FMEA: A Systems Engineering Framework for Cross-Functional Validation

Lionel Grealou Automotive CAx Data PLM 3 minutes

Image credit: zgrredek 2011

Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) is a pro-active iterative approach used throughout the lifecycle of a product or process to prevent problems, identify mitigation or resolution measures. Simply put, FMEA follows a systematic procedure to identify, anticipate and evaluate failure mode and their consequences on the system, product, technology, process, services, etc. It supports the engineering and manufacturing development process, enabling different benefits across the lifecycle, such as in the automotive industry:

  • Concept system FMEA: entire system decomposition into functional sub-systems
  • Design FMEA: from product concept to design completion
  • Process FMEA: from design completion to prototype build, ahead of production start; the scope of PFMEA focuses on manufacturing and assembly operations, in order to meet attributes specified in the DFMEA
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FMEA is used in the manufacturing industry within an integrated Systems Engineering approach by cross-functional multi-disciplinary teams to:

  • Identify potential failure modes and their causes of the selected system or subsystem (including the relevant functions and interfaces)
  • Assess associated risks (to the system and the wider system of systems)
  • Improve the design of the system (product design or process level)
  • Prioritise and carry out corrective actions to ensure safety or qualitative reliability of the system

Henshall et al. (2014) suggest that FMEA is part of the wider Failure Mode Avoidance (FMA) framework which integrates requirement, risk and issue management, functional system decomposition, feedback loops across functional and technical teams.

Functional Analysis
Assess how the system functions, its boundaries, how it interacts with its surroundings – supporting identification of all functional requirements and design attributes: what should the system do or perform?
Failure Analysis (Causes and Effects)
Identify failure modes and quantify risks (FMEA) and areas requiring change or improvement (product design and / or process) – define change rating based on severity, occurence and detection measures: what can go wrong, how could that happen, why does it matter, how serious is that, how often can it happen, how would one know?
Countermeasure Development
Optimise design for robustness, maintain design and process requirement dependencies
Design Verification
Prioritise resolution or mitigation, confirm design robustness, embedded into Design Verification Plan (DVP), linked to continuous process implement and control plans

FMEA reflects core principles from Design For Manufacturing (DFM) and wider DFX benefits, considering feedback loops in a systems engineering way: improved decision making with early risk and issue identification and holistic resolution.

Data created throughout this process is typically managed through PLM / CAx and ERP platforms which enable traceability and linkages (e.g. BOM and CAD data alignment, collaboration across functional teams through search engines, review and approval workflows to support design reviews and other engineering-manufacturing-assembly governance, risk and issue management, resource and process optimisation, etc.).

Breaking functional organisational silos through effective team collaboration is critical for FMEA actions to be successfully defined and implemented. FMEA methods can also have limitations with complex products or processes, where failure modes and effects can be combined and difficult to isolate. Hence PLM and ERP platforms to provide data mining solutions to refine existing validation and verification models or help create new ones that reflect the collective learning of the organisation.

What are your thoughts?


  • Henshall E, Campean I and Rutter B. (2014) A Systems Approach to the Development and Use of FMEA in Complex Automotive Applications, SAE Int. J. Mater. Manf. 7(2)

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About the Author

Lionel Grealou


Lionel Grealou, a.k.a. Lio, helps original equipment manufacturers transform, develop, and implement their digital transformation strategies—driving organizational change, data continuity and process improvement, managing the lifecycle of things across enterprise platforms, from PDM to PLM, ERP, MES, PIM, CRM, or BIM. Beyond consulting roles, Lio held leadership positions across industries, with both established OEMs and start-ups, covering the extended innovation lifecycle scope, from research and development, to engineering, discrete and process manufacturing, procurement, finance, supply chain, operations, program management, quality, compliance, marketing, etc.

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