3 causes of unexpected equipment breakdown

Dealing with the aftermath of equipment failure can be hectic and frustrating. Not only is there an out-of-service machine you need to take care of, but there's also lost time and productivity to make up.

Equipment breakdown can seem unpredictable at times, but there are steps that machine operators and facility managers can take to reduce the risk of an unexpected failure. Here are three common and preventable machine breakdown causes and how to prevent them:

1. Overworking a machine

Every piece of equipment in your facility is an investment, and it's natural to want to get the most out of each one. Failing to take note of and adhere to a machine's maximum performance level can put unnecessary stress on machine components and lead to early equipment failure.

For every asset in your facility, take the time to find maximum capacity levels and ensure every operator who utilizes those pieces of equipment understands that information. Keep in mind, it's not always best or even necessary to run equipment at its maximum potential. Dialing back usage so it's not running at full capacity may benefit certain pieces of equipment.

2. Contaminated oil or not enough lubrication

Proper lubrication is essential for most machines that include moving parts. Neglecting to oil parts that require lubrication can cause the equipment to underperform or fail altogether. As much as 70 percent of machine bearing failures occur because of ineffective lubrication or a lack of lubrication altogether, Plant Services reported.

Even if machinery is oiled frequently and on time, there's still a chance that equipment failure can be traced back to the lubrication. Clean oil is crucial to keep equipment operating efficiently. In fact, according to Equipment World, between 60 and 70 percent of oil-wetted component failures are caused by contaminated oil.

Oil contamination can take many forms, including dirt, dust, moisture, coolant or other fluids used in the machine. Even microscopic silt particles can damage an equipment component. In some cases, wear rates can be higher with smaller particles than larger ones.

Water is another dangerous contaminant. Water does not work as lubrication, and it doesn't mix well with oil. When the water is blended into the oil, referred to as emulsified water, film strength is reduced. It can cause pressure changes that can damage pumps, lines and other components.

3. Poor or infrequent maintenance

Each piece of equipment in your facility requires unique and specific maintenance tasks on a regular basis. Skipping inspections or neglecting to tend to a machine's components can cause parts to wear out faster. It can also prevent you from noticing an emerging problem.

There are different levels of maintenance that should be conducted for every piece of equipment. First, many items need a daily inspection; forklifts fall into this category. At the beginning of every shift, operators review the lift truck they'll use and identify any issues. These inspections should be done regardless of when the truck was last used.

Then there are basic upkeep procedures that keep equipment running smoothly and operating as expected, like lubricating certain parts or tightening others. Replacing worn out components is also important. A belt that's beginning to fray is at increased risk of an all-out tear. A cracked or warped seal or ring may completely break with extended use.

Though doing the necessary maintenance tasks, both large and small, is highly important to the continued use of the equipment, it is sometimes difficult to set aside time for these tasks. Additionally, when similar maintenance schedules need to be implemented across multiple locations within a single business, it can be hard to achieve uniformity.

Working with a nationwide maintenance provider that offers centralized services can help keep all your facilities up to date on inspections, repairs and planned maintenance. Reach out to Miner to learn how planned maintenance can help improve productivity in your workplace.