This paper presents the process and outcomes of the pilot introduction of Functional Analysis Diagram (FAD) as a design assist tool within a Small Medium Enterprise (SME). During this study, two sets of Process Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (PFMEA) sessions were conducted using the traditional and the proposed, FAD assisted (FMEA-FAD) method developed, aiming to optimize the failure mode selection phase of the process. The results have shown that the FMEA-FAD method has significantly improved the efficiency and the effectiveness of the process. They were also consistent with previous research, suggesting that FAD is relatively easy to use, supports high levels of understanding through functional decomposition, and can be used as an interdisciplinary communication platform (Aurisicchio et al., 2011). Given the resource limitations in SMEs, such an efficiency improvement could be vital for a resource intensive process such as FMEA.

FAD discourages disciplinary terminologies in function descriptions; instead, the functions can be represented simply by the combination of an active verb and a measurable noun. Breaking the system down into lower level subsystems and studying the functional interrelationships between system components, can help us understand the overall system functions (Pahl et al., 1996). As market needs are mostly determined based on past user experience (Norman, 2010), innovation commonly occurs incrementally. Although this practice reduces risks — being, as it is, based on already tested platforms, incremental innovation often leads to the retention of superfluous components and outdated technologies. The process of functional modeling prompts the users to question the existence of every component and feature within a product or process, potentially leading to a radical reassessment of a design against the need which created it.

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