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The Top Causes of Machine Failure

About 2.9 million workers get injured on the job every year. The most common source of these accidents is machine failure. Poorly maintained equipment can cause falls, electrocutions, and fatalities.

On top of being dangerous, faulty equipment can lead to a huge dip in productivity. Employees can’t work if their machines aren’t functional. The longer the equipment remains idle, the more money the company loses.

To keep your machines in good working order, it’s important to understand why they break in the first place. Check out this guide to familiarize yourself with the different types of business machinery failures and their causes.

Types of Machine Failure

Industrial equipment failure happens when a machine only partially works or stops functioning altogether.

Many different types of failures can occur, but you can break them down into three general categories: intermittent, sudden, and gradual.

Intermittent Machine Failure

You can think of intermittent failure as sputtering. Some days, a machine will work for an entire shift, and others, it will go out a few times before functioning again.

If these random failures aren’t addressed, they will lead to full equipment failure down the line.

Sudden Failure

Most of the time, when heavy equipment failure happens, it causes a sudden halt in productivity.

A machine in the production line will stop working for seemingly no reason and refuse to start up again. Most of the time, this occurs due to a snapped band or broken wire.

Gradual Machine Failure

Gradual failure is the opposite of sudden failure. It’s the steady decline in a machine’s functionality.

It starts with something small, such as a dull blade or clogged pipe. Nine times out of ten, these issues can be prevented before they lead to total machine failure.

Common Causes

The root cause of machine failure isn’t always as obvious as a snapped wire. Sometimes it comes in the form of small issues that were missed due to a lack of maintenance.

Untrained employees can misuse equipment and make detrimental mistakes. These are only a few reasons why machines break.

Machine Failure Misuse

Employees are only human. They are prone to forgetfulness and depending on the length of their shift, fatigue.

While letting an untrained employee work on a machine goes against OSHA standards, it doesn’t stop it from happening.

Someone may have to work on a machine that they aren’t familiar with to step in for someone who had to step away. A supervisor can give them a basic rundown on how to use the machine, but without proper instruction, they might as well be going in blind.

All these instances can lead to machine misuse. It only takes one mistake to cause sudden equipment failure.

Lack of Regular Maintenance

Every piece of machinery in your place of work needs regularly scheduled maintenance. Without it, small issues will go unaddressed until they turn into large problems.

Heavy machinery works a little like people. Every once and a while, it needs a checkup to make sure it’s in good working order. Little tune-ups can do wonders for productivity.

Most companies own several machines, making scheduling maintenance difficult. Tracking software can help keep you organized. It will let you know which machines have already been worked on and which ones still need your attention.

Too Much Maintenance

You can have too much of a good thing. Every time you open a machine, you put it at risk. You should only work on a piece of equipment when it’s time for its regular maintenance or when it’s showing signs of problems.

You wouldn’t go get a life-saving surgery for no reason. It’s traumatic and can come with a lengthy recovery time. The principle is the same with your machinery.

Old Age

Like humans, machines begin to show their age after a while. When that happens, you may have to retire a loyal piece of equipment.

You can try to prolong its life with band-aid fixes and maintenance, but that could cost more than the machine is worth.

One of the biggest culprits of wear and tear is abrasion. It occurs when the lubricant between two moving machine parts wears out. As the parts grind together, it creates weak points.

Band-Aid Fixes (Machine Failure)

When you’re pushed to meet deadlines, using small band-aid fixes to take care of a faulty machine isn’t only tempting. It’s almost mandatory. The longer the machine has to go down, the further behind you get.

The problem is that quick fixes are only temporary solutions. They cover up problems and over time, will stop working. It’s only a matter of time before the machine shuts down altogether.

Forgetting to Monitor Equipment

Even if you put your equipment on a maintenance schedule, it still needs regular monitoring. This involves keeping an eye on machine sensor data to look for little changes to functionality.

Diagnostic analytics are important as well. You’ll use data from machines that have broken down in the past to prevent the same issues in the future.

Keep Your Equipment Going

Machine failure isn’t only bad for productivity. It can also pose a danger to employees.

The best way to prevent problems is with regular maintenance. When a machine does start to sputter on the factory floor, it’s important to get to the root of the issue instead of using a quick fix.

You also have to monitor your equipment and forbid employees from using machines that they aren’t trained to use.

For more tips that will help you keep your workplace equipment going, visit the Business section of our blog


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