What is DFMEA?

DFMEA is an acronym for Design Failure Mode and Effects Analysis, a Six Sigma tool that helps to determine potential failure in a system, product, or process. It also identifies the underlying cause behind these failures, and what the consequences may be when they occur. When it’s used correctly, DFMEA can protect a business’s reputation, ensure customers receive high quality products, boost productivity, and eliminate waste—it’s an effective way to prevent failures from happening. Product defects negatively impact any business, and design flaws may cause significant setbacks, so by using DFMEA, a company can reduce the likelihood of these occurring.

DFMEA was originally developed in the rocked industry. Rocket science is a highly exact science, and any failure has the potential to lead to a catastrophic event. DFMEA may be used, however, in a wide variety of industries to detect issues. It’s typically implemented during the design phase of a project; when an existing design is modified or a completely new design is introduced, this is the best time to assess potential risks.

Identifying failures by using DFMEA requires a five step process:

  1. Determine the failure modes and severity. Modes of failure include unintended, degraded, inconsistent, full, and partial. The severity is ranked from 1-10, from something that may be a minor annoyance to something that violates regulations or otherwise has dangerous implications.
  2. Define the causes of failure. Each cause will be unique to the situation. Once you’ve identified the cause, you can then provide an occurrence score from 1-10 based on how likely the failure is going to happen.
  3. Analyze the current design controls. This verifies design safety; a product might have safeguards in its design to prevent failure. In this step, you will provide a detection score from 1-10 to determine whether it’s within the design to detect a failure before it occurs.
  4. Calculate the Risk Priority Number (RPN). The RPN is determined by the scores you have given for detection, occurrence, and severity. The failures that are given the highest priority are ones that frequently occur and are highly severe.
  5. Repeat the process until the desired RPN is reached. Follow each step again and again until your Design Failure Mode and Effects Analysis results in a design that has much fewer failures or doesn’t have any failures at all.

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