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ProM@in Technical Note

Subject: Introduction to Failure Mode and Effect Analysis

Author: Jørn Vatn
Date: 2000-12-22
Rev: 1


1.1 Introduction
Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) was one of the first systematic techniques for failure
analysis. It was developed by reliability engineers in the late 1950's to determine problems that could
arise from malfunctions of military systems.
A Failure Mode and Effects Analysis is often the first step in a systems reliability study. It involves
reviewing as many components, assemblies and subsystems as possible to identify possible failure
modes and the causes and effects of such failures. For each component, the failure modes and their
resulting effects on the rest of the system are written onto a specific FMEA form. There are
numerous variations of such forms. An example of an FMEA form is shown in Figure 1. The
columns in Figure 1 will be slightly modified to put focus on maintenance analysis.

System: Performed by:
Subsystem Date:
Function Page

Figure 1 Example of an FMEA form

A Failure Mode and Effects Analysis is mainly a qualitative analysis, which is usually carried out
during the design stage of a system. The purpose is then to identify design areas where improvements
are needed to meet the reliability requirements.
The Failure Mode and Effect Analysis can be carried out either by starting at the component level
and expanding upwards (the “bottom-up” approach), or from the system level downwards (the
“top-down” approach). The component level to which the analysis should be conducted is often a
problem to define. It is often necessary to make compromises since the workload could be
tremendous even for a system of moderate size. It is, however, a general rule to expand the analysis
down to a level at which failure rate estimates are available or can be obtained.
Most Failure Mode and Effects Analyses are carried out according to the “bottom-up” approach. One
may, however, for some particular systems save a considerable amount of effort by adopting the
“top-down” approach. With this approach, the analysis is carried out in two or more stages. The first
stage is an analysis on the functional block diagram level. The possible failure modes and failure
effects of each functional block are identified based on knowledge of the block's required function, or
from experience on similar equipment. One then proceeds to the next stage, where the components
within each functional block are analysed. If a functional block has no failure modes which are
critical, then no further analysis of that block needs to be performed. By this screening, it is possible
to save time and effort. A weakness of this “top-down” approach lies in the fact that it is not possible
to ensure that all failure modes of a functional block have been identified.

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An FMEA becomes a Failure Modes, Effects and Criticality Analysis (FMECA) if criticality’s or
priorities are assigned to the failure mode effects.
The FMEA technique is used as an integral part of an RCM (Reliability Centred Maintenance)
analysis. One main idea of RCM is to prevent failures by eliminate or reduce the failure causes.
The FMEA analysis should therefore focus on the failure causes and failure mechanisms. When
the failure causes and failure mechanisms are identified for each failure mode, it will be possible
to suggest time based preventive maintenance actions, or condition monitoring techniques to
reduce the resulting failure rate. The proposed maintenance actions are further analysed by means
of a so-called RCM logic, and the cost-efficiency are also considered during the RCM analysis.
More detailed information on how to conduct a Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (and an FMECA)
may be found in:
• IEC standard 812 (1985)
• MIL-STD-1629A (1980)
• SAE ARP 926 (1979)
It will usually be beneficially to conduct the FMECA on two levels. On the first level the system
under consideration is described in a general setting. The information is then as far as possible
entered independent of the operational condition for the system. The general information can be
considered as a “class property” of the system. This “class property” may efficiently be utilised if
a computerised FMECA-tool is available.
The specific information generally depends on the operational conditions under which the system
is operated. When the specific information is to be entered, the general information is a starting
point. The procedure will then be first to conduct a “general” FMECA for e.g. a turnout. At this
point of the analysis one will focus on the qualitative information such as list of failure modes,
failure causes etc. Then, next, one specific FMECA form is prepared for each physical turnout (or
a group of almost similar turnouts). The general FMECA is now used as a “master”, where the
more specific entries are changed for each specific turnout.

1.2 Proposed fields for the FMECA

In the following a list of fields (variables) for the FMECA forms is proposed. Basically the
structure is hierarchical. Very often the information is presented in a tabular form. The main
FMECA forms then starts at the component level, and the various components represent the
leftmost column in the FMECA form as in Figure 1. In the FMECA form header, a reference is
then made to the system.

Column Description
Component- Since a main objective of the analysis would be to establish inspection (and
/element maintenance) actions, it is reasonable to define the components close to the
“maintainable” items in the RCM terminology.
Function A precise description of the component function should be given (components
without any defined functions should be removed from the system)
Failure mode A failure mode is the manner by which a failure is observed, and is defined as
non–fulfillment of one of the equipment functions.
Failure Is it a measurable or observable quantity that could give an alert wrt a coming
indicator failure.
Failure cause For each failure mode there is one or more failure causes. An failure mode
will typically be caused by one or more component failures at a lower level.
Note that supporting equipment to the component entered in the FMECA form
is for the first time considered at this step. In this context a failure cause may
therefore be a failure mode of a supporting equipment. A “no effect” failure of
a switch motor may for example be caused by “no electrical current”.
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Failure For each failure cause, there is one or several failure mechanisms. Examples
mechanism of failure mechanisms are fatigue, corrosion, and wear.
Inspection What methods are available for monitoring the failure indicator. Techniques
methods could be field sensors, measuring car, handheld devices, direct measurements,
visual inspection, equipment mounted on ordinary locomotives.
Failure A description of how the failure mode is detected, and how likely it is that the
detection failure is detected.
Failure effect Describing the effect of a failure on other components in the system
on related
Failure effect The effect of the failure should be described in terms of the following
on operation - variables: i) Derailment (%), ii) Collision (%) and iii) Other (%). The
Safety percentage represents the likelihood of the consequence, given the failure
Failure effect The effect of the failure should be described in terms of the following
on operation - variables: i)Reduced comfort (%), ii) Reduced speed (%), iii) Short term stop
Punctuality (%) and iv) Long term stop (%) The percentage represents the likelihood of
the consequence, given the failure mode.
Failure effect The effect of the failure should be described in terms of the following
on operation - variables: i) Low material damages (%) and ii) High material damages
Material (%).The percentage represents the likelihood of the consequence, given the
damages failure mode.
Current Identify the current maintenance program related to this failure mode. This
maintenance includes both type of maintenance, and frequency of maintenance. In
program situations where a maintenance action (i.e. an inspection) is triggered by
external conditions, such as weather, this should also be identified.

Current maintenance
Maintenance tasks directly related to a failure cause should be identified. The
type of maintenance and length between maintenance actions should be
described. Examples of maintenance types are Lubrication, Inspection,
Cleaning, Overhaul and Replacement.

Length of PF- In case of the failure propagation is observable, the expected length of the PF-
interval interval should be described. The variation in the length of PF-interval should
also be described.
Ageing In case of the failure propagation is not observable the ageing effects should
parameter be described. Relevant categories are strong, moderate, low or no ageing
Renewal Identify conditions of the component that requires renewal, or replacement.
Further indicate the mean time between renewals, and important factors that
contribute to the deterioration process. Renewal will typically be related to
components, and not failure modes. In some situations, renewal will be of a
entire system, e.g. a turnout.

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