What is a failure code?

A failure code is a short and simple way of cross-referencing against a list of reasons for failure. This allows maintenance workers to figure out why an asset or system failed during production. Maintenance failure codes are usually in the form of numbers or as an alphanumeric acronym.

If an organization is using computerized maintenance management software (CMMS), a failure code can be applied to a work order for quick reference. While there are some common industry equipment failure codes, each organization typically creates their own CMMS failure codes list according to how they go about labeling assets internally and the types of equipment they use during operations.

What are the benefits of using failure codes?

There are two significant benefits to using failure codes, particularly with a CMMS. The immediate benefit of using failure codes is that it ensures you’re able to accurately and quickly identify breakdowns so they can be given the attention they require. When a breakdown occurs, it can be all too easy to just fix the thing that broke, rather than think about why it broke. Failure codes, on the other hand, are correlated to reasons for failure, so in order to assign a failure code, you need to take the time to understand why a failure or defect occurred. This can be done by carrying out a root cause analysis. When done correctly, each of your failures will be assigned into a pre-defined category, such as breakage, corrosion, imbalance, misalignment, overheating, or vibration.

The long-term benefit of using failure codes is when it comes time to assess and optimize your maintenance operations. By consistently assigning failure codes in your CMMS every time you experience a breakdown, you’ll acquire a backlog of historical data that you can refer to at any time and analyze for insights on how to do a better job preventing asset breakdowns in the future.

You’ll be able to see the number of times a specific failure code has occurred for any given asset or determine the failure rate for a particular asset by dividing the number of times a failure code has occurred by the total operating age of the equipment. Collecting failure data will also allow you to understand failure modes over time, which is a crucial aspect of building any reliability-centered maintenance strategy.

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How to use failure codes

The data you collect by using failure codes can be useful to your organization in the following ways:

  • Optimize PM intervals: You’re able to determine how often a piece of equipment needs to be serviced by looking at its failure rate. For example, if the asset is frequently failing, you could schedule PMs with shorter time intervals.
  • Assess the need for additional PM tasks: Analyzing historical failure codes will help you understand if a new PM needs to be created or existing PMs need to be updated to address failures.
  • Eliminate unnecessary PM tasks: If the rate of failure is low for a certain piece of equipment, you can reduce the number of PM tasks assigned to it. This will free up time so that maintenance can be performed on other assets that require more attention.
  • Improve failure response: For many types of failure, some degree of troubleshooting is necessary to find an appropriate way to address it. But in most cases, responses can be standardized. Having failure codes paired with information about what was done to address that failure will ensure that your technicians can get to the bottom of a similar problem more quickly in the future.
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