FMA, FMEA & FMECA: Understanding the Difference

Analysis is essential for determining the root cause of a problem. The more you know about what went wrong, the more you can do to prevent it from happening again. This process begins and ends with failure analysis, and the deeper you go, the more comprehensive the analysis needs to be. That means understanding the difference between failure mode analysis (FMA), failure mode effects analysis (FMEA), and failure mode effects and criticality analysis (FMECA).

Failure mode analysis

FMA is a step-by-step procedure designed to determine which malfunction symptoms occur before or after a system failure. FMA prioritizes failures based on their severity and how frequently they occur. Using the FMA process, manufacturers can identify and eliminate failures in the most efficient order.

FMA contributes to continuous improvement and failure prevention by accurately documenting the causes of failures. Although this term is often used interchangeably with FMEA, they are not the same. FMA is the first step in investigating the root cause of a problem. FMEA takes the surface data identified by FMA and goes further to put it in context.

Failure mode effects analysis

Put simply, FMEA goes one level deeper than FMA. While FMA helps determine the actual problem and its symptoms, FMEA looks at each variable and its contribution to the problem. While FMA would say, “excessive vibration caused the machine to fail, and the catalyst for that vibration was a soft foot.” FMEA goes on to ask, “What caused the soft foot?”

To determine these deeper causes, manufacturers use FMEA to analyze every contributor to a problem and understand how and why they occurred. By thoroughly analyzing every piece of the greater puzzle, manufacturers can identify its root cause and explore solutions for preventing its effects.

Failure mode effects and criticality analysis

After performing FMEA, manufacturers use FMECA to organize potential failures by severity and probability of recurrence. While FMEA also ranks problems by severity, FMECA goes into more detail by documenting the specific contributors to failure and ranking them based on severity.

The U.S. military developed FMECA in the 1940s, and it was later adopted by NASA to create safer, more reliable spacecraft. The procedure can improve company operations, reduce costs, increase throughput, and decrease downtime. FMECA also helps increase customer satisfaction by improving production for product reliability and quality.


FMA, FMEA, and FMECA work together as part of a comprehensive failure assessment. Understanding the circumstances of a failure and the progressive stages of diagnosis dictate when each mode is most appropriate. FMA is best for imminent problems, FMEA helps technicians probe deeper, and FMCEA classifies the severity of catalysts. Put them together, and you’re on the path to the best solution.

If your failure analysis didn’t get you to the source of a problem, you can always count on the professionals at Global Electronic Services. Contact us for all your industrial electronic, servo motor, AC and DC motor, hydraulic, and pneumatic needs — and don’t forget to like and follow us on Facebook!
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