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"Define Phase" Tools: Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA)

FMEA is used primarily to evaluate a process . Its purpose is to identify ways in which a process might possibly fail, with the goal being to eliminate or reduce the likelihood of such a failure (ie, reduce risk). By performing FMEA before the project starts, the team will have a better understanding of the risks associated with the project and determine whether the benefits outweigh the risks.
Risk Priority Number (RPN)
A risk priority number (RPN) is calculated in FMEA to analyze the risk associated with potential problems. The RPN takes into consideration: severity, occurrence, and detection (SOD). Risks that are most severe, most likely to occur, and least likely to be detected will have the highest RPN. The scale that is used (eg, 1 to 5 or 1 to 10) is determined and agreed on by the team. The RPN can help organizations focus on what actions need to be taken to reduce a potential risk. Below are some key points in performing FMEA.
  • Always use a cross-sectional team.
  • Ensure that the team understands the intent of FMEA.
  • Use brainstorming to list all potential failures.
  • Have the team agree on the scale to be used to weigh SOD.