Asset maintenance is a top priority for any manufacturing team, and there are many different strategies and approaches to maintenance that can make a major difference in your bottom line. One common maintenance strategy is known as breakdown maintenance.

As the name suggests, breakdown maintenance refers to any maintenance performed on an asset after it has already broken down or is otherwise inoperable. This is in contrast to preventative maintenance, which is maintenance done before an asset has broken down in order to prevent failures and downtime from occurring. For more information, see the four most common maintenance strategies today.

How Breakdown Maintenance Works

Breakdown maintenance can be either planned or unplanned. For example, some level of breakdown maintenance is inevitable. Machines will sometimes fail when you don’t expect it. This type of breakdown maintenance is unplanned. And obviously, it’s key to get these assets back up and running as quickly as possible. This is also known as reactive maintenance.

However, other types of breakdown maintenance are planned, as in the case of a run-to-failure maintenance strategy. Run-to-failure refers to a maintenance approach that waits until equipment fails before maintenance is completed. The goal of run-to-failure programs is often to save costs and reduce disruptions, although this approach can backfire and lead to greater losses due to unplanned downtime.

Types of Breakdown Maintenance 

The following chart summarizes the difference between several common types of breakdown maintenance.

Types of Breakdown Maintenance Definition  Planned?
Run-To-Failure Maintenance A planned breakdown maintenance strategy in maintenance. Assets are intentionally run until they break down, and only then are they repaired or replaced. Planned
Corrective Maintenance Any maintenance that restores or repairs a problem with an asset, returning it to normal working condition. Planned or unplanned
Reactive Maintenance Maintenance performed on assets after they have failed. Unplanned

Advantages of Breakdown Maintenance

Breakdown maintenance is not the ideal strategy for all of your maintenance operations; however, it does have its place and some advantages when used strategically. For example, it is important to have processes and a strategy in place in the event that assets fail, but it shouldn’t be your default approach.

Reactive maintenance can save time and initial costs because there is very little planning required and no upfront investment. In addition, reactive maintenance can be used strategically in the short term for less critical assets, allowing maintenance teams to focus their preventative and predictive maintenance efforts on the highest impact assets first.

However, any type of reactive maintenance should be no more than a short-term or backup strategy; otherwise, the risks and potential costs will significantly outweigh any short-term benefits.

Disadvantages of Breakdown Maintenance

While the initial cost and time savings of breakdown maintenance can be enticing, it is important to understand the disadvantages of relying too heavily on a reactive approach. Breakdown maintenance is very high risk. Costs can quickly soar when unexpected downtime takes your operations offline and brings production to a sudden halt. In fact, unplanned downtime costs manufacturers millions of dollars per year in lost productivity.

Furthermore, failing to keep up with regular preventative maintenance will accelerate wear and tear on the machine, reducing its useable lifespan. This means you’ll need to replace equipment much more frequently, incurring unnecessary capital expenses.

The Future of Maintenance is Proactive

In today’s manufacturing environment, the risks of relying on breakdown maintenance generally outweigh any advantages. In order to remain competitive in your markets, achieving peak performance and uptime is critical.

Furthermore, proactive maintenance strategies — such as condition-based maintenance and predictive maintenance — have become much more accessible and affordable to operations of all sizes. Condition monitoring systems are cost-effective, as well as fast and easy to deploy across your entire facility. Even if you don’t have the buy-in for full-scale deployment, it has never been easier to get up and running with pilot programs that can prove the return on investment in record time.