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What is FMEA Lean Manufacturing and How to Implement it?

The acronym FMEA with its long-form of failure mode and effects analysis over gears


It was Christmas 1989, and I remember it like it was yesterday. Nintendo was basically in its prime and under the Christmas tree was a carefully wrapped (by me) 14” X 8” X 8” box, addressed to my little cousin. Earlier that year, I witnessed as he became more excited each time he caught a glimpse of the Nintendo Power Glove in the commercials leading up to Christmas.

I also witnessed him pleading with his mom to ask Santa for it, and every time, I would advise her that she would regret the purchase. Nevertheless, the happiness of a child prevailed, as it should. Finally, the big day had arrived and he, of course, was the first one awake. I could hear the wrapping paper as he tore it apart like a rebel planet in the crosshairs of the Death Star.

Now, fast-forward to January 30, 1990. That was the last time he made any attempt to use the Nintendo Power Glove. It was funny really because I remember his excitement on Christmas day. In a nutshell, it was like he had discovered he was the Last Jedi. However, after a month of the epic fail that was the Power Glove, he was now like Luke Skywalker learning that Darth Vader was his father.

I am sure that the Nintendo corporation wished that they had used an analytical tool like FMEA or lean manufacturing to assess the possible failures and eliminate the waste of the Power Glove before its production. They could have avoided this epic fail and stain to their reputation as a console developer.

What is Failure Mode and Effects Analysis?

FMEA stands for or means failure mode and effects analysis. It is the step by step process for forestalling things that could go wrong throughout the design stage by recognizing all foreseeable failures in the assembly, manufacturing, and design processes.

In summary, it is the structured approach to uncovering the possibilities in which a process can fail (breakdowns) and ways those failures lead to waste, defects, or dangerous outcomes (effects).

There is little debate on the overwhelming benefits of FMEA. As a whole, implementing FMEA helps you or your business minimize and limit these failures as well as mitigate expenditures.

The Two Most Popular Types of FMEA 

As you may know, FMEA is a risk-assessment tool, that estimates the severity, occurrence, and detection of risks to prioritize which one's are the most crucial. There are two main types of FMEAs. They are the Design (DFMEA) and the Process (PFMEA).


FMEA processes and associated actions within including risk assessment and failure mode analysis

Being comfortable with the FMEA process enables its application throughout manufacturing


Within these two types mentioned above are the three categories. These categories are assigned a scoring matrix ranging from 1 to 10 to quantify the level of threat. They are as follows:

  1. Severity: A (1) represents a low risk to the end customer, and a score of (10) designates high risk to the end customer.

  2. Occurrence: A (1) signifies a low probability of the risk happening, whereas a (10) represents a very high possibility of the risk occurring.

  3. Detection: A (1) indicates a process that will likely detect a failure, and a (10) suggests that the process will probably not discover a failure.

After scoring each category’s risk, you multiply the three scores together (Severity * Occurrence * Detection). The resulting score is what is known as the RPN or the Risk Priority Number. After which, you sort the RPNs in descending order, and from there you take action on the top risks to lower the overall risk.

Note: Generally speaking, you cannot lower the severity; therefore, it is best to find ways to reduce occurrence or increase detection. Once all actions are complete, you can now recalculate the RPNs, and determine new risks.

What are the Steps in the Implementation of FMEA for Lean Manufacturing?

When considering lean manufacturing, it begins from a management perspective: where are the areas in your production process that are wasteful, and what resources are not being used most efficiently? Utilizing a lean manufacturing mindset means reducing the amount of human, equipment, and engineering resources needed as well as reducing the production area and production times.

Where FMEA is assessing the process and design from a top-down perspective and attempting to determine risk levels and necessary fixes to be applied, lean manufacturing is all about identifying value streams in order to minimize the cost from any insubstantial or wasteful processes. When combined together, FMEA for lean manufacturing yields a tactical process of analyzing the vulnerability of a manufacturing cycle while also minimizing waste and increasing flow in small production environments. 

The unique characteristic of FMEA is the fact that you can use it on multiple levels or stages. This, in turn, allows you to mold it to accommodate the present status of your design process. Therefore, you can effectively use FMEA to study the core functionality of each component in your production or manufacturing process. 

Furthermore, you can use this analysis to assess the actual hardware or parts that implement this functionality. Overall, FMEA can provide invaluable insight when you want to study the core design of your product itself, rather than its final stages.

However, if you apply FMEA properly, it can guide you to a design that works on every level as well as produce favorable results that are within acceptable parameters. Furthermore, it will allow you to continue picking from different designs as you keep improving your manufacturing over time. This also allows you to maintain your production at a point where failures remain minimal.

Overall, the first step in the implementation of FMEA is your assumptions going into the process. It can assist you in the promotion of lean manufacturing, but you must manage your prerequisites. Furthermore, the important thing is to settle on a standard set of rules from the very beginning, before even starting the FMEA implementation.

What are the Long-Term Benefits of FMEA in Lean Manufacturing?

FMEA is an excellent complement to the operation of any manufacturing organization that has to deal with failures regularly. In scenarios of this nature, lean manufacturing is a critical part of maintaining the business as a whole. The benefits of lower production or manufacturing costs justify the implementation of FMEA.

The overall keys to obtaining the maximum benefit of FMEA lean manufacturing is its proper application and consistent adherence to the process’s findings. This, of course, will lead to significant improvements in your manufacturing process as well as an increase in profits. The fact remains that any busy that involves manufacturing needs to be able to produce their product with the least amount of cost and or waste. This methodology is at the core of FMEA lean manufacturing.

Principles of lean manufacturing including value, flow, and pull

Lean manufacturing strives to eliminate wastefulness in production workflows


Furthermore, FMEA reduces troubleshooting time and downtime by outlining a foundation for the common issues that affect your particular manufacturing process. This procedure also helps in the design process, as well. One of the most significant advantages of FMEA is the fact that it compiles information on how to effectively resolve the issues that plague your business. After all, it might be a great idea to know what your problems are, but it is even better to know how to fix them.

In conclusion, the overall process of FMEA lean manufacturing looks like this:

  1. Assemble the Team

  2. List Failure Modes and Effects

  3. Rank Severity

  4. Determining value

  5. List the Potential Causes

  6. Rank Likelihood (Occurrence)

  7. Waste identification

  8. List the Process Controls

  9. Rank Detection

  10. Calculate RPN

  11. Take Action on High-Priority RPNs

  12. Recalculate RPN

  13. Determine reliability

The potential for FMEA to assist your business in creating a leaner manufacturing process is near limitless. Every business is in it to make a profit unless you are a non-profit. Even then, you still need to manage costs and accurately manage your resources as well as assets. The understood result here is, every business needs money to operate, and when your business involves manufacturing, it is only logical that you start there.

Thankfully, with Cadence’s suite of design and analysis tools, you’ll be sure to have your designers and production teams working together towards developing the best FMEA lean manufacturing plans for all of your manufacturing concerns. Allegro PCB Designer is the layout solution you’ve been looking for, and it can unquestionably facilitate the best FMEA practices for all of your lean manufacturing needs. 

If you’re looking to learn more about how Cadence has the solution for you, talk to us and our team of experts