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Reliability Managers: Analyzing the Root Causes of Equipment Failure and Their Effects on Business Profitability

Updated: Jul 14


Reliability Managers

Equipment failure or malfunction is one of the most complex challenges that Reliability Managers face. The Reliability Manager's crucial role is to develop and implement strategies to minimize equipment failure effectively.


By analyzing the root causes of equipment failure and understanding their effects on business profitability, Reliability Managers can control the recurrence of these failures, lengthen equipment lifespan, and optimize profits.


What is Equipment Failure?


Equipment failure occurs when a machine, equipment, or asset malfunctions or breaks down and becomes incapable of performing its intended function. Equipment failure can be a partial or complete failure.


Partial failure means that a piece of equipment is operational but not at full capacity, while complete failure means that the equipment is no longer functional.


The following are some of the several types of equipment failure:


Wear and Tear


The gradual deterioration of parts due to normal usage. Examples are wearing out of bearings, stretching or thinning of gaskets, loose threads on screws, etc.  


Fatigue Failure


Equipment parts can fail due to repeatedly undergoing cycles of stress, even when the stress is lower than they can tolerate. Metal surfaces on rotating parts and load-bearing parts are prone to failure due to fatigue.


Corrosion and Erosion


Equipment can also fail when parts are exposed to chemical reactions (corrosion) or physical contact (erosion). Examples are rusting of steel and metal pitting due to harsh chemicals or abrasive particles.


Thermal Failure


Excessive heat or poor temperature control can damage equipment and lead to failure. Examples include overheating, cracking due to drastic thermal expansion and contraction, and insulation damage in electrical components.


Electrical Failure


Electrical components and systems can experience irregular or abnormal functions that disrupt normal machine or equipment functions. The most common electrical failures are short circuits, blown fuses, and motor winding failures.


Hydraulic and Pneumatic Failure


This type of failure occurs in machines that use pressurized fluids or gases. Examples of hydraulic and pneumatic failure include leaking seals, burst hoses, and valve malfunctions.


Human Error


Failure due to human error happens when machines or equipment are operated or maintained improperly. Examples of this type of failure include incorrect installation, overuse, and neglecting maintenance.


Design and Manufacturing Defects


Equipment can also fail due to the inherent defects in its design and manufacturing. Failure can come from defects in the materials used, errors in component assembly, and flaws in the equipment’s design.


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Analyzing the Root Causes of Equipment Failure


Equipment failure must be managed systematically at the root cause, dealing with it before it happens or at least before it escalates and causes major negative consequences. Reliability Managers can employ several approaches explained below when analyzing the root causes of equipment failure.


These approaches help in developing strategies that prevent equipment failure and mitigate their negative impact.


1. Data Collection and Analysis


Reliability Managers can collect information on machines and equipment by reviewing historical records such as maintenance forms, incident reports, and equipment logs. They can also employ condition-monitoring tools like sensors and IoT (Internet of Things) devices that can track machines and provide real-time information on their performance.


Lastly, Reliability Managers can perform FMEA or Failure Mode and Effect Analysis, a method that identifies failure modes and their causes and effects on operations.


2. Root Cause Analysis (RCA) Techniques


RCA techniques take specific failure incidents and analyze them to identify the root cause, helping devise ways to prevent their future occurrence.


Commonly used RCA techniques include 5-Whys, Fishbone Diagram (Ishikawa), and Pareto Analysis:


  • 5-Whys - Analysis involves repeatedly asking “Why?” to every case until the root cause is determined.

  • Fishbone Diagram (Ishikawa) - Potential causes are identified from main sources such as people, materials, methods, and equipment.

  • Pareto Analysis - Focus on significant sources of failure and visualize these using a Pareto chart.


3. Predictive Maintenance


Technologies can be used to monitor equipment performance, detect potential issues, and predict failures. The following are the most common predictive maintenance technologies:


  • Vibration Analysis - Sensors can monitor machine vibrations and identify abnormalities that can signify potential mechanical failures.

  • Thermography - Infrared cameras can detect abnormalities in heat distribution in machines, identifying potential failures.

  • Oil Analysis - Lubricants can be tested for the presence of particles or contaminants that signify wear and other potential failures.


Understanding the Effect on Business Profitability


Equipment failure has five major effects on business profitability:


Reduced Productivity 


Equipment failure equals downtime and low productivity. By preventing equipment failure, Reliability Managers can minimize equipment breakdowns and operation interruptions.


Ultimately, businesses that can control equipment failure can get the most profit out of the optimized use of their assets and resources.


High Maintenance Costs


Equipment failure leads to higher maintenance costs. If Reliability Managers can address the root causes of these failures, they can prevent constant repairs or replacements and reduce their cumulative costs.


Additionally, minimal equipment failure means longer equipment life and thus, less capital expenses needed for new equipment. 


Low-Quality Product or Service


Equipment failure decreases the quality of a product or service. Low-quality products or services, in turn, lead to low customer satisfaction and low profitability. By minimizing equipment failure, Reliability Managers can enhance product or service quality, reducing complaints, rejects, and other costs.


Reduced Energy Efficiency


Equipment failure causes more energy usage and increased operational costs. By reducing equipment failure, Reliability Managers can increase profitability by reducing energy and operational costs. Also, low-energy use of equipment helps the company comply with potential environmental regulations or sustainability initiatives.


High Safety Risk


Equipment failure increases the risk of accidents and injuries in the workplace. By reducing equipment failure, Reliability Managers help reduce these risks. As a result, they can lower health insurance premiums and avoid safety penalties, fines, legal fees, and other safety-related costs.


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Reliability Managers can Rely on Redlist


Valuable support for managing equipment failure is available from Redlist’s software. Reliability Managers will find this all-in-one software the best tool for monitoring, recording, and analyzing data on equipment failure for better strategies and decision-making.


With Redlist, you can:


  • Centralize data for information accessibility

  • Automate tasks and issue alerts for timely execution

  • Track inventory levels to maintain availability

  • Communicate information in real-time and from any location

  • Analyze information for performance trends and areas of improvement

  • Integrate with sensors, IoT, and other systems for seamless data transfer


These benefits ultimately result in low equipment failure and high profitability for any business in any industry. Experience these benefits and more in your operations today. Book for your free demo now!

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