Interested in design failure mode and effects analysis? You’re not alone. This subset of failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) has gradually gained popularity in the last few years because of its proven ability to identify and address the risks present in product designs before they occur. If you’d like to learn about DFMEA, what it is, and how you can use it, this comprehensive guide will provide handy pointers for conducting your first design FMEA, including some common mistakes you should look out for.

What is DFMEA?

Design failure mode and effects analysis (DFMEA) is a methodology employed by design engineers to make sure products are designed the best they can be. In other words, DFMEA is used to keep the number of failures caused by a design as low as possible, as well as to ensure that the product is working as intended. Effective DFMEA lets teams optimize their designs deliver high-quality, safe products and ensure the greatest amount of satisfaction for their end users.

How Does DFMEA Work?

DFMEA is a methodology that involves assessing a product design early in the production process so you can identify and plan for failures that might occur as a result of that design. This is a method that involves a lot of brainstorming, problem-solving, planning, and continuous check-ups to ensure the initial design is fine-tuned to be at its best possible potential.

Who Uses DFMEA?

DFMEA is usually conducted by a small team that understands the different factors that must be considered when conceptualizing a product design, such as its requirements and manufacturability. This team is usually led by a product design engineer and is made up of material, testing analysis, and product quality engineers. In addition, members from other teams such as those in production, service, and logistics can also play a role in DFMEA.


When is DFMEA used?

DFMEA can generally be used when:

  • When there is a new design: DFMEA can be a great way to assess how effective this new design is.
  • When changes are being made to an existing design: Analyzing the design after the changes are implemented allows you to see how the changes are impacting product effectiveness.
  • When the current design is experiencing an environmental change: This means that DFMEA can still help you assess product designs if the design is staying the same but is being used in a new environment or changes in the duty cycle.

Where is DFMEA Used?

DFMEA is used in some different industries including the manufacturing, healthcare, and automotive industries.

How to Perform a DFMEA?

Conducting a DFMEA generally consists of the core steps listed below.

  • Review your design, its systems, and its functions: Treat this like a comprehensive breakdown, so that you can have all the pieces needed for your analysis.
  • Identify potential failure modes: Use what you found in the last step to identify any opportunities for failure your design might have. This requires extensive brainstorming, so don’t be afraid to collaborate with your team.
  • List potential failure effects and assign a severity score: Think about what might happen if each failure mode you came up with actually led to a failure. Then use that hypothetical to identify how severe this failure would be and rank it on a scale from one to 10.
  • Determine potential failure causes and assign an occurrence rating: Think backwards to figure out why a failure might be caused and assign an occurrence score (1-10) according to how often this failure is likely to happen.
  • Determine your current process controls and assign a detection rating: What precautions do you already have established to detect failures before they occur? Come up with your answer, then assign a detection score (1-10) accordingly.
  • Calculate the RPN using the severity, occurrence, and detection scores: To do this, multiply all the scores together. A higher RPN means that the failure mode should be given a higher priority than those with a lower RPN.
  • Create and implement an action plan: Using the insight you’ve gained from calculating the RPN of all the failure modes you’ve identified, take action to improve your design and prevent those failures from occurring.
  • Recalculate the RPN to see if things have improved: This step is how you can assess your new solutions and pivot if they aren’t working.

DFMEA Example

DFMEA can be applied to a design as innocuous as that as a ballpoint pen. The only difference between design FMEAs and other FMEAs is that the analysis is based on the design aspect.

Using the example of a pen, you can identify the possible ways the pen could fail – for example, it might not expend the correct amount of ink, leading to skipping pen lines or globs of ink when someone tries to use it. Going off of that, you can identify variances in the design of the pen – for example, the dimensions of the ball – so that you can improve the initial design and get an ideal RPN.

What Are the Benefits of DFMEA?

Conducting a DFMEA leads to several benefits including the ones listed below:

  • The ability to identify potential failures: With this knowledge, you can fine-tune your processes to mitigate risk and increase reliability.
  • More insight into corrective actions: This is attained by continually calculating RPN so that you have a tangible idea of which failure modes need the most attention.
  • Increased safety, reliability, and efficiency: By using DFMEA, you can create a process that is safe for everyone involved and results in well-managed products and equipment. This translates to less time and money spent on unexpected labor and happier customers and employees.

What Are the Disadvantages of DFMEA?

Like other forms of FMEA, DFMEA might be time-consuming. It involves a lot of steps, brainstorming, and trial and error, so before you begin the analysis, you should ensure that DFMEA is the best approach to take when it comes to your specific process. Otherwise, you can use other, less time-consuming analytical tools that can still ensure you’re avoiding any failures that might happen.


The primary distinction between PFMEA and DFMEA lies in their respective focuses. PFMEA is geared towards analyzing potential failures within a specific process of a business unit, while DFMEA is oriented towards analyzing potential failures in the design of a product.


FMEA and DFMEA both have the same goal – they both aim to reduce failure as much as possible through evaluation and problem-solving. However, they differ in that DFMEA is considered a subset of FMEA.

DFMEA stands for design failure mode and effects analysis. The addition of the design element indicates that this methodology is focused on product design, unlike FMEA. The process is generally the same, but the subject of the analysis differs.

Common Mistakes Made With DFMEA

DFMEA is a long process. It’s susceptible to user error or neglect, whether intentional or not. There are a few mistakes to look out for when you’re going through the DFMEA process.

  • Putting DFMEA in the hands of the wrong people: People who are trying out DFMEA for the first time often assign DFMEA ownership to quality control departments, but it’s better to task this process to product designers and assign supporting roles to other department members as needed. This is because quality control might not have first-hand knowledge about relevant factors, like design requirements and how design changes might impact end users.
  • Losing sight of the DFMEA scope and objective: Make sure you and your team are on the same page when you’re going through the DFMEA process.
  • Not going through with the action plan: Make sure the DFMEA yields a clear action plan for your organization and ensure that it’s seen through. This way, your design will see a change for the better.
  • Not recalculating the RPN after executing action items: It’s important to remember that DFMEA is a continuous process so that you can track progress and adjust over time.

Streamline Asset Management With DFMEA and NEXGEN

Want to get started with DFMEA? One of the easiest ways to organize essential information needed for the process is with NEXGEN. Our mobile-friendly platform allows operational teams to catalog, analyze, and take action so they can reduce the occurrence of production bottlenecks.

If this sounds like what you’re looking for, schedule a demo with us and see NEXGEN’s CMMS in action.