FMEA (failure mode and effective analysis) is a step-by-step approach for collecting knowledge about possible points of failure in a design, manufacturing process, product or service.
Failure mode (FM) refers to the way in which something might break down and includes potential errors that may occur, especially errors that may affect the customer. Effective analysis (EA) involves deciphering the consequences of those break downs by making sure that all failures can be detected, determining how frequently a failure might occur and identifying which potential failures should be prioritized. Business analysts typically use FMEA templates to assist them in the completion of the analysis.
A business analyst might perform an FMEA 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 following a quality function deployment. 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.