Use the FMEA (Failure Modes and Effects Analysis) form to identify the causes of failure and evaluate the risks associated with each cause.

Some practitioners use a cause-and-effect (C&E) matrix as a substitute for the FMEA in the early development of the project and use the FMEA only as a control tool.

The FMEA answers the following questions.
  • What are the potential failure modes of a process or process step?
  • What is the potential effect of a failure mode on the process output and what is the severity?
  • What are the potential causes of a failure mode and how often do they occur?
  • How well can a cause be detected before it creates a failure mode and effect?
  • What is the risk prioritization number, or RPN, for each input.
  • Which inputs have high or low RPNs?


  1. For each process step/input, identify potential failure modes.
  2. Evaluate the failure effects that are associated with each failure mode.
  3. Identify possible causes for each failure mode.
  4. List the current controls for each failure cause.
  5. Evaluate the severity of the effect, the likelihood of occurrence, and the probability of detection.
  6. Multiply the severity by occurrence by detection to get a risk priority number.
  7. You can enter severity and risk priority number cutoff values to color code table cells.
  8. Improve any items with a high risk priority number and record actions taken, then revise the risk priority number.
  9. Maintain as a living document.

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