<<< Back to Index
This Month's Article >>>

FMEA Corner
This Month's Theme is Assembling the Correct FMEA Team
Next month's theme will be "Function Types"

Every month in FMEA Corner, join Carl Carlson, a noted expert in the field of FMEAs and facilitation, as he addresses a different FMEA theme (based on his book Effective FMEAs) and also answers your questions.

Questions and answers are a great way to learn about FMEAs, for both experienced and less experienced FMEA practitioners. Please feel free to ask any question about any aspect of FMEAs. Send your questions to Carl.Carlson@EffectiveFMEAs.com, and your contact information will be kept anonymous. All questions will be answered, even if they are not featured in the FMEA Corner.



cor·rect [kuh-rekt, adjective]
The Oxford English Dictionary defines "correct" as "most appropriate for a particular situation or activity."

team [teem, noun]
BusinessDictionary.com defines "team" as "a group of people with a full set of complementary skills required to complete a task, job, or project. A team becomes more than just a collection of people when a strong sense of mutual commitment creates synergy, thus generating performance greater than the sum of the performance of its individual members."

Why is FMEA a team activity?

One of the most important steps in preparing for an FMEA is selecting the right team because FMEA is a cross-functional team activity. Doing an FMEA by one person, or with an inadequate or incomplete team, is unacceptable and inevitably results in poor quality.

There are three primary reasons for the necessity to have the correct team when doing an FMEA.

  1. People have "blind spots." A well-defined cross-functional team minimizes the errors inherent with "blind spots."
  2. The FMEA analysis requires subject matter experts from a variety of disciplines to ensure incorporation of all necessary inputs into the exercise, and that the proper expertise is applied to the design or process being analyzed.
  3. One of the indispensable values of an FMEA is the cross talk and synergy between subject matter experts that occurs during the meetings. Well-defined groups can discover things that individuals often miss.

Who should be on an FMEA team?

The make-up of an FMEA team is specific to the scope of the FMEA for the product or process.

A typical core team for a System or Design FMEA might include representatives from system engineering, design engineering, manufacturing engineering, test engineering, field service, and quality or reliability. Large systems or subsystems may require more than one design representative.

A typical core team for a Process FMEA might include representatives from manufacturing engineering, plant assembly, product engineering, supplier quality, end-of-line test, maintenance, and quality or reliability.

Use Xfmea to document team composition and attendance

To document team composition:

In the system hierarchy for the project, click the item that is being analyzed. Insert an "Analysis Plan." In the Analysis Plan window, click the "Team" tab and enter the FMEA team information.

Team information for analysis plan

To document meeting attendance:

In the Analysis Plan window, click the "Work Sessions" tab and enter meeting attendance information.

Work sessions information for analysis plan

!FMEA Tip of the Month

Tip 1: The FMEA core team can invite other experts for specific topics during FMEA meetings, when their topic is being discussed. Supplier partners may be included for critical parts on a need-to-know basis.

Tip 2: Management often has to be involved in empowering FMEA teams to ensure attendance and support. However, a management representative is not usually part of the FMEA team unless he or she is a subject matter expert and is needed in that capacity.


You’ve been asked to do a Design FMEA on a widget. You put together the correct team, do the preparation steps and schedule your first FMEA meeting. Only one of the team members shows up for the meeting. What should you do?  [Show/Hide Answers]

  1. Begin the DFMEA yourself. You can review it later with the team members when they show up.
  1. Reschedule the meeting and hope more people show up for the rescheduled meeting.
  1. Cancel the meeting and request support from management to get better attendance.

?Something I’ve always wanted to know about FMEAs
"The important thing is not to stop questioning." - Albert Einstein

A reader submitted the following question to Carl Carlson. To submit your own question about any aspect of FMEA theory or application, e-mail Carl at Carl.Carlson@EffectiveFMEAs.com.

Reader: Currently I am doing a research on all the FMEAs that are available within my company. To get an overview of all the items I would like to make a list of all the "potential failure modes" of all the FMEAs. Is there a list available that describes typical failure modes (and shortly describes the background of that typical failure mode)?

Wikipedia suggests that there is such a list:


Thanks in advance.


Carl: Thanks for getting in touch with me.

In my experience, there is no single list of failure modes that apply to all products. Some companies try to develop such lists for their specific products.

Depending on the nature and complexity of the product and the degree of technology change versus time, I have used what I call "generic FMEAs" which contain the typical functions, failures, effects, causes and controls for the product. Generic FMEAs do not apply to all product lines, so you have to understand where they apply and where they do not apply. Generic FMEAs are input to the actual System or Design FMEAs, which must still be done.

I would characterize the failures outlined in the wiki article as "failure conditions" or "failure categories." A "Failure Mode" is the manner in which the item or operation fails to meet or deliver the intended function and its requirements. The FMEA will have the best results if this definition is exactly applied, and "canned" failure modes are either avoided, or only used very carefully (under the right circumstances) as input to the analysis.

Does this make sense?


Reader: Thanks for the reply. That does make sense.

The list that I was looking for was a standardized failure category list. Something like the "common failure modes" from NASA (http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20130013157.pdf, Appendix A). But, as you stated, there is no single list of failure modes. The failure categories are context dependent.

The reason that I want to have a categorized overview is not to solve the “failure mode” itself. I’m interested in the ranking of the failure categories. Which failure category is the most dominant within my company? Analyzing the current design controls and recommended action of each failure category might give new insights. These insights could help to implement structural improvements.

So, the first step is that I’m going to create my own failure categories which are tailored to my company and the product that it creates.


Carl: I see what you are saying, and that is an interesting approach. I've seen many failure lists and failure category lists, including the NASA list. They have the pitfalls that we have been discussing.

If your study generates positive results that are valuable to your company, it might be worthy of a paper or article to share the information.

Best Regards,



About the Author

Carl S. CarlsonCarl S. Carlson is a consultant and instructor in the areas of FMEA, reliability program planning and other reliability engineering disciplines. He has 35 years of experience in reliability testing, engineering and management positions, and is currently supporting clients from a wide variety of industries, including clients of HBM Prenscia. Previously, he worked at General Motors, most recently senior manager for the Advanced Reliability Group. His responsibilities included FMEAs for North American operations, developing and implementing advanced reliability methods and managing teams of reliability engineers. Previous to General Motors, he worked as a Research and Development Engineer for Litton Systems, Inertial Navigation Division. Mr. Carlson co-chaired the cross-industry team that developed the commercial FMEA standard (SAE J1739, 2002 version), participated in the development of SAE JA 1000/1 Reliability Program Standard Implementation Guide, served for five years as Vice Chair for the SAE's G-11 Reliability Division and was a four-year member of the Reliability and Maintainability Symposium (RAMS) Advisory Board. He holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan and completed the 2-course Reliability Engineering sequence from the University of Maryland's Masters in Reliability Engineering program. He is a Senior Member of ASQ and a Certified Reliability Engineer.

Effective FMEAsSelected material for FMEA Corner articles is excerpted from the book Effective FMEAs, published by John Wiley & Sons, ©2012. Information about the book Effective FMEAs, along with useful FMEA aids, links and checklists can be found on www.effectivefmeas.com. Carl Carlson can be reached at carl.carlson@effectivefmeas.com.