For people familiar with the value of Failure Mode and Effects Analysis and who are looking for working instructions, please email us on for the works instruction, and a copy of the form.



Our salesman has a great idea. The customer has a need we may be able to fill. Our salesman writes the idea on the back of a cigarette box, phones the development department and tells them the customer must have the new product on Monday or they will buy it from the opposition, “and you know that once they get in here we will lose ALL the business.”

The designers develop what they think the customer wants. It is late and does not work. The customer is unhappy! The sales rep is unhappy and must spend his time placating the customer. The designers are unhappy as “we made what you asked for.” The product is re-designed. It goes to production before all the problems are sorted out. Production is unhappy “fixing other peoples’ errors” and cannot make the product without excessive scrap. Excessive scrap reduces the bottom line making the shareholders unhappy. The company’s reputation is ruined.

Sounds familiar? Let us tell this story again. Our salesman has a great idea. The customer has a need we may be able to fill. Sales and the customer help design the product. We include representatives of the end user in the design team. The designer hears the urgency directly from the customer and the customer appreciates the design constraints. They agree on a delivery date they both can live with.

We design the product “right first time, on time.” The design department and production co-operate to eliminate product difficulties, thus reducing costs and improving profits. We do a “Risk Analysis” at the design stage. The first pieces made are “fit for purpose” and supply to the customer is uninterrupted.

Result: Happy customer, happy sales rep, happy design team, happy production team and happy shareholders

We achieve a large step towards this ideal state by using the Failure Mode and Effects Analysis as a design tool. It clarifies the customer’s requirements in your mind and in the customer’s mind, leading to less after thoughts. It reduces development time, therefore producing products for the customer faster. It is a non-confronting way to get the customer to understand his duties. For example, routine tests that he should be doing. The formal documenting required reduces arguments later and impresses customers with our professional help.

Of course using the Failure Mode and Effects Analysis requires time. A Failure Mode and Effects Analysis takes about one and a half to two hours to complete. Usually two or three members of the customer’s staff and two or three members of supplier’s staff are involved. We all know the saying “we have no time to do it right but plenty of time to do it again.” The time taken to complete a Failure Mode and Effects Analysis is a fraction of the time saved by not having to do things again.

Admittedly, when customers are far away traveling can be expensive, but again we must compare this to the value of the contract.

For a Failure Mode and Effects Analysis to be most effective, the customer input should include the operator who will use the parts, if possible. It is surprising how often managers are not fully aware of the concerns of the people doing the work. The Failure Mode and Effects Analysis is a non-confronting way of getting this information.

We used to do two Failure Mode and Effects Analyses, one with sales and the customer, and one between development and production. Changes at the design stage that make production’s life easier will save a fortune over the life of the product. We now do additional Failure Mode and Effects Analysis specifically for risk analysis, in line with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and Aspects and Impacts Studies, in line with the environmental standard ISO 14000. These last two have the same format as the Failure Mode and Effects Analysis, but we score them differently.

The Failure Mode and Effects Analysis was, to the best of my knowledge, first used by the Ford Motor Corporation and I was given permission to use it by Ford’s South African manufacture, SAMCOR.

If you would like a copy of the works instruction and the FMEA form, please email us on

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