Failure codes: What they are and why maintenance teams need them

While the term might sound ominous, failure codes are nothing to fear. They’re simply alphanumeric codes specifying the reason an asset breaks down.

With failure codes, technicians can quickly select a pre-set code when completing a work order to explain what went wrong. And by classifying repairs this way, maintenance managers and reliability engineers can spot the trends that will help prevent the same thing from happening again down the road.

How to make failures your friend with the FRACAS system

Underlying failure codes is the problem ? cause ? action (PCA) framework, which works like a decision tree. A maintenance team looks at all the possible failure modes and corresponding solutions they could potentially encounter, then joins the problems, causes, and actions (solutions) together in a failure code hierarchy. These custom PCA codes are specific to each operation.

Let’s take a look at a real-world example of the problem ? cause ? action framework at work in an automotive repair shop:

root cause analysis for an automotive repair shop

In this example, the maintenance team might have created failure code B03 to represent the problem of “shot bearing,” C05 to represent the cause “bearing fatigue,” and D01 to indicate the solution “replace bearing.”

When it comes time for the technician to perform maintenance on the asset, they can document exactly what happened and log that valuable data for future reference. And while many maintenance issues require some degree of troubleshooting, with failure codes future technicians will see all possible solutions to the identified problem/cause, speeding up the repair process and reducing downtime.

Utilizing failure codes can help your organization:

How to use failure codes in the real world

Let’s say you own a fleet of backhoes and recently they’ve been breaking down a lot. In the past, you would have to manually search through work order histories to try to spot failure trends and common causes. With failure codes, you can instantly spot repeat offenders.

Fiix's desktop work order administration window

Let’s say that in this case, the failure analysis reveals pneumatic hose failure to be the reason behind the majority of those backhoe work orders. Armed with this information, you can now investigate why your organization is suffering so many of these hose failures. It could be operator error, temperature fluctuations, supplier defects, incorrect installation, etc. The point is, now that you know what is happening, you can instead spend your time figuring out why.

Learn how to perform a failure mode and effects analysis

How failure codes support reliability-centered maintenance

Reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) is defined by the technical standard SAE JA1011Evaluation Criteria for RCM Processes, and of the seven main questions it poses, we can see that five of them focus on equipment failure:

  1. What is the item supposed to do and its associated performance standards?
  2. In what ways can it fail to provide the required functions?
  3. What are the events that cause each failure?
  4. What happens when each failure occurs?
  5. In what way does each failure matter?
  6. What systematic task can be performed proactively to prevent, or to diminish to a satisfactory degree, the consequences of the failure?
  7. What must be done if a suitable preventive task cannot be found?

Because RCM is all about identifying and containing an asset’s failure modes, anything that supports this is a natural ally. Failure codes allow teams to easily and completely capture failure data, and this in turn empowers them to improve maintenance operations from day to day. That’s why they remain such a powerful tool for RCM-focused maintenance teams.

Mastering failure codes in Fiix

When it comes time to create your problem, cause, and action failure codes in Fiix, you can choose any names you’d like (as long as they’re alphanumeric). But for some extra inspiration, check out the technical standard ISO14224, which was originally developed for the petroleum industry but contains universal suggestions on which codes to create and conventions for naming them.

If you’ve already created failure codes in another CMMS or legacy spreadsheet system, you can save time by importing them into Fiix in .csv format.

Last but not least, we’ve got a detailed video on Getting started with failure codes and a full suite of how-to articles is available in our Help Center (which can also be accessed at any time through the Help button in the bottom-left of your CMMS). There, you’ll find articles detailing how to enable failure codesbuild out your hierarchy, and use codes during work orders.

Source: https://fiixsoftware.com/blog/failure-codes-for-maintenance/

The Evolution of the Maintenance Industry

Maintenance has evolved a lot in the last 50 years. The tools, technology, processes, and people who make up this industry have also changed. As a profession, maintenance is made up of a diverse group of people that don’t just fix things, but who plan, purchase, design, analyze, and optimize. This includes technicians and maintenance managers, but also engineers, planners, and even IT personnel. In world-class companies, maintenance is an integral part of business operations contributing positively to an organization’s overall growth and profitability. But it wasn’t always this way.

In this article, we walk through the evolution of maintenance from a do-as-needed profession to a critical role in every facility, plant, and organization.

The journey to modern maintenance

In the journal of Hazardous Materials, N.S. Arunraj and J Maiti documented how maintenance has changed from World War II to the present day. In the article, it was clear that each generation saw an increase in production demands and needed their equipment to be reliable. The increased production made companies more profitable, and to ensure they continued to bring in revenue, they needed to make sure their equipment was reliable. This focus on reliability led to improvements in their maintenance strategy.

As part of this improvement, the techniques for performing maintenance have significantly changed. In the early days of maintenance, work was mostly reactive—teams fixed breakdowns only when they occurred. In the decades since, maintenance has embraced a proactive approach with the goal of preventing unplanned downtime of any sort before it happens.

Maintenance over the years

See how digital transformation has shaped the evolution of maintenance

Improvements in maintenance practices

To make the shift to world-class maintenance, each generation needed to improve how, when, and what type of maintenance was needed. The first thing to change was adding planned preventative maintenance to the first maintenance generation. This was a good start, but there was little way to predict what equipment would break and when, so a system needed to be created for planning and controlling work.

In the second and third generations, new technology and developments in failure theory helped to put the focus on predictive maintenance. This type of maintenance is part of the same family as preventive maintenance. However, predictive maintenance uses condition-monitoring tools and techniques and asset information to track real-time and historical equipment performance so you can anticipate failure before it happens. Since predictive maintenance aims to give you an ideal window for proactive maintenance tasks, it can help minimize the time equipment is being maintained, the production hours lost to maintenance, and the cost of spare parts and supplies.

These new maintenance practices changed the way maintenance was done. The most dominant of these was reliability centered maintenance, which provides a structure for determining what maintenance activities should be done and when. It works by identifying the functions of the company that are most critical and then seeking to optimize maintenance strategies to minimize system failures and increase equipment reliability and availability. With this maintenance strategy, possible failure modes and their consequences are identified, all while the function of the equipment is considered.

Most recently, the maintenance industry has begun to consider the total cost of asset ownership. Ideas such as evidence based asset managementrisk-based maintenance, and total productive maintenance, have contributed to this. There has also been a big push toward adopting new technologies. The gradual adoption of maintenance management software and artificial intelligence have shown to be useful in improving and predicting a facility’s maintenance strategy.

Check out our guide for choosing the right preventive maintenance software

Achieving world-class maintenance practice

Unfortunately for many companies, the fact is their maintenance is still seen as a necessary evil. For those companies, their maintenance has not stayed in touch with world-class maintenance practices. To progress, one of the first steps is to change the corporate culture so that maintenance is a cooperative partnership that can significantly contribute to profitability and customer satisfaction.

The maintenance department itself will have to up-skill and adopt new practices before the corporate culture changes to view maintenance as the important business function that it is. For the maintenance department, up-skilling will mean new techniques are learned to predict and prevent equipment failures. The new practices will include a more involved relationship with the production and management teams as well as adopting software tools that will facilitate a world-class maintenance practice.

source: https://fiixsoftware.com/blog/evolution-maintenance-practice/

6 Types of Maintenance Troubleshooting Techniques

Maintenance troubleshooting can be both an art and a science. A common problem is that, while art can be beautiful, it isn’t known for its efficiency. When taken to the next level, maintenance troubleshooting can ditch the trial-and-error moniker and become a purely scientific endeavor. This helps maintenance technicians find the right problems and solutions more quickly. When troubleshooting is done correctly, your whole maintenance operation can overcome backlog, lost production, and compliance issues much more efficiently.

In this troubleshooting guide, we’ll take a look at what it actually is, why it matters to maintenance professionals, and how your team can fine-tune its approach.

What is maintenance troubleshooting?

Systems break down—that’s just a fact of life. Whether it’s a conveyer belt or an industrial drill, we’ve all run across a piece of equipment that is unresponsive, faulty, or acting abnormally for seemingly no reason at all. It can be downright frustrating.

Maintenance troubleshooting is the process of identifying what is wrong with these faulty components and systems when the problem is not immediately obvious. Maintenance troubleshooting usually follows a systematic, four-step approach; identify the problem, plan a response, test the solution, and resolve the problem. Steps one to three are often repeated multiple times before a resolution is reached.

Identify the problem

Identify the problem

Plan a response

Plan a response

 Test the solution

Test the solution

 Repeat until problem is solved

Repeat until problem is resolved

Think about it this way: When a conveyor belt breaks down, you may try a few different methods to fix it. First, you identify which part of the conveyor belt isn’t working. Once you’ve identified the problem area, you plan a response and test it, such as realigning or lubricating a part. If this fails to fix the problem, you might replace the part, which makes the conveyor belt work again. This is troubleshooting.

How is maintenance troubleshooting usually done?

Stop us if you’ve heard this story before. An asset breaks down and no one knows why. You talk to the operator, read some manuals, and check your notes about the asset. You try a couple of things to get the machine up and working again with no luck. Before you can try a third or fourth possible solution, you get called away to another emergency, with the asset still out of commission.

This is often how the process happens when performing maintenance troubleshooting, especially when a facility relies on paper records or Excel spreadsheets. The process is based on collecting as much information as possible from as many sources as possible to identify the most likely cause of the unexpected breakdown. You can never go wrong when you gather information, but it’s the way that information is gathered that can turn troubleshooting from a necessity to a nightmare.

Why does maintenance troubleshooting matter?

Unexpected equipment failure is the entire reason maintenance troubleshooting exists. If assets never broke down without any clear signs of imminent failure, there would be no need to troubleshoot the problem. But we know that’s just not the case.

Machinery failure doesn’t always follow a predictable pattern. Yes, maintenance teams can use preventive maintenance and condition-based maintenance to reduce the likelihood of unplanned downtime. However, you can never eliminate it entirely. What you can do is put processes in place to reduce failure as much as possible and fix it as soon as possible when it does occur. This is where strong maintenance troubleshooting techniques come in handy.

Because troubleshooting will always be part of the maintenance equation, humans will also always have a role. Maintenance technology does not erase the need for a human touch in troubleshooting; it simply makes the process much more efficient. When troubleshooting isn’t refined, it could lead to time wasted tracking down information, a substantial loss of production, an unsafe working environment, and more frequent failures. In short, knowing some maintenance troubleshooting techniques could be the difference between an overwhelming backlog and a stable maintenance program.

Maintenance troubleshooting tips

The following are just a few ways your operation can improve its troubleshooting techniques to conquer chaos and take control of its maintenance.

1. Quantify asset performance and understand how to use the results

It probably goes without saying, but the more deeply you know an asset, the better equipped you’ll be to diagnose a problem. Years of working with a certain asset can help you recognize when it’s not working quite right. But exceptional troubleshooting isn’t just about knowing the normal sounds, speeds, or odours of a particular machine. Instead, it’s about knowing how to analyze asset performance at a deeper level, which is where advanced reporting factors in.

When operators and technicians rely solely on their own past experience with a piece of equipment, it leaves them with huge gaps in knowledge that hurt the maintenance troubleshooting process. For example, it leaves too much room for recency bias to affect decision-making, which means that technicians are most likely to try the last thing that fixed a particular problem without considering other options or delving further into the root cause. Also, if maintenance troubleshooting relies on the proprietary knowledge of a few technicians, it means repairs will have to wait until those particular maintenance personnel are available.

Maintenance staff should have the know-how to conduct an in-depth analysis of an asset’s performance. For example, technicians should understand how to run reports and understand KPIs for critical equipment, such as mean time between failure and overall equipment effectiveness. If using condition-based maintenance, the maintenance team should also know the P-F curve for each asset and what different sensor readings mean. When technicians are equipped with a deeper understanding of an asset, it will be easier for them to pinpoint where a problem occurred and how to fix it, both in the short and long-term.

P-F curve chart

2. Create in-depth asset histories

Information is the fuel that powers exceptional maintenance troubleshooting for maintenance. Knowing how a particular asset has worked and failed for hundreds of others is a good place to start a repair. That’s why manuals are a useful tool when implementing troubleshooting maintenance techniques. However, each asset, facility, and operation is different, which means asset machine failure doesn’t always follow the script. Detailed notes on an asset’s history can open up a dead end and lead you to a solution much more quickly.

A detailed asset history can give you an edge in maintenance troubleshooting in a variety of ways. It offers a simple method for cross-referencing symptoms of the current issue with elements of past problems. For example, a technician can see if a certain type of material was being handled by a machine or if there were any early warning signs identified for a previous failure. The more a present situation aligns with a past scenario, the more likely it is to need the same fix. Solutions can be prioritized this way, leading to fewer misses, less downtime, fewer unnecessary spare parts being used, and more.

When troubleshooting is done correctly, your whole maintenance operation can overcome backlog, lost production, and compliance issues much more efficiently.

When creating detailed asset histories to help with maintenance troubleshooting (as well as preventive maintenance), it’s important to include as much information as possible. Make sure to record the time and dates of any notable actions taken on an asset or piece of equipment. This can include breakdowns, PMs, inspections, part replacement, production schedules, and abnormal behavior, such as smoke or unusual sounds. Next, document the steps taken during maintenance, including PMs or repairs. Lastly, highlight the successful solution and what was needed to accomplish it, such as necessary parts, labor and safety equipment. Make sure to add any relevant metrics and reports to the asset history as well.

One way to capture all this information in one place is to create a well-built equipment maintenance log, like this one:

Equipment maintenance log template

3. Use root cause analysis and failure codes

Effective maintenance troubleshooting starts with eliminating ambiguity and short-term solutions. Finding the root of an issue quickly, solving it effectively and ensuring it stays solved is a winning formula. Root cause analysis and failure codes are a couple of tools that will help you achieve this goal.

Root cause analysis is a maintenance troubleshooting technique that allows you to pinpoint the reason behind a failure. The method consists of asking “why” until you get to the heart of the problem. For example:

  1. Why did the equipment fail?: Because a bearing wore out
  2. Why did the bearing wear out?: Because a coupling was misaligned
  3. Why was the coupling misaligned?: Because it was not serviced recently.
  4. Why was the coupling not serviced?: Because maintenance was not scheduled.
  5. Why was maintenance not scheduled?: Because we weren’t sure how often it should be scheduled.

This process has two benefits when conducting maintenance troubleshooting for maintenance. First, it allows you to identify the immediate cause of failure and fix it quickly. Second, it leads you to the core of the issue and a long-term solution. In the example above, it’s clear a better preventive maintenance program is required to improve asset management and reduce unplanned downtime.

Failure codes provide a consistent method to describe why an asset failed. Failure codes are built on three actions: Listing all possible problems, all possible causes, and all possible solutions. This process records key aspects of a failure according to predefined categories, like misalignment or corrosion.

Failure codes are useful when maintenance troubleshooting because technicians can immediately see common failure codes, determine the best solution, and implement it quickly. Failure codes can also be used to uncover a common problem among a group of assets and determine a long-term solution.

Failure code flow chart example

4. Build detailed task lists

Exceptional maintenance troubleshooting requires solid planning and foresight. Clear processes provide a blueprint for technicians so they can quickly identify problems and implement more effective solutions. Creating detailed task lists is one way to bolster your planning and avoid headaches down the road. This could also be incorporated into routine maintenance.

A task list outlines a series of tasks that need to be completed to finish a larger job. They ensure crucial steps aren’t missed when performing inspections, audits or PMs. For example, the larger job may be conducting a routine inspection of your facility’s defibrillators. This job is broken down into a list of smaller tasks, such as “Verify battery installation,” and “Inspect exterior components for cracks.”

Maintenance technology does not erase the need for a human touch in troubleshooting; it simply makes the process much more efficient.

Detailed task lists are extremely important when conducting maintenance troubleshooting. They act as a guide when testing possible solutions so technicians can either fix the issue or disqualify a diagnosis as quickly as possible. The more explicit the task list, the more thorough the job and the less likely a technician is to make a mistake. Comprehensive task lists can also offer valuable data when failure occurs. They provide insight into the type of work recently done on an asset so you can determine whether any corrective actions were missed and if this was the source of the problem.

There are a few best practices for building detailed task lists. First, include all individual actions that make up a task. For example, instead of instructing someone to “Inspect the cooling fan,” include the steps that comprise that inspection, such as “Check for any visible cracks,” and “Inspect for loose parts.” Organize all steps in the order they should be done. Lastly, include any additional information that may be helpful in completing the tasks, including necessary supplies, resources (ie. manuals), and PPE.

Example of a preventive maintenance checklist

5. Make additional information accessible

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again; great maintenance troubleshooting techniques are often the result of great information. However, if that information is difficult to access, you will lose any advantage it provides. That is why it is crucial for your operation to not only create a large resource center, but to also make it highly accessible. This will elevate your maintenance troubleshooting abilities and get your assets back online faster when unplanned downtime occurs.

Let’s start with the elements of a great information hub. We’ve talked about the importance of reports, asset histories, failure codes and task lists when performing a troubleshooting method. Some other key resources include diagrams, standard operating procedures (SOPs), training videos, and manuals. These should all be included and organized by asset. If a technician hits a dead-end a troubleshooting procedure, these tools can offer a solution that may have been missed in the initial analysis.

Key types of asset information

Now that you’ve gathered all your documents together, it’s time to make them easily accessible to the whole maintenance team. If resources are trapped in a file cabinet, on a spreadsheet, or in a single person’s mind, they don’t do a lot of good for the technician. They can be lost, misplaced and hard to find—not to mention the inefficiency involved with needing to walk from an asset to the office just to grab a manual. One way to get around this obstacle is to create a digital knowledge hub with maintenance software. By making all your resources available through a mobile device, technicians can access any tool they need to troubleshoot a problem. Instead of sifting through paper files to find an asset history or diagram, they can access that same information anywhere, anytime.

Using CMMS software for maintenance troubleshooting

If it sounds like a lot of work to gather, organize, analyze and circulate all the information needed to be successful at maintenance troubleshooting, you’re not wrong. Without the proper tools, this process can be a heavy lift for overwhelmed maintenance teams. Maintenance software is one tool that can help ease the load every step of the way. A digital platform, such as a CMMS, takes care of crunching the numbers, organizing data and making it available wherever and whenever, so you can focus on using that information to make great decisions and troubleshoot more effectively.

For example, when building a detailed asset history, it’s important to document every encounter with a piece of equipment. This is a lot of work for a technician rushing from one job to another and difficult to keep track of after the fact. An investment in maintenance software will help you navigate these roadblocks. It does this by allowing technicians to use a predetermined set of questions to make and retrieve notes in real-time with a few clicks.

The same goes for failure codes. The key to using them effectively is proper organization and accessibility. Without those two key ingredients, failure codes become more of a hindrance than a help. One way to accomplish this is to use maintenance software. A digital platform can organize failure codes better than any filing cabinet or Excel spreadsheet and make it easy for technicians to quickly sort them and identify the relevant ones from the site of the breakdown.

The bottom line

Troubleshooting will always exist in maintenance. You will never be 100 percent sure 100 percent of the time when diagnosing the cause of failure. What you can do is take steps to utilize maintenance troubleshooting techniques to ensure equipment is repaired quickly and effectively. By combining a good understanding of maintenance metrics with detailed asset histories, failure codes, task lists, and other asset resources, and making all this information accessible, you can move your troubleshooting beyond trial and error to a more systematic approach.

Source: https://www.fiixsoftware.com/blog/6-types-of-maintenance-troubleshooting-techniques/