Equipment Maintenance: 5 Causes of Failure, and How to Avoid Them

5 minutes

In facilities management, efficiency, and productivity reign supreme. Equipment failures can be devastating to the smooth functioning of operations, leading to costly downtime, decreased output, and frustrated stakeholders. But a strong equipment maintenance strategy can prevent failures and less equipment downtime to keep your facilities running strong.

Many companies rely on equipment. When machine failures occur quick action can mean the difference between a minor inconvenience and major organizational disruption. Building a culture of reliability and efficiency means more productivity, and understanding the root causes of machine failure and implementing proactive measures can minimize the risk and impact of equipment breakdowns.

These five common causes of equipment failure can be anticipated and prevented in many instances. Implementing a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) can help keep your company running smoothly, not struggling with perpetually breaking parts.

1. Age and wear

One of the most common causes of equipment failure is the natural wear and tear that occurs over time as equipment is continuously used. Like any other mechanical system, equipment components degrade, lubricants break down, and parts may become loose or misaligned. As a result, equipment starts experiencing more frequent breakdowns and requires increased maintenance, spare parts, and repairs. This leads to mounting maintenance costs associated with reactive maintenance, unexpected downtime, and the need for urgent fixes. 

To mitigate this issue, operations, and maintenance professionals should implement a proactive maintenance strategy. By employing a CMMS and establishing a maintenance program, organizations can shift from reactive to preventive maintenance practices. Instead of waiting for equipment to fail, maintenance tasks are scheduled and performed regularly based on equipment condition and usage.

Investing in new equipment may seem expensive upfront, but it’s cost-effective in the long run. As part of a proactive strategy, refreshing equipment as it ages minimizes continuous expenses and productivity losses incurred from constant repairs or waiting for a breakdown, which interrupts productivity.

2. Operator error

Human error is a prevalent cause of machine failure, and mistakes are a natural part of human behavior. But human errors can have negative consequences on equipment performance. 

Overloading machines beyond capacity, operating without proper knowledge or authorization, or disregarding safety guidelines are all recipes for disaster caused by improper use. Prioritizing proactive training initiatives and training each operator on every piece of equipment they are responsible for ensures they have the necessary skills and knowledge to operate it safely and efficiently and prevent misuse.  

Creating and implementing Standardized Operating Procedures (SOPs) spells out rules and procedures and establishes consequences for intentional misuse. Equipment operators should not use a machine without adequate training, since it jeopardizes not only equipment performance but also violates OSHA occupational safety regulations, which can have consequences for your organization.

3. Lack of preventive maintenance

Preventive maintenance involves regularly inspecting, servicing, and repairing equipment to address potential issues before they lead to failure. In contrast, reactive maintenance involves waiting for equipment to break down before taking action. Among the benefits of preventive maintenance:

  • Focuses on addressing machine failure before it occurs, allowing organizations to stay ahead of potential issues
  • Identifies and resolves problems early on, reducing the risk of unexpected breakdowns and downtime
  • Extends equipment lifespan, maximizing its value and return on investment
  • Reduces unplanned downtime, emergency repairs, and the need for costly replacement parts. It also enables better budgeting for maintenance expenses
  • Ensures equipment is operating safely, minimizing the risk of accidents or injuries

CMMS software streamlines maintenance operations, providing features like automated scheduling, work order management, and equipment history tracking. Studies have shown that implementing a preventive maintenance plan using a CMMS can improve equipment reliability by as much as 35-50%, further emphasizing the importance of proactive maintenance strategies in preventing equipment failures.

4. Too much maintenance

While preventive maintenance is crucial for preventing equipment failure, it is essential to avoid excessive maintenance (yes, there is such a thing as too much). Conducting too much maintenance can impact efficiency and asset longevity. Excessive maintenance often leads to overspending on maintenance activities, such as unnecessary part replacement or frequent servicing, which can strain the maintenance budget. It also can accelerate asset depreciation and wear and tear on aging equipment, reducing the overall lifespan of the equipment.

Excessive maintenance also wastes valuable time and resources for the maintenance team. When maintenance activities are conducted without considering the actual condition of the asset, it leads to unproductive and time-consuming tasks, diverting attention from critical areas that genuinely require attention.

An efficient maintenance strategy avoids unnecessary maintenance activities and enables real-time data collection on equipment performance and health. A data-driven approach ensures that maintenance actions are tailored to the specific needs of each asset, preventing overspending, minimizing asset wear and tear, and optimizing the utilization of maintenance resources.

5. Failure to monitor equipment condition

When an organization lacks a comprehensive condition monitoring system, equipment can more easily go unmonitored. 

Employing condition-based maintenance (CBM) focuses on assessing equipment condition and determining the optimal time for maintenance actions. Various methods are used to assess equipment condition, including:

  • Oil Analysis: Examining oil samples to identify contaminants, wear metals, or changes in viscosity that indicate potential issues.
  • Acoustic Analysis: Using sound waves to detect abnormal vibrations, leaks, or equipment malfunctions.
  • Vibration Analysis: Measuring equipment vibrations to identify misalignments, imbalance, or excessive wear.
  • Thermography: Using infrared cameras to detect abnormal heat patterns, indicating potential electrical or mechanical issues.

Indicators that an asset needs maintenance can include abnormal noise, excessive heat, increased vibration levels, reduced performance, or fluid leaks.

Using a CMMS to continuously monitor an asset's condition by integrating sensors, data collection devices, and equipment interfaces provides an automated solution to equipment monitoring. 

When an anomaly or deviation from normal conditions is detected, the CMMS automatically generates a work order, triggering the appropriate maintenance actions. This proactive approach ensures maintenance activities are performed promptly and accurately based on real-time equipment condition data, reducing the risk of machine failure and optimizing maintenance efficiency.

By implementing a comprehensive condition monitoring system, leveraging CBM methods, and utilizing a CMMS, organizations can significantly reduce the likelihood of machine failures by staying proactive with maintenance history, addressing potential issues before they escalate, and ensuring timely maintenance actions based on accurate condition assessments.

Get ahead of equipment failure with Brightly Software

Proactive measures prevent equipment failure, and a strong equipment maintenance program helps ensure your equipment continues to run strong. A good CMMS makes managing your equipment maintenance tasks a breeze. Talk with a Brightly expert to see how their CMMS can help you ensure equipment reliability and improve productivity.