Posted on December 27, 2012 · Posted in Management, Project Management, Risk, Risk Management

Most professional project managers have at least heard of the basic FMEA principles. For those who haven’t heard of them, or aren’t sure of what they are, or need a refresher on them, here is a basic overview of the FMEA principles for project management.

So what is FMEA?

So what is FMEA exactly? FMEA stands for Failure Mode and Effect Analysis. These techniques help project managers in analyzing and identifying risk in projects. The reason why FMEA is so successful is because these tactics help prevent problems, issues, and defects in projects and even enhance customer safety and satisfaction.

FMEAs are universal because they can relate to any area of project management in any industry. They can be utilized for technical and nontechnical project managers and in such industries. According to FMEA, its important for project managers to remember that even some of the simplest and least complex projects and products can fail.

What are the three factors FMEA risk factors?

There are three factors the FMEA principles use to determine risk. These factors include:

Severity – the consequence of the failure, should it occur. This basically outlines the severity of a failure. If the product or service fails, what happens? What is the worst possible outcome? A perfect example of this would be a product or even service that causes a customer physical harm or even death such as a faulty car part, medical device, or even a medical device manual.

Occurrence – the occurrence is the probability or the frequency of the problem occurring. How likely is the problem to occur in a particular project? And ultimately, what is the impact? So let’s revisit the example mentioned in the previous factor. If a mechanic or manufacturer is putting together a car, and let’s say he or she is using a new part, what is the probability that, that part will fail?

Detection – this refers to the probability that the issue will be detected or recognized before failure occurs. What is the detection plan for the particular project? What is the likelihood that the issue will be spotted before production is complete? Are there any QA steps involved in the process that would likely detect the issue? Again, going back to the example with the car assembly. Once a product is tested, manufactured, and assembled to the vehicle, what is the detection method to be sure of the functionality and safety of this particular part? Is there a manufacturing or production QA step that would test the parts before delivery?

What are the best ways to identify FMEA?

So how do project managers go about identifying and addressing the FMEA principles in their projects? Most project managers will develop or design a flow chart or some form of assessment sheet. These methods can help determine each of the FMEA steps and risk factors and how to respond to each of them.

Most commonly, each of the risk factors are identified and later addressed in team meetings and regular planning meetings for each project. This effectively communicates the risks involved and helps make sure everyone is on the same page.

Upon new project assignments, project managers can sometimes feel overwhelmed when trying to schedule, budget, and even identify, plan, and respond to risks. The FMEA principles can really help project managers identify, analyze, and determine risks in any project. Once risks are properly identified and documented, managing them, with the help of team members, is that much easier.

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