Business planning cycle

The first analysis step of Failure Mode and Effect Analysis is locating the failure modes themselves within the product, service or process.

Failure Modes Can Be Any of the Following:  

  • A loss that can interrupt the continuous flow of production. 
  • A loss of available assets, such as a component or material.  
  • The lack of available equipment, such as missing tools to aid in the completion of a service.  
  • A deviation from the typical status quo.  
  • Not meeting targets expectations, such as quality control of a product, or several completed products in a production flow.  
  • A secondary defect.

It is essential to break down the product, process or service design into either product components or process steps to locate the failure modes. Taking into consideration customer feedback, as well as staff feedback can aid in finding failures that are not at first apparent – this is most commonly the way many secondary defects are located.

Teamwork The team in charge of conducting an FMEA then go through each of these components and steps, working together to determine what would happen if those components fail, or if the steps are missed. Where failures have already occurred, the cause of these failures can be determined through a Failure Tree Analysis; by working backward from the failure, through each of its steps/components to the initial cause.

A simple spreadsheet can be used to break down the different types of failures and their causes. For example:

FMEA Failure Issues


Is Identifying Failure Modes Fail-Proof?

Customer SatisfactionIdentifying Failure modes depends on the insight provided by team members, their imagination and how in-depth team members are willing to go. Where failures have already occurred, it is easy enough to list, but for as to what could happen, this is a lot harder to determine. It is not easy to think about how things could go wrong when the organization is working hard to make everything work correctly and be positive. However, it is essential for team members to take a more negative approach to find failure modes. Rather than see customer feedback as criticism, use it to fuel finding a way to improve it. Customer feedback is usually candid in highlighting failure modes, where floor staff might worry about being honest and providing concerns to management.

An open and honest environment with the workplace can reduce these fears, allow staff to feel more involved and more willing to report issues – no matter how small they seem – to management. Identifying Failure modes is only the beginning when taking part in an FMEA but if the wrong failure modes are identified, or not enough is identified, it can affect the entire outcome of the FMEA.


Looking for help to review your FMEA process or create a new one? Contact McDonald Consulting Group to help. We will help you evaluate your needs, and come up with the most cost-effective solution with easy implementation for your organization. McDonald Consulting Group offers both in-house classes (which may be customized) and public offerings.