Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) can help you change the future.

FMEA pinpoints where and how a process might fail and the relative impact of the failure. Instead of analyzing why an accident occurred in the past, it focuses on identifying the source of a problem that could happen in the future. Done correctly, FMEA can improve safety, reduce risks – and ultimately avoid expensive claims. And you can perform an FMEA in 5 easy steps.

1. Assemble the right team. Gather a cross-functional team of people with diverse knowledge and in-depth understanding of the process you’re evaluating. It’s essential to create an environment that encourages honesty and objectivity so all team members feel comfortable voicing their opinions.

2. Select a process to examine & map out the process. Narrow down the options by examining your risk data. Think high-dollar claims, high-volume incidents, or high-risk processes that are critical to maintaining business continuity. Then once you select the process, collaboratively map out the steps as team.

3. Identify potential failures.  Use the experience of team members together with actual data of past incidents and claims to detect potential failure points, complex steps, or key requirements. Make sure to describe each failure in terms of:

  • Severity – What would the impact of this problem be?
  • Occurrence – How frequently will this likely happen?
  • Detection – How easily can the problem be detected?

4. Score each failure mode. Develop a numerical rating scale for severity, occurrence, and detection. Decide on a clear and consistent scale, where 10 is the worst-case scenario and 1 is the best, and rate each of the three dimensions. For best results, work through one failure mode at a time, make sure the scale is applied consistently throughout, and use actual data whenever possible to support the team’s rating decisions.

Once each failure mode has been scored, calculate the risk-priority number (RPN) by multiplying the values of severity, occurrence, and detection. Lastly, list the RPNs in descending order to help determine your priorities. Tackle the highest RPNs first and work your way down the list.

5. Develop an action plan.   Brainstorm ways to address each potential failure, such as redesigning the process or implementing new safety standards.  Then, designate who is responsible for each action in the plan and set a completion date.

When an FMEA is done well, the entire team contributes and learns from each other’s point of view. Changing the future can produce some pretty powerful results.

To learn more about FMEA, including how to conduct an FMEA in your organization, download our free e-book, How to Proactively Manage Risk with Failure Modes and Effects Analysis.