A great way to visualize where to allocate your motor maintenance resources is to plot a bar chart of motor failures by cause on the X axis and total cost (quantity times lost revenue times repair cost) on the Y axis. If you sort from largest to smallest, those first few bars are where you need to focus your limited resources.

This is great in theory. Sometimes, it’s even great in practice. But most of the time, it just doesn’t work that well. Why? A single cause: bad data.

You may have bad data for several reasons, including:

• You don’t have a standardized list of causes, so the collected data show many different names for the same cause (thus diluting the data).

• You have a standardized list of causes, but don’t have an “other” option. This forces people to check off something that’s not right.

• Too many failures get credited to “other,” and your form doesn’t include a space for saying what it is.

When the maintenance techs actively collaborate in designing the form for recording failure causes, the bad data problem seldom arises. If you already have a form, these are the people whose thoughts about it most need to be heard, and acted upon.