEA (Failure Modes and Effects Analysis)

The FME(C)A is a design tool used to systematically analyze postulated component failures and identify the resultant effects on system operations.

The analysis is sometimes characterized as consisting of two sub-analyses, the first being the failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA), and the second, the criticality analysis (CA). Successful development of an FMEA requires that the analyst include all significant failure modes for each contributing element or part in the system.

FMEAs can be performed at the system, subsystem, assembly, subassembly or part level. The FMECA should be a living document during development of a hardware design. It should be scheduled and completed concurrently with the design. If completed in a timely manner, the FMECA can help guide design decisions.

The usefulness of the FMECA as a design tool and in the decision-making process is dependent on the effectiveness and timeliness with which design problems are identified. Timeliness is probably the most important consideration. In the extreme case, the FMECA would be of little value to the design decision process if the analysis is performed after the hardware is built.

While the FMECA identifies all part failure modes, its primary benefit is the early identification of all critical and catastrophic subsystem or system failure modes so they can be eliminated or minimized through design modification at the earliest point in the development effort; therefore, the FMECA should be performed at the system level as soon as preliminary design information is available and extended to the lower levels as the detail design progresses.