What is Failure Analysis?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Failure analysis is a strategy that attempts to assess the factors that led to some type of failure. The failure may be associated with a given project such as a marketing campaign, the collapse of a business, or the inability of a given product to produce the desired results. In each case, the focus is to identify what did not go as planned, what could have been done to avoid the failure, and what steps to take in order to prevent a recurrence of the problem.

A failure analysis of an incident where a locomotive collided with a truck might conclude that a defective breaking or signalling system caused the accident.
A failure analysis of an incident where a locomotive collided with a truck might conclude that a defective breaking or signalling system caused the accident.

The general idea of failure analysis can be applied to just about any business situation. In the matter of a marketing campaign, this type of analysis will often focus on understanding why a given approach failed to attract the attention of consumers and prompt them to buy the goods or services produced by the company. By collecting feedback on the campaign in general, and analyzing the implementation or each aspect of the process, it is often possible to isolate the reasons for the failure. Once these factors are identified, it is possible to identify other elements that could be used to rework the plan, and increase the chances of reaching the right consumers.

For example, while conducting a failure analysis on a marketing campaign, it may be discovered that the target audience for the products sold responds more positively to magazine advertisements, and is less responsive to television commercials. If the campaign relied heavily on electronic media and less on print media, the reason for the failure may have been the fact that the wrong consumers were being reached. By retooling the campaign to include little to no television advertising but a lot of ads in the right magazines, the campaign may go from being a failure to being a success.

Failure analysis is also often used in manufacturing situations. Generally, the idea is to evaluate production processes and determine why the number and quality of the goods produced are below acceptable levels. By looking closely as each step in the process, the analysis may find that making a few simple changes in procedure corrects the problem and has a positive impact on both quality and efficiency.

Along with the manufacturing industry, the electronics industry also employs the use of failure analysis. This process may help provide answers as to why a particular design for an electrical appliance does not work, or why a particular component does not perform well in a give appliance type. As with other scenarios, identifying the origin of the failure paves the way for correcting the issue and increasing the chances for success.

In most cases, failure analysis does not focus on trying to assign blame. Rather, the approach is to objectively look at what has transpired, determine which elements prevented success from occurring, and removw those elements from the process in the future. For example, a manufacturing line may be below production quotas because an employee did not receive proper training. Instead of disciplining or firing the employee, training is provided that allows the employee to work more efficiently, and thus restore production levels to a desirable range.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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