Manufacturing by Paul Templin

ISE magazine's quarterly column about manufacturing (November 2018)

FMEA – finding the unknown unknowns

“There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

— Donald Rumsfeld, former U.S. secretary of defense

Failure mode effects analysis – FMEA – is industrial and systems engineering’s response to Donald Rumsfeld’s conundrum. As engineers developing products, supply chains and production lines, we know that there are many complex interactions and small details that can result in unintended consequences. Experience tells us to expect the unexpected, but it also counsels us to pause, plan and think carefully about what could go wrong.


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