Failure Mode Avoidance

FMA - Method for avoiding failures by better design

The purpose of FMA is not to analyse failures that may happen (as in FMEA), or have happened (as in Failure Analysis), but to avoid them happening in the first place.

Failure mode avoidance combines techniques from elsewhere, such as Systems Engineering, FMEA, Robust Design (Taguchi) and Axiomatic Design to come up with a way of developing a design that has the best chance of avoiding failure. The idea is that it should be done in the design phase, as early as possible, when it is easier to implement countermeasures.

The process has been pioneered by Ford Motor Company, but is applicable to other industries as well as the automotive industry.

Functional Analysis

A key concept that is used in Failure Mode Avoidance is understanding the Functions that are required and thinking in terms of functions to start with rather than jumping straight to a specific design solution. This is usually called Functional Analysis and the key to doing it is to describe  function with a verb, i.e. say what something does, rather than what it is. For instance the function of a kettle is to heat up water. So we don't want a kettle, we want a device to heat up water.

The FMA Process

There are 4 main steps in the Failure Mode Avoidance Process

1. Functional Analysis.

Understand the functions needed and these break down into system and sub-system functions (Tools for this include a Function Tree, a System State Diagram, a Boundary Diagram and Interface Analysis)

2. Function Failure Analysis

Identify the potential failure modes of 3each function and quantify the risks associated with each. (Usually by doing an FMEA and/or a Fault Tree Analysis)

3. Countermeasure Development

Optimise the design for robust design to 'noise' factors (Using Robust Design Methods)

4. Robust Design Verification

Confirm the the design's robustness to noise factors. (Generate a DVP (Design Verification Plan) and implement it)


At Elite Consulting we believe this new approach will show benefits to anyone who implements it. Although it has started in the motor industry, it can be applied in any industry.

Contact us if you are interested in applying this methodology to your designs.


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