The Three Factors of Machine Failure

Failure analysis is all about examining a problem in a machine and fixing it so that it does not occur in the future. After all, you cannot have a proper failure analysis with out a failure, right? When analyzing the data you have gathered about the cause of varying failures in your plant you may find that they fall in three distinct categories; Application, Human and Environmental. Here is a rundown of these groups and where they most often occur in a machine’s lifecycle.


This category of failure is one that happens when a component is misapplied to the design or function of the machine. This type of failure is most often one that happens sooner rather than later. Most often it is a case where a new part is installed incorrectly,or some sort of overall change has been made. It could be a retrofit or upgraded part that does not quite match up with the application. It also could be a part that has been installed incorrectly or maintenanced incorrectly (such as applying the wrong type of grease or using an incorrectly sized coupling etc).

The Human Factor

This is the most common failure mode by far and can happen at any time in the machine’s life cycle. Humans can be destructive by nature and will sacrifice machine longevity for the sake of speed, convenience or even overall laziness. Examples of this are things such as machine operators using tools like screwdrivers to operate touchscreens or using an e-stop to routinely shut the machine down harshly rather than follow proper shutdown procedure.


When kept at ideal temperature, humidity, and cleanliness machines can run with no problems for a really, long time. But what manufacturing facility can maintain these ideal environmental conditions perfectly? None that we know of for sure. Eventually corrosion, or contamination will wear down components and a breakdown will occur. However, control of the environment and proper removal of contaminants will help to make these types of failures happen very late into a machine’s life.

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