Industry Specific Insights

3 Benefits of Understanding Failure Codes

Ryan Chan

Combining failure codes with a CMMS can be an incredibly powerful diagnostic tool for maintenance organizations. Teams could become more productive and understand the reasons for machinery errors, by combining the two methods. If something is broken, the current mindset is that it needs to get fixed, regardless of why the equipment failed. However, this perspective undervalues failure codes. Instead, a facility manager could use failure codes to learn what’s wrong with equipment or processes. These three key use cases for failure codes in a facility show why it is powerful to combine failure codes with a CMMS.

3 Benefits of Understanding Failure Codes

3 Benefits of Using Failure Codes

1. Tracking downtime and causes

Failure codes provide another dimension to data-gathering in a CMMS. An organization can use failure codes to determine why assets are failing. Facilities managers can look into the specifics of the equipment – why it failed, where it failed, and when it failed. This allows a facility to track its downtime in another way as well, as they can track downtime per failure code and see where their largest issues lie.

For example, let’s say a maintenance team implements a failure code system and sees that their equipment is consistently failing due to lack of lubrication. Now they know exactly where the issue is and they can train technicians to properly lubricate machinery during routine PM work.

Without failure codes, the organization is in the dark as to why its equipment is failing (and doesn’t see the pattern these codes provide).

2. Root cause analysis

A facility manager uses root cause analysis to determine why problems occur in a facility.

The 5 Whys

The 5 Why’s is the most popular method of Root Cause Analysis.

Essentially, the 5 Why’s is a process of asking the question “Why?” five separate times in response to a problem occurring. For example, if a technician realizes that Robot 1 is broken, but does not know the root cause. Using the 5 Why’s, we would ask “Why?” and proceed to ask the same question to the next 5 answers:

  • Robot 1 has failed. Why?
  • The motor stopped working. Why?
  • There was no electricity going to it. Why?
  • The electrical wiring wasn’t installed correctly. Why?
  • Our employees weren’t electrically trained. Why?
  • There’s currently no electrical training program at our facility (root cause).

By using the failure code, we identified the surface problem -Robot 1 failed. By using the 5 Why’s alongside the failure code, we figured out the root cause of the problem – technicians don’t have electrical training. The facility can now figure out a solution and prevent future errors.

3. Becoming more proactive

When organizations use failure codes properly, they increase productivity in their maintenance activity.  Failure codes allow organizations to build out the “history” of their assets. In this way, failure codes become a way of creating an FAQ or knowledge base.

When failure codes are first implemented, each asset is a blank slate. Failure codes become linked to solutions and past work, bringing to light past issues. This is an important tool for a few different reasons:

  1. Failure codes educate and train new technicians
  2. Failure codes allow future solutions to be implemented more quickly (look back into the history of work orders and view previous solutions)
  3. Failure codes create proactive technicians. They can anticipate the action they need to take when they see certain failure codes

Without failure codes, each equipment failure is a mystery. Overall, failure codes describe and categorize equipment errors, so that they are quickly fixed.


Please enter a valid email address