What is Breakdown Maintenance?

Breakdown maintenance can be defined as the maintenance that is performed on equipment that has broken down or is currently unusable. It is usually more costly when compared to preventive maintenance. You can implement a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) to carry out breakdown maintenance efficiently.

Breakdown maintenance can either be planned or unplanned. Run-to-failure maintenance is an example of planned maintenance, while examples of unplanned maintenance include corrective maintenance and reactive maintenance. So, how you can use CMMS to carry out breakdown maintenance effectively?

Goals of Breakdown Maintenance

The main goal of breakdown maintenance is to save money on maintaining assets that aren’t as critical as others while focusing your maintenance budget on high-value assets that need preventive maintenance. Most organizations use a mix of different maintenance types, like preventive, predictive, corrective, reactive, and, of course, breakdown maintenance because one size doesn’t fit all. For example, though breakdown maintenance isn’t always the ideal plan of action for an asset, certain things can actually be allowed to run until they break because their failure won’t cause any big problems.

The goals of breakdown maintenance include:

  • Cutting down on the costs of doing unnecessary preventive maintenance.
  • Saving money by not replacing disposable stuff like lightbulbs and fuses too often.
  • Keeping downtime to a minimum by handling repairs efficiently.
  • Reducing the need for a big maintenance crew.

Types of Breakdown Maintenance

There are two types of breakdown maintenance: run-to-failure maintenance and emergency maintenance.

Run-to-Failure Maintenance

Run-to-failure maintenance is when you know something’s going to break down soon, and you’re ready for it. It’s suitable for equipment that’s easy to replace and won’t disrupt operations or pose safety risks. For less important parts and machinery, like lightbulbs, this method can be cost-effective.

Emergency Maintenance

Emergency maintenance is performed when crucial equipment unexpectedly grinds to a halt. Emergency breakdowns are expensive, stressful, and risky. Rushing to get things back on track can lead to overspending on parts, outsourced help, and overtime.

The Pros and Cons of Breakdown Maintenance

Like everything else, breakdown maintenance has its upsides and downsides:


  • Minimizes maintenance costs by skipping unnecessary preventive maintenance.
  • Reduces the expense of frequently replacing disposable items like lightbulbs and fuses.
  • Consolidates downtime for repairs, making operations more efficient.
  • Requires fewer staff to manage.


  • In a manufacturing setting, it can generate waste.
  • Safety concerns can arise with unplanned failures, especially for critical equipment.
  • Costs can soar, depending on which parts fail.
  • Requires careful planning and execution.
  • Pinpointing the root cause of issues can be tricky.

How to Perform Breakdown Maintenance?

Typically, breakdown maintenance follows these steps:

  1. A maintenance operator detects an equipment issue and notifies management through phone, email, or a CMMS (computerized maintenance management system).
  2. Management creates a service request for inspecting the asset.
  3. A technician analyzes the problem and estimates repair time, needed parts, and costs, then writes a work order.
  4. If possible, the maintenance worker fixes the issue. If not, the worker passes the task to the correct individual or team.
  5. The equipment is restarted to ensure it’s working correctly.
  6. The work order is recorded as “closed” in the CMMS or other tracking systems.

Insights gained from this breakdown can help shape future preventive maintenance plans, and additional parts may be ordered to reduce downtime.

Breakdown Maintenance Examples

Planned breakdown maintenance, such as run-to-failure maintenance, is a strategy that is adopted when an organization knows and accepts that equipment will break down before servicing it. Unplanned breakdown maintenance includes corrective and reactive maintenance. Corrective maintenance tackles breakdowns occurring between scheduled preventive maintenance, while reactive maintenance happens when no maintenance strategy is in place.

Using a CMMS for Breakdown Maintenance

A computerized maintenance management system, or CMMS, can be a valuable tool for managing breakdown maintenance. It can trigger work orders when an asset goes too long without maintenance or reaches a specific meter reading. A CMMS helps schedule and assign work orders, maximizing technician efficiency and allowing for better preventive maintenance planning.

Additionally, a CMMS helps track downtime costs, identify root causes, and assess the impact on the organization’s bottom line. It’s a vital tool for implementing an effective maintenance strategy, balancing breakdown and preventive maintenance, and optimizing your maintenance program.

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  1. What’s the Difference between Preventive Maintenance and Breakdown Maintenance?

    Preventive maintenance and breakdown maintenance serve different purposes. Preventive maintenance is like regular check-ups; it’s scheduled, and you inspect your facility maintenance or equipment at set times. Breakdown maintenance, on the other hand, happens when something goes wrong, and you need to fix it pronto.

  2. What’s the Difference between Corrective Maintenance and Breakdown Maintenance?

    Corrective maintenance and breakdown maintenance both deal with fixing things, but there’s a nuance. Breakdown maintenance comes into play when something’s already broken or malfunctioning, causing downtime. Corrective maintenance is more about rectifying and repairing equipment issues to keep operations smooth.

  3. How Can You Cut Down on Breakdown Maintenance?

    Reducing breakdown maintenance is a smart move, and one way to do it is by using a CMMS, or Computerized Maintenance Management System. It’s like having a crystal ball for your assets. With a CMMS, you can track the maintenance history of your equipment. This data helps you predict when an asset might misbehave, allowing you to fix it before it breaks down completely.

  4. Can I Use Breakdown Maintenance for My Organization?

    You sure can, but there’s a catch. If a system failure won’t harm your organization’s health and safety, you can opt for breakdown maintenance. However, if your equipment throws tantrums too often, it’s wiser to lean towards preventive maintenance. It helps cut down on those pesky surprise breakdowns and, in turn, saves you some maintenance costs.

  5. Will Using This Approach Really Save Me Money?

    Yes, it can, but don’t jump in blindly. Breakdown maintenance works well when all your equipment is new and within its recommended lifespan. In the early stages, you can set high expectations for your gear, and it’ll likely perform like a champ. However, as equipment ages, breakdowns become more frequent, and maintenance costs can creep up. So, it’s a cost-saving strategy, but it’s most effective when used wisely.