Process FMEAs are so useful for businesses who are serious about reducing risk in design or production… and so poorly conducted in China. But before we explain how to conduct yours, just what is a Process FMEA in the first place?

What is a Process FMEA?

It is a formal approach to proactively reducing risks in a process – in this case, production processes.

A failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) aims at:

  • Identifying potential risks
  • Documenting and keeping track of those risks
  • Sorting those risks highest to lowest, and focusing more attention on the highest sources of risks
  • Driving corrective actions that will contribute to an overall risk reduction
  • Keeping track of the status and the impact of these corrective actions

There is an art to it, just like there is an art to conducting a solid root cause analysis. It is quite a difficult and unnatural exercise for most Chinese engineers, technicians, and managers.


When to use a process FMEA, and in conjunction with what other tools?

Applying an FMEA to a production process is quite helpful. When there are serious quality issues coming from multiple sources, our consultants tend to follow this sequence:

  1. Mapping the process (in the form of a flow chart)
  2. Working on a FMEA analysis of the process with the factory staff (by simply following the steps mapped previously and wondering, ‘what can go wrong or has gone wrong’?)
  3. Filling out a process control plan to document and standardize the controls — both those already in place, and new ones implemented as responses to the highest sources of risks shown in the FMEA.

(Steps 2 and 3 are quite inter-related and are usually done in parallel.)

Doing a process FMEA is also a great component for a new product introduction (NPI) process. Many companies skip it but it really adds value when an entirely new product is developed. It is a compulsory part of the PPAP (what I would call ‘NPI 2.0’, for makers of OEM auto parts).


Where to get a good FMEA template?

A good template you can download is on the Gemba Academy website. There are many others but this is the one we have used as a basis for our company’s template. It is relatively simple and it works.


How to fill out a process FMEA?

The columns most to the left show the potential issues (‘failure modes’) identified and their impact.

process fmea potential issues failure modes

Then, each potential issue is rated on the 3 dimensions of risk:

  • How severe is it, in case it happens? (‘Extremely severe’ is a 10)
  • How likely is it to occur? (‘Certain’ is a 10)
  • If it happens, how likely is it to impact the customer, rather than being caught internally? (‘Certain to get to the customer’ is a 10)

process fmea dimensions of risk

(Click on the image to enlarge.)

At this stage, the potential issues can be sorted — highest risk on top.

After that, how to tackle the sources of highest risk? By analyzing root cause(s), thinking of corrective action(s), implementing those actions, following up to ensure those actions are effective, and re-evaluating the risk level.

process fmea root cause analysis

The best organizations do this exercise regularly. They take actions and update the process FMEA scores. And again. And again.


Common issues with FMEAs

Many failure modes that result in high risks are generally omitted. People tend to overlook some of these aspects: safety, form fit, function, material concerns.

Another issue is, past issues are not taken into account. Actually, past issues on the same or on a relatively similar process are a great starting point for an FMEA!

Here is a longer list of common issues (coming from New Tricks for an Old Tool, published in Quality Progress in May 2017):

fmea issues


Reducing supply chain risk (Podcast)

If reducing supply chain risk is important to you, keep going with the topic by listening to our podcast episode where we discuss common risks, businesses who have been affected, and some other useful tools for analysing, managing, and reducing risk:

What’s your take?

What do you think? What have your experiences been with process FMEAs? Do you conduct them now, or is it on your agenda to use them to reduce risks? Let us know by leaving a comment.

Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have, too.


If you’re the kind of cautious importer who sees protecting IP and limiting the opportunity for problems to occur as a valuable activity, you’ll also like our free webinar:

8 Elements of a Low-Risk Supply Chain in China (Webinar)

Join senior engineer Paul Adams and our CEO, Renaud Anjoran, and explore the anatomy of a low-risk supply chain in China.

This will help you to transform your own supply chain there and take control of quality, pricing, delivery times, and much more.

Register by hitting the image below:

8 Elements Of A Low Risk Supply Chain In China webinar registration


Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on as The Process FMEA: Template, Use Cases, and Example, but has been edited and updated for Sofeast readers.

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