Run to failure maintenance (RTF) is a type of breakdown maintenance where repairs are performed only after equipment becomes inoperable – not to be confused with reactive maintenance. Unlike reactive maintenance, which simply refers to repairing equipment after it has already broken down, run to failure maintenance intentionally postpones maintenance until a failure occur. In general, RTF is a risky approach to resolving breakdown incidents on critical equipment, except as a final resort and should only be used sparingly on less critical assets to mitigate the risks.

When does a Run to Failure Maintenance Strategy Make Sense?

Run to failure maintenance works best for short-lived, disposable, and low-criticality assets that have a minor effect on production. The run to failure method makes sense in cases where the cost of repairs after a breakdown is fairly low, which is often true for single-use items like light bulbs, vehicle tires, and signage.

What is an Example of Run to Failure Maintenance?

Run to failure maintenance is often used for non-critical industrial equipment that already has built-in redundancies. In these cases, the cost and time associated with repairing or replacing the equipment is lower than the cost and time associated with implementing proactive monitoring on that piece of equipment.

A simple example of RTF is replacing light bulbs. A single light bulb (or even several) going out won’t stop production, and there are enough other light bulbs to provide adequate lighting until the dead bulb is replaced.  It’s also quite simple and cost-effective to keep spares on hand. As a result, the best strategy is simply to replace the light bulbs after they’ve failed.

The Advantages of Run to Failure

A run to failure strategy is easily understood despite the lack of scheduled maintenance. Having a conversation about the value streams is enough to visualize how the specific assets are connected in the supply chain. Depending on the modality, you can run a functional failure to schedule replacers in advance, simply by following the MRO practices.

Half of the battle is having qualified people monitor the sensors so that most operator errors are eliminated. In return, they won’t be spending too much time on predictive maintenance, and be able to manage the degradation of worn-out units. The other half is getting technicians to react quickly to asset failure by following the right directions.

For related work orders, your team will be ready to perform RTF by sourcing the materials and submitting a custom checklist of the actions taken. This will help you attain your quarterly production and sales goals faster.

The Disadvantages of Run to Failure

On the contrary, a run to failure maintenance strategy is ill-equipped to deal with long-term maintenance requests. There are a few major drawbacks to this approach. For one, with run to failure, you can’t predict when an asset will fail, so you run the risk of an asset failing at an inopportune time.

For example, you may find yourself lacking the resources or parts to fix the problem, leading to prolonged downtime. To avoid being caught without replacement parts, you’ll need to maintain a larger spare parts inventory, which means spending more money upfront and using up valuable warehouse space to store the parts. Over-reliance on RTF can also lead to higher costs because you have to replace components frequently, and your assets are at a higher risk of damage.

Why It’s Time to Move from a Reactive to a Proactive Maintenance Strategy

Most production teams are moving away from a reactive mindset and transition to proactive maintenance strategies, such as reliability-centered maintenance and condition-based maintenance, especially for their most critical assets. Run to failure maintenance can still have a place in your overall maintenance strategy, but only for non-critical assets.  This type of approach allows you save time and costs on non-critical parts, while focusing your resources on ensuring the reliability of your most important assets: the ones that cannot go down unexpectedly without major impact to your operations and bottom line.