4 Maintenance Troubleshooting Techniques to Reduce Downtime

Equipment failure is expensive. That’s why efficient maintenance troubleshooting techniques are mission-critical for your manufacturing business’s bottom line.

According to McKinsey, “The average manufacturer confronts 800 hours of equipment downtime per year—more than 15 hours per week. . . . Overall, unplanned downtime costs industrial manufacturers as much as $50 billion a year.”

Preventive maintenance can delay equipment breakdown and warn you well in advance so you can prepare yourself. But it’s not like equipment doesn’t break down anyway.

We already have a troubleshooting guide if you’re just getting started. It focuses on techniques and tips to make maintenance troubleshooting more manageable and efficient.

Troubleshooting can often feel disorienting. It’s not always easy to determine a starting point and draw a logical roadmap as you zero in on a problem. Here, we provide sensible techniques to troubleshoot most effectively.

“Unplanned downtime in manufacturing is one of the largest causes of lost productivity, causing delays, unhappy customers, and lost revenue.”

4 Maintenance Troubleshooting Techniques

1. Use a CMMS

According to the Plant Engineering Maintenance Report, CMMS helps reduce downtime by almost 80%, and 58% of facilities use CMMS to monitor maintenance.

A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) can compile your maintenance data, streamline maintenance troubleshooting processes, and automate maintenance tasks. Centralized access to maintenance data such as maintenance logs, repair history, and OEM manuals is valuable when troubleshooting equipment failure.

For example, MaintainX users can quickly look up on their mobile devices a piece of equipment using the equipment’s ID or QR/barcode to get information about maintenance and repairs.

If the asset’s work order history shows the machine had a similar issue in the recent past and the method used to fix the machine, you can quickly get things back on track. You save the valuable time you’d otherwise have spent troubleshooting.

We know that sometimes it’s simply replacing fuses or lubricating bearings, but even these simple emergency fixes could be better scheduled via preventive maintenance work planning.

Historical data, such as recorded metrics, can work as a starting point and as information you can refer to while troubleshooting, providing technicians with great insights about how to speed up the troubleshooting process.

Moreover, you can create maintenance troubleshooting checklists within the CMMS. When technicians perform maintenance troubleshooting and check off tasks in the checklist, they automatically leave an information trail that technicians can use for future troubleshooting.

2. Standardize Maintenance Troubleshooting Procedures

A standardized operating procedure for maintenance troubleshooting gives technicians a systematic approach that’s easy to implement. A consistent strategy makes the entire process more efficient and saves technicians and the business the stress of costly downtime.

Experienced maintenance technicians can often identify common problems associated with a type of asset. In addition, their experience can help junior technicians speed up the troubleshooting process if they create a standardized maintenance procedure or checklist of potential issues and related troubleshooting instructions.

SOPs and checklists are especially useful because maintenance personnel get used to the consistent format and know where to look for the repair fundamentals.

The checklist can include images for additional guidance and warnings to ensure a technician’s safety. If you use a CMMS like MaintainX, you’ll have the option to store checklists and create work orders from within the system. You can assign the list to a specific technician and even guide them via the app.

3. Look for Long-Term Maintenance Solutions

Recency bias (the tendency to use the solution that worked last time) can exacerbate a problem and lead to more frequent malfunctioning. If an issue resurfaces, it’s worth digging deeper to understand what’s causing it.

Root cause analysis (RCA) is a widely used technique that helps get to the common cause of failure. It relies on multiple methodologies, including the Five Whys, Fault Tree Analysis, and Pareto Analysis. Essentially, RCA involves getting to the source of the problem (to prevent it from happening recurring) instead of just applying what may appear to be a more straightforward fix.

Once you have a solution, we recommend logging the details into your CMMS for future reference. Understanding the problem also can guide your preventive maintenance program to incorporate practices to minimize the reoccurrence of that problem on that specific class of assets.

Another helpful technique is Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA), where you create a failure code. Failure codes describe why an asset failed or ran into a problem. The codes are based on three factors: problem, cause, and solution.

Failure codes help technicians implement the best solution quickly based on previous data. In many cases, failure codes identify possible causes that lead to common problems with a specific asset. This allows technicians to devise long-term solutions to minimize equipment downtime.

4. Capitalize on Maintenance Troubleshooting Information

Information and know-how are the greatest problem-solving resources. Access to asset histories, equipment maintenance checklists, diagrams, manuals, and standard operating procedures, among other things, helps technicians get a head start on bringing machines back up more quickly.

In addition to having this information, you should also ensure the information is easily accessible. For example, storing maintenance data on paper or spreadsheets slows everything down. Physical documents are easy to lose and require technicians to sift through piles of paperwork while under pressure. And, spreadsheets can’t present data meaningfully by themselves.

A CMMS makes information easily accessible. When technicians have access to all the required information via their mobile devices, they’ll find it easier to troubleshoot problems, consequently minimizing downtime.

CMMS tools also make collecting data easier by allowing technicians to simply check tasks with a single tap using a mobile phone. And CMMS with in-app messaging make it easy for techs to call each other for additional insight and help.

Use MaintainX for Efficient Troubleshooting

Approaching maintenance troubleshooting methodically will help you identify and fix a problem faster. However, having the right tool to track the troubleshooting process and provide all the information quickly is priceless.

Think about automating your maintenance operations with planned maintenance.

MaintainX is a mobile-friendly CMMS that’s easy to use, helping you save time you’d otherwise spend training the team to hone their troubleshooting skills.

Feel free to schedule a demo, or even better, try MaintainX yourself. It’s free.


How long does it take to implement MaintainX?

For the average customer, it takes three weeks to implement one site. For customers on our Premium & Enterprise plans, our team ensures a smooth transition to MaintainX within your organization. Partner with a dedicated implementation specialist through our structured three-week onboarding process. Learn more about our Implementation services here.

Is MaintainX secure?

MaintainX is compliant with security standards, including SOC 2, ISO 27001 & GDPR. It also supports Single Sign-On (SSO), multi-factor authentication (MFA) and custom permissions and roles. For more information, visit our Trust Center page.

Does MaintainX support multiple sites?

Yes, MaintainX Enterprise allows you to manage multiple plants or facilities within the same platform. You can also create customized reporting dashboards to track KPIs across multiple sites on the same screen.

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Caroline Eisner

Caroline Eisner is a writer and editor with experience across the profit and nonprofit sectors, government, education, and financial organizations. She has held leadership positions in K16 institutions and has led large-scale digital projects, interactive websites, and a business writing consultancy.

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