A failure mode is a cause of failure or one possible way a system can fail.
When a system has many potential ways of failing, it has multiple failure modes or competing risks. The more complex a system is, the more failure modes there are. For example, a home fire alarm can fail because of a dead or missing battery, faulty wiring, defective detector, or defective alarm. An aircraft could have many failure modes.
Minitab can analyze systems with multiple failure modes. Because different failure modes often have different failure distributions, it is usually best to group failure data by failure mode.
Understanding failure modes is very important to improving product reliability. In home fire alarm systems, dead or missing batteries are the most common failure mode. Hard wiring fire alarms is one improvement to the problem of dead or missing batteries.
Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) is methodology for analyzing causes of failures and understanding their frequency and impact. When you identify potential failure modes and their impact, you can implement the appropriate corrective actions and plans.