What are Failure Codes?

Malfunctions in machinery and equipment are an unavoidable cost associated with maintenance of production facilities. It is an integral part of a process called TPM (Total Productive Maintenance). A key element of TPM is prevention and preparedness for particular emergencies.

During the definition of the design principles for CMMS-class systems, the concept of Failure Codes was introduced. It is a set of fault definitions that in CMMS systems are designated by four-letter codes.

What are they for?

Failure Codes make it possible to group similar errors and label them with a common code. This prevents the proliferation of multiple terms for failures that are similar in management terms and significantly accelerates the reporting process. The operator does not waste time looking for an error description for a particular defect. By setting the code correctly, operators can minimize the labelling of errors such as ‘general error’ or ‘other errors’.

On the other hand, a UTR technician or foreman in charge of a branch movement who is familiar with fault codes can quickly identify emerging faults and respond promptly by assigning them to the appropriate maintenance staff.

Examples of codes used within CMMS

Each organisation is free to define its own typical Fault Codes, but a certain basic set of standard codes is adopted, corresponding to the majority of failures typically encountered in production facilities. The following are examples of codes that appear in CMSS systems:

  • CALB (Calibration Problem) – calibration problem
  • ADJS (Equipment Adjustment Required) – machine adjustment required
  • JAMD (Equipment Jammed) – jammed
  • LLUB (Lack of Lubrication) – no lubrication
  • NPWR (No Power)
  • XHOT (Overheating) – machine overheating
  • BROK (Physically Broken) – physical damage (e.g. breakage of a component)
  • NOGO (No Go) – the machine does not start
  • VNDL (Vandalism) – intentional damage to a machine

The letter fault code can be supplemented by a numerical designation: 1, 2, 3 – indicating the priority or degree of hazard resulting from a particular failure, e.g. 2XHOT.

Good practices

The principles of failure and defect management in machinery and equipment are set out in ISO 14224. It is worth relying on the principles collected there. By properly classifying potential deficiencies, it is possible to improve both error reporting and subsequent predictions as well as effective management.

It is a good idea that the set of errors that can occur on a machine is entered in the machine’s DTR manual, along with the associated error codes. This should be done as early as the machine design stage and then completed on a continuous basis if necessary.


Although each organization may define its own set of default codes, standardized codes are an invaluable tool in a CMMS. They are essential for the efficient management of fleet traffic and, in particular, failures. The acquisition and analysis of fault data organized in this way leads to the issuance of good repair orders, to better planned maintenance and finally to significantly increased savings.


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