Marketing and Empathy Psychology
Process Failure Mode Effect Analysis: The Newest Approach

By - William A. Levinson, P.E., FASQ, CFPIM

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The AIAG/VDA (Automotive Industry Action Group/ Verband der Automobilindustrie) failure mode effects analysis manual is the most advanced resource on this subject, and it includes very significant improvements over previous approaches. While the manual also addresses design FMEA and monitoring and system response (MSR) FMEA, this presentation focuses on process FMEA which is the most common application.

Risk priority assessment no longer relies on the problematic risk priority number (RPN), which is the equally weighted product of three ordinal numbers; the Severity, Occurrence, and Detection ratings. It instead uses an Action Priority of Low, Medium, or High, with the Severity rating getting the most weight followed by the Occurrence rating. The Occurrence rating no longer depends on quantitative estimates of the chance of the failure mode, which were often not available, but rather on the nature of the prevention controls. A control that disables the failure cause (previously known as the failure mechanism) entirely earns an Occurrence rating of 1, which reduces the Action Priorty to Low regardless of the Severity and Detection Ratings.

The new FMEA approach is also synergistic with AIAG’s CQI-20, Effective Problem Solving, where the occurrence root cause relates to deficient or nonexistent prevention controls, and the escape root cause to deficient or nonexistent detection controls. Corrective and preventive action (CAPA) should therefore result in updates to the FMEA to reflect improvements in the controls in question. Structure analysis, in which we seek to identify potential failure causes, is meanwhile very compatible with the cause and effect diagram. The new approach is therefore more user-friendly and also more effective than the previous one. The only drawback is that one needs to purchase the AIAG/VDA manual to obtain the Action Priority table (and also detailed tables of severity, occurrence, and detection ratings) but it is a worthwhile investment.


  • FMEA Basics, including the role of FMEA in advanced quality planning (AQP). FMEAs should be updated to reflect any change that might introduce new failure causes.
  • Planning deliverables
  • Structure analysis deliverables (consistent with the process approach)
  • Function analysis deliverables
  • Failure analysis, the focus of which is the failure mode (what goes wrong) whose consequences are the failure effect, and whose cause is the failure cause (formerly the failure mechanism). The failure cause is the process element (Man, Machine, Method, Material, Measurement, Environment) which is easily recognizable in a cause and effect diagram.
  • Risk analysis: identification of relevant prevention and detection controls, and their corresponding occurrence and detection ratings. These, and the Severity rating, determine the Action Priority of Low, Medium, or High.
  • Optimization relates to reduction of risk by (ideally) elimination of the failure effect, e.g. by a change in product design, but can also include better prevention and/or detectin controls. A prevention control that disables the failure entirely earns an Occurance rating of 1, which results in a Low Action Priority regardless of Severity and Detection.
  • Occupational health and safety (OH&S) and manufacturing case studies show how the new FMEA approach would be applied.
  • Control plans

Disclaimer: no part of this presentation constitutes formal engineering advice.
Attendees will receive a pdf copy of the slides and accompanying notes.


Attendees will gain an overview of the relatively new, and substantially improved, AIAG/VDA approach to process FMEA. You will learn how it overcomes many of the difficulties and drawbacks associated with the traditional versions, including (1) the need to estimate the probablity of a failure mode’s occurrence which was often not practical, and (2) reliance on a Risk Priority Number that is the product of three ordinal numbers. A big advantage of the new approach is that the Occurrence and Detection ratings now relate to the nature of the prevention and detection controls, which also provides a direct connection to AIAG’s corrective and preventive action (CAPA) process.

Who Should Attend:

Quality managers, engineers, and technicians, and others with responsibility for advanced quality planning (AQP) or PPAP. The subject matter is intermediate, so at least basic familiarity with FMEA (such as the older versions) is required.

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Speaker Detail

William A. Levinson, P.E., FASQ, CFPIM

Bill Levinson, P.E., CPIM, CQE, is the owner of Levinson Productivity Systems PC. He is the author of numerous books on quality, productivity, and management, the most recent of which is Reshore Production Now: How to Rebuild Manufacturing and Restore High Wages, High Profits, and National Prosperity in the USA.

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