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Common Causes of Machine Failures and Prevention Tips

What causes machine failures? This is ideal to know, including preventative measures, in order to effectively manufacture goods.

Common Causes of Machine Failures and Prevention Tips - KB Delta

Machine failure has always been an accepted aspect or part of life for OEMs and manufacturers since the Industrial Revolution. There are many reasons why machines fail, with or without warning, and it is sometimes not easy to identify the cause.

Although many causes of machine failures are hard to detect, a lot are much more common. Everything boils down to how you routinely take care of equipment, routine maintenance, or early repairs.

This article covers machine failure, how it affects the manufacturing industry/time and money, the importance of repairs and routine maintenance, ad how you can prevent this phenomenon.

What is Machine Failure?

Machine failure – or Equipment failure – refers to an event in which a particular piece of industrial equipment or machinery suddenly starts underperforming – wholly or partially – or stops functioning altogether. A machine that deviates from the way it is programmed or intended to operate or function can be said to have ‘failed.’ This engineering term encompasses different levels of severity and scenarios.

In most cases, though, a machine failure includes the loss of usefulness within a piece of equipment, which may or may not halt production entirely.

Machine failure is common in the industrial setting and usually results in production downtime, higher repair costs, safety and health implications for employees. It also affects production as well as delivery of products/services.

How Machine Failure Affects the Manufacturing Industry/Time and Money

According to The International Society of Automation, manufacturers lose from 5 percent to 20 percent of their productivity due to unplanned downtimes caused by machine failure. This is typically equivalent to hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in many cases.

For instance, a study by Senseye reveals that major industrial firms can lose up to 27 hours a month to machine failures. When this happens, it sets back these large facilities an average of $532,000 for every hour of unpremeditated downtime.

The estimate of these losses amounts to 3.3 million production hours that is worth a whopping $864 billion per annum across the major industrial firms of Fortune 500 industrial organizations.

Even The True Cost of Downtime shares a report after studying up to 72 multinational manufacturing and industrial companies. According to its findings, large facilities lose as much as 323 production hours per year. The average cost of financial penalties, lost revenue, restarting lines, and idle staff time amounts to $532,000 per hour and $172 million per plant per year.

The automotive sector suffered the highest levels of unplanned downtime as large plants lost up to 29 production hours per month on average. This costs as much as $1.3 million per hour. Manufacturers of automotive vehicles and parts lose up to $557 billion (414,800 hours) every year.

Therefore, predictive maintenance – according to 67 percent of automotive firms – is now the strategic objective.

The Importance of Repairs and Routine Maintenance

The importance of on-time repairs and routine maintenance cannot be overstated. An ounce of prevention, as the saying goes, is worth much more than a pound of cure, which is true, for all equipment. It is not just for large-scale construction systems, but medium scale equipment like 60kg plate compactor (which is used in the construction of paved walkways and trench footings) would likely require proper routine maintenance works for preventing failure as well.

When you handle routine industrial maintenance and repairs, the result is a longer lifespan for your equipment, less downtime, improved safety for workers, and better productivity altogether.

Common Causes of Machine Failure

One of the primary causes of mechanical wear is particle contamination. It is usually addressed via a combination of removal and contamination exclusion methods.

In-service lubricants tend to get dirty with time, but thanks to innovative new solutions, there are changes in the way we often see machine lubricants.

Here are some of the common causes of machine failures:

  • Mechanical wear

Mechanical wear refers to the phenomenon of friction between two metallic surfaces within a machine, equipment, or heavy vehicles like trains. Mechanical failures can be prevented when they are detected on time. This can ensure that there isn’t any loss of property or lives. This is why timely maintenance is important, be it in machines, equipment, or vehicles. Apparently, particle contamination is one of the primary causes of abrasive wear. Wear debris, dirt, or other particles can bring about surface fatigue or 3-body abrasion, resulting in scoured and pitted surfaces.

Some common types of mechanical wear include:

Adhesion: This phenomenon usually involves 2 surfaces that come in direct contact with one another. There is always transfer of materials from one surface to the other during contact. It is usually noticeable in areas starved of lubricants or where lubricants are no longer capable of supporting the load.

Abrasion: Particles can generate a stress rise on the inner surface of a rolling-element bearing. Constant flexing over time makes the metal start becoming fatigued. Soon enough, the material propagates into a spall.

Fatigue: Metal fatigue occurs when a piece of metal works harder and becomes fatigued until it turns brittle and snaps. You can liken fatigue to what occurs when you try to cut a thin wire without pliers or cutting tools.

Surface degradation is the major cause of machine failure, though it can occur in several ways. This can be prevented in several ways, as you will find out later in this article.

  • Corrosion

Machine parts can rust over time. Water is the #1 culprit that easily causes iron surfaces to rust. It can also boost the oxidation rate of oil, resulting in an acidic environment in the component.

Acids can also form as byproducts of several reactions between specific additives in the water and oil. Production contamination via seals creates corrosive wear and acidic environments.

If an aggressive extreme-pressure additive comes in contact with a yellow metal – such as bronze, brass, copper, etc. – it results in severe corrosive damage.

Other causes of machine failures include:

  • Accidents
  • Failure to read the operator’s manual
  • Inadequate maintenance
  • Overrunning equipment
  • Bearing failure
  • Untrained operators
  • Misalignment
  • Poor electrical connections
  • Improper operation, etc.

Prevention Tips

You can prevent machine failure using multiple strategies. However, the criticality of the equipment, the likelihood of its failures, as well as the budget and available monitoring infrastructure can provide you the choice of various machine failure prevention techniques. Moreover, while undergoing any machine maintenance, it can be essential to adopt necessary safety methods and gadgets. For instance, Some of the Best Lockout Tagout kit offers the finest industrial safety devices, including safety padlocks, do not operate tags, electric circuit breaker lockouts, electric plug lockouts, ball valve lockouts, and other commonly used lockout devices, which may comply with OSHA 1910.147. By implementing proper safety measures, machine prevention and maintenance can become easier and more effective.

Moreover, here are some of the methods of preventing machine failure within an industrial environment:

  • Preventative maintenance

Establish a maintenance schedule and inspect machines and control systems before use on a regular basis. A supplier or industrial control engineering company may be contacted to replace worn components or old control systems as part of the process.

  • Diagnostic analysis

This maintenance structure calls for the use of machine data as well as root cause analysis to determine why the equipment failed. The information gathered here can be used extensively in a preventative maintenance strategy.

  • Reactive maintenance

This is a typical traditional maintenance example. When anything breaks in a machine, it is fixed immediately. In most cases, the machine doesn’t fail; but it provides a way to solve the issue when a problem occurs.

  • Predictive maintenance

This involves the use of past machine performance in order to model asset behavior. Algorithms can work to efficiently predict machine failure – with enough real-time data of IoT-connected machines.

In other words, this particular type of maintenance is based on a more customized – and deeper – analysis of when equipment failure is close at hand.


Many manufacturers are now aware that the lack of proper preventive maintenance is the primary source of machine failures. The solution is to implement the several preventive strategies shared in this article.

The result is improved productivity, minimal downtime, great ROI, etc.


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