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.