What is PFMEA?

Process failure mode and effects analysis, or PFMEA, is one of several analytical tools that can be used to assess and address potential failures in an operational process. These potential failures, which are known as failure modes, refer to anything that could cause a decline or halt in productivity, quality control, or safety.

PFMEA helps maintenance teams prioritize preventive maintenance (PM) work by allowing them to assess the potential effects of equipment failures. It is often used in industries such as industrial manufacturing, which rely on sizeable amounts of equipment to meet daily production quotas. In this article, we’ll cover what PFMEA is, why it’s important, and how to use it.

How Does PFMEA work?

Much like failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA), which is closely related, process failure mode and effects analysis involves analyzing a process to identify and address all potential errors. These errors might stem from a myriad of different reasons, which is why it’s important to use PFMEA to tighten up said process to avoid or prevent anything that might compromise or otherwise hinder the process you’re analyzing. This is done in part by identifying failure modes.

After identifying failure modes, PMFEA involves assigning each failure mode a severity, occurrence, and detection score. The severity score measures the forecasted impact of a hypothetical setback, the occurrence score describes how likely it is to occur, and the detection score indicates how likely the failure mode is to be discovered before it happens. Each of these scores is ranked on a scale of one to 10 and then multiplied together to create a risk priority number or RPN. This number is how teams identify how much attention a process requires.

Why is PFMEA important?

Identifying risks for processes as early as possible is a great rule of thumb for anyone involved in creating or improving said processes. Mitigating risk is always a good practice when working in manufacturing so that you can ensure the most efficient, safe, and reliable processes possible. Otherwise, your processes might fail.

When Should I Use PFMEA?

PFMEA can generally be used when:

  • Your organization is considering the implementation of a new technology or process. In this case, PFMEA can be used to identify production and process needs.
  • You are modifying a current process. Using PFMEA can help prevent any negative consequences of process changes.
  • You notice a loss in quality. PFMEA can help you conduct quality risk assessments if you notice a reduction in product quality.
  • Your current organization is relocating or otherwise changing the production environment. Changes to the environment can introduce potential production risks. In this case, PFMEA is highly recommended.

The common denominator here is that PFMEA should be used whenever there’s a change to your organization’s routine. Any change that occurs invites new ways for your processes to fail, so it’s important to always assess your new practices so you can easily identify any new or otherwise overlooked failure modes.


What Industries Use PFMEA?

PFMEA is considered a highly adaptive and diverse analytical tool for many businesses because of its focus on safety, quality, and efficiency. All of these are focuses of teams such as those who work on production lines, manufacturing, or materials handling equipment.

Where is PFMEA Used?

PFMEA is used in a wide range of industries that all emphasise the efficiency, safety, and reliability of products and equipment. These industries include the automotive industry, the manufacturing industry, and defense industry.

How to Conduct a PFMEA

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

  • Run a process review: Do this by recounting your current process, if you have one, or look over a process you are considering implementing.
  • Identify potential failure modes: Identify anything that might go wrong with the process. This requires a bit of brainstorming, so don’t be afraid to get creative and collaborate with others.
  • 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 process 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.

Example of a PFMEA

Conducting a PFMEA means that you will assess a process for potential failures and figure out how to avoid them. This can apply to any process that your organization might go through, including both ones that are already in place and those that you are thinking about implementing.

For example, you might have just come up with a new process that you believe will speed up production in your warehouse. To conduct a PFMEA, you would review this process and identify any possibilities for failure (i.e., identify its failure modes). Then, you would assess the severity of the potential effects of these failures, define their potential causes, and calculate the likelihood of being able to catch these failures before they occur. With these severity, occurrence, and detection scores, you can calculate the RPN, which gives you priority information. The information you get on the priority then allows you to formulate and execute an action plan to counter these potential failures.

Even following the implementation of the new process and action plan, you can dedicate some time to repeatedly conducting a PFMEA in the future to make sure the RPN stays as low as possible.

What are the Benefits of PFMEA?

Several benefits can come with conducting a PFMEA where appropriate. These include:

  • By using PFMEA, 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.
  • The ability to identify potential failures. With this knowledge, you can fine-tune your processes to mitigate risk and increase reliability.
  • More insight into what corrective actions will yield the best results for your processes. 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.

What are the Disadvantages of PFMEA?

Though PFMEAs are a great way to assess your processes and ensure you’re mitigating risks, executing a PFMEA might be time-consuming. It involves a lot of steps, brainstorming, and trial and error that ensure that it won’t be a one-and-done approach to asset management. Before you undertake the process of PFMEA, you should ensure that PFMEA 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.

PFMEA vs DFMEA: What Are the Differences?

PFMEA Focuses on identifying potential failure modes and their effects on the process used to manufacture the product. Whereas, DFMEA focuses on identifying potential failure modes and their effects on the product during the design phase.

PFMEA helps in improving the manufacturing or production process by anticipating and mitigating potential failure modes. And DFMEA helps in improving the design by anticipating and mitigating potential failure modes.

PFMEA vs FMEA: What Are the Differences?

FMEA and PFMEA both operate intending to identify and reduce all modes for possible failure, but PFMEA is different from FMEA in that it specifically deals with processes. Hence, PFMEA is considered a type of FMEA with a specific focus, similar to system FMEA and design FMEA.

Streamline Your PFMEA Processes and NEXGEN

PFMEA is a great risk assessment tool that can greatly increase your organization’s efficiency and ensure you get quality results every time. To help you use this tool, NEXGEN comes equipped with an intelligent solution to storing asset and equipment-related information on a cloud-based platform. NEXGEN allows PFMEA teams to catalog, analyze, and act on maintenance-related metrics, streamlining your processes so your finger is always on the pulse.

If you’d like to learn more about how NEXGEN can help you conduct PFMEA and maximize the effectiveness of your processes, schedule a demo with us today.