Written by Nicholas Kamuda
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The idea of FMECA, which stands for Failure Mode, Effects, and Criticality Analysis, dates back to a U.S. military report from 1949. Since then, FMECA (also known as simply FMEA) has spread and evolved to become an important part of risk analysis and physical asset management. FMEA is also central to developing comprehensive maintenance strategies under methods such as RCM.

The military report that gave birth to FMECA was a report on equipment reliability titled Procedures for Performing a Failure Mode, Effects, and Criticality Analysis. One of the organizational techniques used in the report was to classify failures by their effects on personnel and other equipment. This concept--the effects of failures as a focus rather than the failures themselves--is central to the idea of FMECA.

Business Use of FMECA Techniques

Widespread business adoption of FMEA ideas came with a 1988 standard issued by the International Organization for Standardization, called ISO 9000, and the automotive industry's version, called QS 9000. These standards called for the development of design FMEAs and control plans as part of product quality assurance. FMEAs were soon used for equipment reliability assessments as well.

One of the organizational strategies for maintenance that uses FMECA ideas liberally is RCM, or Reliability Centered Maintenance. During the second stage of an RCM analysis, FMEAs are used to identify all of the consequences that failed states have on user expectations of an asset. From this FMEA, acceptable techniques for avoiding those consequences can be developed and implemented.

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