FMEA (failure mode and effective analysis) is a Six Sigma method for collecting knowledge about failures to avoid making the same mistakes in the future.
FMEA requires a step-by-step approach to identify all the possible points of failure in a design, manufacturing process or product or service. Failure mode, the FM in FMEA, refers to the way in which something might fail and includes any potential error that may occur, especially errors that may affect the customer. Effective analysis, the EA in FMEA, involves deciphering the consequences of those failures by determining how frequently a failure might occur, making sure that failures can be detected and identifying which potential failures should be prioritized. Business analysts typically use FMEA templates to assist them in the completion of the analysis.
FMEA can be used for any number of reasons. For instance, a business analyst might perform an FMEA following a quality function deployment, when a product or service is being designed or fixed or perhaps when an existing product or service is being used in a new way. It can also be used before developing control plans for a new process or improvement goals for existing products or services. Typically, lean production methodology recommends an FMEA periodically throughout the life cycle of a product or service.
This LeanSixSigmaSource.com tutorial explains more about how FMEAs are used in Six Sigma.