Businesses run on assets and equipment. Whether you rely on forklifts to move products around your warehouse, fleet vehicles to get your employees to their job sites, or specialized manufacturing equipment to make your products, it’s essential that your assets are dependable and safe. Even a single equipment malfunction can wreak havoc on your organization’s productivity. 

What is an equipment malfunction? 

An equipment malfunction occurs when an asset doesn’t operate as expected or stops working altogether. Also referred to as equipment failure, equipment malfunctions can cause production delays, safety issues, and missed milestones. And equipment failures that result in unplanned downtime can be costly. In fact, research shows that unplanned downtime costs businesses an average of $260,000 per hour.

What are the risks connected to equipment failure?  

When assets and equipment fail, you can face an array of problems, including: 

  • Equipment, facility, and product damage
  • Workplace injuries 
  • Unplanned downtime 
  • Production delays

In addition to these risks, you also have to deal with the unplanned — and possibly unbudgeted — expenses for repairing or replacing the malfunctioning asset. In short, equipment failures of any kind can create a ripple effect and leave a lot of damage in their wake. 

What are the causes of equipment failure? 

There are many factors that cause equipment to malfunction or fail. Some of the significant contributors are: 


When an operator misuses assets or equipment, whether due to neglect or insufficient training, it can lead to various problems, including equipment failure, safety issues, and damage to the equipment or facility. Given the risk of severe accidents, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) mandates specific training requirements for different assets and equipment commonly used in facilities and on job sites.  

Failure to abide by the established training requirements can not only put your workers and equipment at risk but also may result in hefty fines from OSHA. Getting every operator properly certified on all equipment is the best way to ensure your operators use all your assets and equipment the right way. 


Maintenance is an area where it’s crucial to find the right balance. Both too little maintenance and too much maintenance can result in problems that eventually lead to equipment failure. A good preventive maintenance plan helps you achieve the right balance for all your assets and equipment. 

Managing a comprehensive preventive maintenance plan can be challenging, especially when you’re responsible for hundreds or thousands of assets. One way to simplify maintenance management is with a computerized maintenance management software solution (CMMS). The right CMMS can help you organize your maintenance tasks and allows you to easily keep track of upcoming preventive maintenance inspections and tasks, so you never miss an important maintenance checkpoint, no matter how busy you are. 


Regular, scheduled inspections are an essential tool in your arsenal to prevent equipment malfunctions and failures. In addition to being mandated by OSHA for specific types of assets and equipment, inspections help you identify parts that might need reactive or preventive maintenance, as well as functions where operator training might be necessary to prevent additional damage or unnecessary wear. Regular inspections help reduce unplanned downtime due to equipment failure across all your assets. 

Manufacturing defects can also cause equipment failure, but you can’t prevent that type of failure with planning, maintenance, or training. You can only react to it after the fact. Research from the Department of Energy suggests that the right maintenance program can eliminate up to 75% of breakdowns and reduce downtime by up to 45%.2 

What should you do after identifying an equipment malfunction?  

If you don’t have one already, your company should develop a straightforward process for employees to follow after identifying an equipment malfunction. Not only can equipment failures present serious safety hazards, but they can also affect a wide range of functions and departments. 

Although every company’s process will differ somewhat, there are five main steps that employees should take after identifying an equipment failure. 

1. Secure

After observing an equipment malfunction, the operator should immediately shut down the equipment and secure it. No one should use the asset until the source of the malfunction is identified and repaired. In many cases, this will involve a lockout / tag-out procedure, but different types of assets may need to be secured in other ways. 

2. Report

After the equipment is secured, the next step is to report the failure. The report should identify the assets that failed and include the nature of the failure, the operating conditions when the failure occurred, information about the operator, and the time of the failure. A detailed and complete failure report can help the repair technician resolve the malfunction more quickly. 

3. Analyze

Once an operator reports a failure, a qualified technician should inspect the asset and determine the root cause of the malfunction and the best way to repair it. This stage might also include recommendations for replacement or other changes to avoid the same failure in the future. 

4. Correct

Next, the equipment should be repaired by a qualified professional, which can be an in-house technician or a third party. Once the repair is complete and the asset is thoroughly tested, you can document the status and put the asset back into service. 

Under no circumstances should an operator continue to use an asset after identifying a malfunction. Instead, the operator should always secure the asset until an experienced technician has checked out the problem. Malfunctioning equipment can create serious safety hazards, not limited to significant injury or death, if not taken out of service and properly repaired. 

5. Track

Equipment malfunctions should be meticulously documented and tracked. Proper tracking can highlight failure patterns that might otherwise go unnoticed and allow you to make process adjustments to correct the problem. Having a comprehensive record of all completed maintenance and repairs can also protect the company from liability in the event of an injury on the job. 

Asset and equipment maintenance tracking can be cumbersome without the right tools, and that’s where a good CMMS comes in. With the right CMMS, you can easily access and analyze all the past maintenance and repairs for every asset at your facility or on your site. 

How can you prevent equipment failure?  

The ways to prevent equipment failure are tied directly to the most common causes of equipment malfunctions: operator training, proper maintenance, and regular inspections. Preventing equipment failure is all about being proactive and putting good systems in place for worker training and maintenance tracking.


High-quality employee training programs and easy-to-use maintenance tracking systems are great investments that can often pay for themselves simply by helping you and your team avoid preventable equipment malfunctions. 

Next steps

Want help tracking your organization’s maintenance and inspection records?

Hippo’s here to help you get the solution that works best for you, including answering your questions about maintenance management software, helping you book a live software demo, or even setting you up with a free trial

Executive summary   

Equipment failures are a significant contributor to unplanned downtime, which can be massively disruptive to your production schedule and your bottom line. Keeping your facility’s equipment running smoothly is all about prevention, and some of the best ways to prevent equipment failures are inspections and proper maintenance.  

However, tracking maintenance and inspection records across large amounts of assets and equipment can be difficult if your team doesn’t have the right tools. A good CMMS can be the answer to that problem. With the right CMMS, your facilities teams can manage the records for all the assets and equipment in one place and access them from any device. In addition, a comprehensive, easy-to-use CMMS helps your maintenance team create consistency in maintenance management across your entire organization, which can help prevent equipment failures and reduce unplanned downtime.  

About The Author

Jonathan Davis

Jonathan has been covering asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions since joining Hippo CMMS. Prior to that, he wrote for textbooks and video games.
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