Project Management 101 — What is Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA)?

Detecting reliability problems early in the project life cycle is important. This is because it’s easier to take actions against minor problems. But once they grow into a major problem, the success of a project is severely undermined.

One project management technique that can help in early detection of problems is the failure mode and effect analysis (FMEA). Here we will take a look at the reliability analysis tool and understand how it helps increase the odds of successful project delivery.

An Overview of FMEA Technique

FMEA is a project management risk assessment tool. Using the tool, project managers can identify and quantify the influence of potential system failure. The tools look at three criteria when analyzing potential system failures.

  • Frequency and cause of potential failure
  • Impact on project outcome
  • Likelihood of detection of failure

The above three criteria relate to occurrence, severity, and detection of afailure. Together these three criteria comprise failure mode and effects analysis, FMEA. Failure mode refers to ways in which a process can fail while the effects analysis is carried out to detect and prioritize the impact of the failure.

Types of FMEA Technique

FMEA techniques can be categorized based on the focus of the analysis. These include:

  • Process — focus on assembly processes
  • Design — focus on subsystems and components
  • System — focus on global functions
  • Software — focus on system software
  • Service — focus on service delivery

How to Carry on FMEA?

The process of carrying out an FMEA is relatively straightforward. The analysis starts by identifying probable failure modes. This is based on the review, past instances, and barnstorming sessions. Proxy data may be used for new processes and systems having similar designs.

Next, the failure modes are assigned a probability from 1 to 10 that is based on the criteria mentioned above i.e. frequency, severity, and the likelihood of occurrence. A value is assigned for each of the failure modes. The values of the failure mode are then multiplied to arrive at the risk priority number (RPN).

The RPN becomes a priority value that ranks different failure modes. Higher RPN demands more attention as compared to lower RPN. The effective response to RPN includes error proofing the system and poka-yoke actions.


FMEA help in minimizing the risks associated with a project. They are usually undertaken to minimize the risk of a new project launch. Using the techniques, all the significant risks are identified and actions are taken to minimize their likelihood and impact.

Keep in mind that FMEA is not a substitute for an effective risk management plan and. In fact, the technique enhances the good risk management by applying experience and knowledge relating to a cross-functional team (CFT). This is carried out to review the system or process and make it fail proof. When this tool is combined with work management software, the chances of a project success increase significantly.