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FMEA or Failure Analysis?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on December 22, 2016 by manufacturingtraining
A recent FMEA training program presented to defense industry engineers in Singapore

A recent FMEA training program presented to defense industry engineers in Singapore.

A question we frequently hear from clients and potential clients is this:   Should we train our engineers in FMEA or failure analysis?   It’s a good question.  Let’s consider each.

FMEA is an abbreviation for Failure Modes and Effects Analysis.   It’s also referred to as FMECA (an abbreviation for Failure Modes, Effects, and Criticality Analysis).   The two (FMEA and FMECA) are the same thing.   An FMEA (or FMECA) is usually prepared during the product or process development and implementation phase.  It is designed to identify all possible failure modes of each part of the product or process, the effects of the failure, the criticality of the failure, and actions that can be taken to prevent occurrence.   These analyses tend to be more general in nature than a root cause failure analysis (which I’ll explain in a moment).   The idea is to identify what could go wrong (before failures occur), and incorporate appropriate actions to prevent failures from occurring.   FMEA is primarily a risk management tool (and it’s a good one).  We’ll have another blog up soon focused specifically on FMEA preparation, so keep an eye on this site.

Our approach for FMEA/FMECA preparation provides a comprehensive and quantitative risk management product and process failure mode identification analysis. The approach identifies key risks and suggested risk mitigation measures, along with a mean time between failures prediction.

Our approach for FMEA/FMECA preparation provides a comprehensive and quantitative risk management analysis. The approach identifies key risks and suggested risk mitigation measures, along with a mean time between failures prediction.

Root cause failure analysis is a more focused discipline applied once a failure has occurred. Its purpose is to identify the causes of a specific failure (again, a failure that has already occurred or is recurring in a product or manufacturing process).  The intent is to define the failure, identify all possible causes, objectively and systematically evaluate each potential cause, converge on the most likely causes, and then implement appropriate corrective and preventive actions.   Many folks think engineers automatically (by virtue of their technical background and training) know how to analyze failures; anyone who runs a manufacturing or development effort knows this is not the case.  Failure analysis is not always intuitive.  It has to be done in a systematic, objective, and rapid manner to identify all potential failure causes for a specific failure, and then rapidly bore in on the actual cause.   Failure to take this comprehensive approach is the primary reason many failures recur.

Systems Failure Analysis, the best book of its kind for guidance in organizing and managing a root cause failure analysis.

Systems Failure Analysis, the best book of its kind for guidance in organizing and managing root cause failure analyses in complex systems and processes.

Engineers receive no training during their engineering undergraduate or graduate education in this critical area, and most engineers don’t know how to identify and correct root causes.  We’ve taught our comprehensive root cause failure analysis training program to many companies and military organizations in Israel, Turkey, Canada, Mexico, China, Thailand, Singapore, Barbados, and the United States, and our Systems Failure Analysis text is recognized as the source document for analyzing complex system failures.

Both technologies (FMEA and root cause failure analysis) are critically important.  We offer focused onsite training in both areas.   We tailor our training to your specific needs; we’ll never ask a you to make your needs fit our solution.  Feel free to contact us for more information at or by calling 909 204 9984.

Cool free stuff!

Posted in Creativity, Manufacturing Improvement, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 2, 2014 by manufacturingtraining

In many of our courses we teach people about the many free references and other information available on the Internet for use in reliability predictions, FMEA preparation, product design, cost estimation, and other areas in which we teach and consult.   We’re including a partial list of these free resources on the ManufacturingTraining blog for your easy reference.   There will be more of our favorites here on the blog, so check back often (or better yet, hit the RSS button to subscribe).

Electronic Equipment Reliability Data.   MIL-HDBK-217F has been the “go to” source for electrical and electronic equipment reliability data for decades (I first learned about it when preparing reliability predictions for Honeywell’s military targeting systems in the 1970s).   It’s a comprehensive failure rate source, and perhaps just as significantly, it includes environmental modifiers to tailor a prediction to your system’s operating environment.   MIL-HDBK-217 also includes directions for performing an electronic equipment reliability prediction.   You can download a free copy of MIL-HDBK-217F here.


Galvanic Corrosion Prevention.   Corrosion is an expensive problem, and its annual cost has been estimated at $270 billion dollars in the US alone.   That’s a whopping $1,000 for every man, woman, and child in the United States!   One of the principal contributors to corrosion is galvanic corrosion, which can occur if the wrong metals are in intimate contact.   If you’re concerned about potential reactions between metals in your designs, MIL-STD-889B is the US standard for defining what’s acceptable and what’s not.   You can download a free copy of MIL-STD-889B here.


Procedures for Performing an FMEA.   Failure Modes and Effects Analysis is a superior tool for alerting the design team of potential failure modes during the development process.   We teach an FMEA course that receives high marks from all who have taken it, and one of the topics we address is how FMEA was first developed by the US Department of Defense just after World War II for use in new program development.   MIL-STD-1629 has been superceded by commercial FMEA standards, but it is still the defining document for performing FMEAs, and you can still download a copy for free.   It’s available for free here.


System Safety Procedures.   There are a family of system safety analyses similar in concept to Failure Modes and Effects Analysis but focused exclusively on safety issues. These include Preliminary Hazard Analyses, Subsystem Hazard Analyses, System Hazard Analyses, Common Mode Analyses, and Operating Hazard Analyses.   MIL-STD-882D addresses all of these and more.   You can download a free copy of MIL-STD-882D here.


Gantt Chart Excel Software.   H.L. Gantt, an industrial engineer, developed the Gantt chart scheduling approach that bears his name during World War I to keep track of large projects.   He hit a home run with this one.   It’s the “go to” approach used throughout the world, and it makes it very easy to rapidly determine if a program is on schedule.     I don’t much care for Microsoft Project, as its Gantt charts tend to be tough to manage and nearly impossible to portray in a Word or PowerPoint file.   I’ve found Excel to be much easier to use, and to import into a Word document or PowerPoint presentation.   You can download a free Excel template for Gantt charts here.


That’s it for now.   Keep an eye on this blog, as we’ll be adding more free stuff in future posts.


Book of the Month!

Posted in Uncategorized on November 22, 2013 by manufacturingtraining

Unleashing Engineering Creativity was recently named book of the month by the editorial board at Industrial Engineer magazine!   Woohoo!


Unleashing Engineering Creativity focuses on creativity techniques directly applicable to engineering challenges.   It’s a great read, and you can order your copy by clicking on the link above!



Posted in Uncategorized on April 26, 2013 by manufacturingtraining

We’ve been doing a lot of work in the engineering creativity area lately, and we’ve been published repeatedly in Design News and Product Design magazines.   When you have a chance, take a peek at these articles…

It’s all interesting material, and it’s all related to finding innovative solutions to product and process creativity challenges.



Selecting a school…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on March 10, 2012 by manufacturingtraining

A quick input today, folks.   I’ve been an adjunct faculty member at our local university’s College of Engineering for more than 20 years, and a manufacturing associate recently sent a question to me I’d never considered before:

Our grandson has several invitations to visit colleges, and I was wondering if you could send a short list of the most important questions he should ask.

That’s a wonderful question.   Just in case any of you have a similar situation with a child or grandchild going through the college selection process, let me share with you (from the perspective of an insider) what I think any student ought to know when considering a college:

Question 1:  How long does it take to get a Bachelor’s degree?

Many schools have stretched this out to 5 or 6 years, which I think is deplorable.   It ought to take 4 years to get a 4-year degree.  If a student wants to take longer because he or she has to work to pay their way through school, that’s okay.  If the university makes it difficult to get required classes, though, that’s shameful.

Question 2:  In my field of study, what’s the placement rate at graduation?

Many students select fields of study that are literally worse than useless in the sense that their majors hurt them (rather than help them) when they seek employment.  I’m not saying that these fields shouldn’t be taught; I am saying that students need to think about what they can do with their degree.   How well the school prepares a student for finding a job should be a critical factor in the selection process.

Question 3:  What percent of the faculty has practical work experience outside the classroom?

Teachers who have never done anything except teach can’t bring real-world experience to the classroom.   Many schools use adjunct faculty members with full-time industry jobs, and teachers who consult to industry outside the classroom.   This kind of practical experience adds an important dimension to any education.

Question 4:   Which department teaches writing? 

This question is particularly important for students who are engineering or science majors.  If the engineering or science department teaches its own writing classes, the training will probably be much more useful.  If the English department teaches these classes, students will graduate knowing a bit about Shakespeare, but they probably won’t know how organize a proposal or how to select appropriate illustrations for a technical report.  Make no mistake, writing is a critical skill, and any engineer or scientist who graduates with inadequate training in this area is graduating with a serious professional handicap.

Question 5:    How many office hours do the professors make available to students each week?

You’ll want this number to be high.   Students can’t pick up everything they’ll need from lectures, and from my experience, being able to visit with professors and ask questions is critical.