Failure Modes and
Effects Analysis (FMEA)


Darren Hare

Darren Hare

We took it on almost instantly.

Verified by an engineer

As a Senior Design Engineer at UK defence contractor AWE, Darren Hare’s work focuses on nothing less consequential than the defence and security of the realm. “My team supports the explosive testing which is used to underwrite, certify and maintain the warheads for UK Government’s nuclear defence strategy and Continuous at Sea Deterrent,” he summarises. AWE is a Non-Departmental Public Body wholly owned by the Ministry of Defence with responsibility for providing a safe, effective and efficient nuclear warhead programme and supporting the UK’s counter-terrorism and nuclear threat reduction activities.

Hare has worked at AWE in Berkshire since leaving school in 2005, starting out as a trainee apprentice machinist. He progressed through a number of the company’s machine workshops, then moved to the drawing office in 2011. Then, in 2016, he joined AWE’s Mechanical Design Office, “I went from making the parts to drawing the parts, and now I’m designing the parts,” he says. The role sees him take concepts through design to manufacture, producing 3D CAD models, approving his colleagues’ drawings, and making sure work is rigorously checked for risks and safety. “We do a lot of substantiation against the design.”  

He holds a Bachelor of Engineering from the University of Portsmouth and an HND in Mechanical Engineering from a local college. 


Why Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA)?

Given the importance of AWE’s mission, Hare explains the company already has rigorous FMEA processes in place to ensure explosives testing and other activities are as safe as possible. “The reason we went to the training was because we felt that we could do it even better.”

The Mechanical Design Office chose the IMechE’s FMEA course, so they would have “one unique, solid process that we took to all our designs for all our trials.”

What was your experience of the course?

Because the Mechanical Design Office at AWE wanted everyone to have the same understanding of FMEA, the entire team is attending the IMechE course in stages. Hare attended the first of three batches of training in July 2022, with the rest of the team attending on subsequent days. To accommodate this, the IMechE provided in-person training exclusively to AWE.

Hare explains that the instructor delivered training on an FMEA method which is generally used at large companies like AWE, and so “was based around doing it in one particular way.” However, it was still tailored to AWE since, “the examples that were used in the course, we were asked to bring ourselves. So, it became unique to us.”

Hare says he was impressed by the instructor, who was “full of energy and good at getting us in a collaborative mood.” The course involved a lot of group work, with Hare and his colleagues being taught a concept then putting it into practice in small teams.

There are several things that Hare found especially useful. For example, standard FMEA processes have a scoring system of one to nine to assess how likely a feature is to fail. Hare says that, “if you were to apply that without any training, you might have arguments with other people about whether something should be scored seven or eight. But what we were taught was that really, it doesn't matter.” The instructor gave the team a different scoring system (1;3;6;9) which would help “eliminate time wasting conversations that have no value.” Hare says he found this approach refreshing, as it can reduce the risk of overthinking things and therefore save time.

The instructor also introduced the AWE team to a “priority matrix” which, as the name suggests, can help identify the most important issues in a mechanical design or process, and is a “useful tool in where we focus our attention,” Hare says.

Besides this, the team brought back a lot of slides, presentations and course material to refer to later and begin applying.

What are the three reasons someone should attend the FMEA course?

  1. Learn FMEA processes that are appropriate for their business.
  2. Learn to use simple, practical FMEA methods.
  3. Use examples from their own workplace to apply FMEA ideas.

What impact has the training had?

“We took it on almost instantly”.

Speaking a couple of months after attending the course, Hare says his team began implementing what they learnt almost immediately. The first step was to put together a template for AWE’s new FMEA process and adapt it to an Excel package the office uses.

Hare says that he is also using the new FMEA process in his work. On an explosive testing trial he is managing, “I'm now taking the current trial through an FMEA process and I'm at the priority matrix stage.”

The office has also set up a dedicated FMEA team. “That’s not something we would have done before,” Hare notes. “It probably would have been done just by me as an individual before being reviewed, but now we're setting up meetings with the right individuals who need to be there to have these conversations.”

Those who attended the first course are also educating the rest of the office, telling colleagues, “here's what we cover, here's what we're not covering [with FMEA]… here's where we need to focus. And we've now got the tools to be able to do that.”

What’s next?

Since the entire Mechanical Design Office at AWE want to be on the same page about FMEA, the whole team is going through the same training with the IMechE. “The idea is everyone eventually would have been on it,” Hare explains.

In terms of his own professional development, Hare says he’d like to progress towards team leadership, and hopes to “help enable people in their careers” in future. Besides this, he says he’s also heading down the chartership route at present. “The only hindrance with that, is just being so busy!”

Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA)

  • Duration:
    1 day
  • Location:
  • CPD Hours:
  • UK-Spec:
    B, C, D, E