more persons involved in a FMEA session, and the more degrees of
freedom allowed during the FMEA process, the more difficult the FMEA is
to handle, and the longer it takes until the FMEA team begins to take
The editor's experience suggests the following clues:
1. Piece part FMEA
The most important factor is the FMEA experience of the hardware
developer. It takes typically between one hour and one day until the
developer feels comfortable to conduct piece part FMEAs on his own.
Undesired effects on system level are either predefined, foreseeable,
can be derived from requirements specifications. Hence it is almost
certain that the developer will be able to complete the FMEA without
forgetting substantial topics.
Additionally, the hardware developer is typically the only person with
thorough knowledge on component level. In particular for electronic
systems, the ability of reading schematics is the limiting factor that
reduces the group
of people capable for performing piece part FMEAs to a small number.
However it can be advantageous to have a second person in the FMEA
process with insight from a different viewpoint, for
example a service technician, a customer engineer, or the senior of the
Independent from the FMEA experience
of the developer, it is almost always a good idea to have an FMEA
moderator in the team.
If the developer is unexperienced, it is the moderator's job to teach
the developer until he feels comfortable with the FMEA process.
But a moderator can add value to the FMEA process even for experienced developers by easing
the workload: The moderator can take all the paperwork and
ensure FMEA consistency. Practical experience however shows that FMEA
paperwork (including consistency) is even more work compared to
the work that remains for the developer, so it is rather the moderator
than the developer being the bottleneck in the FMEA process.
With a moderator participating in a piece part FMEA, the developer can
settle back and concentrate on transforming his detail knowledge into
Taking into account FMEA preparation, conduction, evaluation and
reporting, circa 90% of the whole workload attribute to the FMEA
moderator, while only 10% attribute to the developer. The developer's
workload is mainly characterized by the time spent during the FMEA
The FMEA moderator must fulfil the following prerequisites in order to
make a good job:
- Understand the item on a general technical level.
- This enables the moderator to ask valid questions and to direct
the developer through the FMEA session.
- if not electrical engineer, the moderator's education should be
in proximity to electrical engineering.
- Ability to read and understand electrical schematics
- with developers often being silent and introverted, the moderator
must encourage them to utter their thoughts.
- So called soft skills may help here, but experience shows that
understanding electrical schematics in conjunction with general
technical knowledge is even more helpful.
- He must be familiar with FMEA and reliability standards.
- Ask valid questions for every component.
2. General FMEAs with many participants.
In contrast to piece part FMEAs, most FMEAs are more general, with
participants coming from different departments.
Practical experience suggests that the maximum group size of the FMEA
team should not exceed 8. However, with disciplined and experienced
team members, groups of even 12 may be successful. For such FMEA teams,
a moderator is a must in any case.
In some cases, when companies ask for FMEA consulting service,
participants not only come from different departments, but for some of
them it's even the first time being in the same meeting. This scenario
is the most difficult one any moderator could face. Some group members
may have difficulties in accepting alternative viewpoints, whereas
other members must learn that their knowledge is welcome and that they
are required to utter their thoughts. So the FMEA moderator must not
only combine different viewpoints and interests, he must also help the
group in becoming an efficient FMEA team.
Depending on the company culture it can be advantageous or
disadvantageous when staff members and their boss share the same FMEA
Typical groups performing a general FMEA look like this:
- 2 developers
- 2 production operators
- 1 service engineer
- 1 buyer
- 1 project manager
- 1 quality representative
Such scenarios are often not limited to a single FMEA session and are
therefore called FMEA process. FMEA processes are quite common in
During product development life cycle, FMEA sessions will be repeated
at specific time points, and the FMEA worksheet will be used as a
tracking document for improvement/mitigation actions. This is a so
called live FMEA process with a life FMEA worksheet.
Unfortunately there are some issues related with general FMEAs.
With increasing FMEA team size, increasing time intervals between FMEA
sessions, changing team members and increasing degrees of freedom of
the FMEA process, the following problems will almost certain appear:
- Inconsistent FMEA methodology
- Causes identified in the last FMEA session may be conceived
as failure modes in today's session, and in the next session the same
things may appear as effects, or vice versa. While this can be correct
from a technical viewpoint, it is strongly recommended to keep topics
on the same level throughout the FMEA process. If not, FMEA evaluation
(e.g. FMEA summary) could become difficult or even impossible, and if
the worst comes to the worst, contradictory FMEA content could
- Inconsistent wording
- Different wordings for similar or even identical topics, or
identical wording for different topics. It is strongly recommended to
fill the FMEA with standardized text modules, at least for some data
field types. It takes some time to realize for which data fields text
modules make sense and for which not, and it takes at least 2 or 3
FMEAs to establish a reasonable set of text modules.
- FMEA Process peters out, falls asleep
- FMEA sessions tend to be time consuming. Furthermore it is
difficult to have all necessary team members available at the same
time. As a consequence, companies tend to postpone necessary FMEA
sessions until an interested party (customer) explicitly requests an
FMEA. Then however, it could be too late because improvement actions
potentially identified in the FMEA take much time.
While the first problem (inconsistency) suggests the use of dedicated
FMEA software instead of Microsoft Excel, the second problem is a
perfect justification for having an FMEA moderator being responsible
for the FMEA process. FMEA moderators are usually located in the
quality management department.