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The new steps in FMEA harmonization

Harmonisierung FMEA

After three years of cooperation between members of the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG)and the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), the first edition of the VDA-AIAG FMEA manual was published in June 2019. For the first time, the industry associations VDA and AIAG released a joint method description of FMEA for publication, thus defining a global standard in the automotive sector. The harmonization of VDA and AIAG enables suppliers who supply their products to both European and American customers to use a uniform basis for performing FMEA. This eliminates the additional effort of two different procedures.

In the following article we will explain which changes have resulted from FMEA harmonization and what you need to bear in mind for the 7 newly defined steps for performing an FMEA.

From 5 to 7 Steps

The newly developed guidelines for the unified method contain a number of changes. The core of the FMEA still consists of the 5 steps of the VDA method (from structural analysis to optimization), which and preparation" and "documentation of results".

Step 1: Planning and Preparation:

So-called scoping was previously only recommended. However, the harmonization of the two FMEA methods ensures that this step is clearly emphasized. The order clarification includes the following points:

  • Project planning
  • Target and purpose definition
  • Team determination
  • 5Z (purpose, time planning, composition of the team, assignment of tasks, work witness)
  • Analysis limits
  • Starting point

In addition, the FMEA header data was changed or supplemented by the four new items Company, Development Location, Customer and Confidentiality Level.

Step 2: Structural Analysis

The structural analysis still includes the determination of the relevant elements and the definition of the system structure for design and process.

In the design FMEA the considered product is divided into system, subsystem and components, while the process FMEA divides the process into process steps and process cause elements (4 - 6 Ms (human, machine, method, material, environment, management)).

Step 3: Functional analysis

In this step, the FMEA responsible person has various tasks. Among other things, he must describe the "what" based on requirements and specifications and create an overview of the functionality of the product or process. These functions must be assigned to a relevant system element. The visualization via function network is also part of his tasks.

Harmonization emphasizes the visibility of the functions at all levels:

  • Superior level: Functions of the system or the overall process
  • Focus level: Product feature or process purpose
  • Cause level: Functions and process characteristics

Step 4: Error Analysis

Error analysis includes the identification of causes and effects and their interrelationships as well as potential errors. The harmonized approach follows the previous VDA sequence: consequence - error - cause. The concept of the focus element makes the presentation more unambiguous. The former column for "Special Features" has been removed from the Design FMEA form.

Fokus level
Image 1: concept of the fokus level

Step 5: Risk Analysis

The description of the valuation catalogs was also standardized. The motto is now: task priority instead of risk priority number (RPN). The RPN used to evaluate risk by multiplying significance (B), occurrence (A) and detection (E). This has been dropped in the new method. The task priority (AP) replaces the RPN and serves instead to prioritize the risk reduction measures.

As a result of the harmonization, the AP tables for the design and process FMEA are now identical and the need for action is considered in three levels (High, Medium, Low). In the case of "High", measures must be taken or a justification must be provided. A new feature is the clear integration of the management: If the error sequence is 9/10 with task priority High/Medium, the management should review the recommended measures. At the "Medium" level, measures should be taken or a justification should be provided, while at "Low" measures can be taken.

AP table
Image 2: AP table for design and process

Step 6: Optimization

In the FMEA optimization step, improvement measures must be identified and defined. Responsibilities and deadlines are assigned and the expected risk is evaluated.

The defined measures receive a status (open, in decision, in implementation, completed or rejected) and are documented with proof of effectiveness. The optimization of the measures is repeated until the team decides whether a certain level is reached and the completion of the measure is documented or whether the current measures are sufficient (with justification).

Step 7: Documentation of results

Finally, the FMEA results must be documented both internally and for customers. The main objectives here are to communicate the results and conclusions to management, to communicate with the customer or supplier and, if necessary, to identify a basic FMEA as the basis for new projects.


The harmonization of the European (VDA) and the American (AIAG) FMEA method has ensured a uniform and universally valid standard of FMEA in the automotive industry, which has naturally led to some changes in the individual steps. Now the question arises whether all FMEAs must therefore be changed. The answer is no - the existing FMEAs can be left in their original form. However, if existing FMEAs are used as the basis for new projects, the format should be adapted to the harmonized standard. New projects should therefore always be based on the new standard.

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