Adam Hughes, Head of Engineering Operations, explains how planning for failure means that you can reduce the cost of maintenance in the long term.

When your factory’s production is interrupted because of a breakdown or component failure, the knock-on effects are staggering. When your production line is operating at full capacity, the repercussions are even harder felt. The cost of repairing or replacing what’s broken is far less than the impact it has on lost production and their associated penalties. But, the cost of replacing the breakdown before it fails can be reduced even further still.

So, how do you reduce the cost of breakdowns? You plan for failure.


Step 1 – Understand Your Factory

The first step of planning for failure is to understand how each of your factory’s processes interacts and impacts with itself.

It sounds simple but understanding which lines have the most critical impact on your production, means you can start to prioritise maintenance and stock spares. If one production line is responsible for your most profitable product, or carries more than one product, that’s where you invest more heavily.

One cereal customer recently said, “This one conveyor touches seven other parts of our business; if this goes down, our whole factory goes down.” Clearly, they know where their maintenance priorities lie.


Step 2 – Identify Critical Components

The second step of planning for failure is to identify old, worn, or damaged components that, should they fail, will have a critical impact on production. Out of warranty or end-of-life components also increase risk.

Once identified, a plan can be made to replace the parts, either before they fail or when they fail. Replacing at point of failure would still have a significant impact on throughput, but if spares are stocked, this can be minimised.

The better course of action would be to replace the part before it fails. This would enable time to be built in for root cause analysis. A part doesn’t fail ‘just because,’ there’s always a root cause.

A chemical customer recently said, “We installed a new belt at the start of December and by the end of January, we had to order and fit a new one.” We sent an engineer to fit the new belt and undertook some testing to determine why the new belt had failed so quickly: the answer, a misaligned timing pulley.


Step 3 – Work With Suppliers

The third step of planning for failure is to work closely with the suppliers and service providers of those critical parts and processes. Even better, bring them in as you work through steps 1 and 2 so they are fully aware of where your priorities lie and what your expectations are.

Your suppliers will also be able to offer an outsider perspective and share industry best practice to make your plant and its processes run even smoother.



For more than 40 years, we’ve been a trusted partner to production, processing, and heavy industrial customers in the North West. Our 120-strong team support maintenance, project, and operational teams to develop bespoke solutions for new and existing systems to keep their critical plant running efficiently. We do this with technical intelligence and practical experience. We design, manufacture, and build an extensive range of systems and components from machines that safely and swiftly uncouple train wheels from their axles, to refurbishing and adapting complex food packaging conveyor systems, all from our 6.5-acre factory in North Wales.

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