Reactive maintenance, also known as “run-to-failure,” is the oldest method of maintenance in the world. It involves addressing maintenance issues only after an asset has already broken down. The main objective is to restore the asset to its normal working condition as swiftly as possible. A Plant Engineering study revealed that 61% of manufacturing facilities follow this reactive maintenance approach.

What is Reactive Maintenance?

Reactive maintenance is all about dealing with problems as they come up. When equipment malfunctions, experiences setbacks or fails, maintenance activities are initiated. In these cases, broken-down machines are either repaired or replaced. Let’s take the example of a light bulb: would you proactively change it before it burns out? The more practical approach is to wait for it to burn out and then purchase a new bulb. This “run-to-failure” method works well for equipment that is not critical or expensive and doesn’t significantly affect production or the safety of your team.

Types of Reactive Maintenance

Emergency Maintenance

Emergency maintenance is like the superhero of maintenance activities. It swoops in when there’s a critical situation that needs immediate attention to bring an asset back to its full operational capacity. Think of it as the firefighter of repairs, responding to urgent safety requirements that can’t wait. When emergency maintenance is required, it’s given top priority to prevent lengthy shutdowns and minimize any potential losses. Factors such as the availability of replacement parts and the extent of repairs needed can impact how quickly and effectively emergency maintenance can be carried out.

Corrective Maintenance

Imagine a situation where things aren’t quite falling apart, but some components are performing strangely and raising questions. These problems could be found while doing maintenance procedures that are either related to the affected parts directly or indirectly. In these situations, there is an opportunity to examine and resolve these issues while working on other tasks. The aim of corrective maintenance, which includes this, is to address any flaws that have been found.

Let’s discuss reactive maintenance now. It resembles the response of a firefighter to an emergency in maintenance. When unanticipated problems occur and immediate action is necessary for response to a root cause, reactive maintenance is performed. It’s the kind of maintenance that seeks to swiftly address and resolve problems as they come up, ensuring that things keep running smoothly.


Benefits of Reactive Maintenance

It could initially appear like a straightforward and affordable answer to choose to do nothing and rely just on reactive maintenance. Compared to preventive maintenance, it demands less money up front and less detailed planning. This strategy, however, lacks forethought and isn’t sustainable over the long term. It’s crucial to keep the wider picture in mind and realize that relying entirely on reactive maintenance is unsustainable for the overall efficiency and health of your institution.

Disadvantages of Reactive Maintenance

  1. Increased Expenses

    When unexpected downtimes occur during production, they can have costly consequences. Late orders, damage to a company’s reputation, and decreased revenue are all potential outcomes. Moreover, relying on reactive maintenance means that labor and spare parts may not be readily available, resulting in organizations having to pay extra for emergency parts shipping, travel time, and after-hours support.

  2. Reduced Lifespan of Assets

    Reactive maintenance fails to keep systems operating in their optimal “as new” condition. Often, the focus is on doing the bare minimum to get a machine up and running again. As a result, systems that have been repeatedly patched deteriorate more quickly, undermining the initial capital investment made in them.

  3. Safety Concerns

    Scheduled maintenance allows technicians to review standard procedures and safety requirements thoroughly, ensuring that jobs are completed correctly. However, when maintenance becomes reactive, technicians are under pressure to get systems running quickly, which can lead them to take more risks and compromise safety measures.

  4. Inefficient Use of Time

    Planned maintenance can be seamlessly incorporated into a production schedule. In contrast, reactive maintenance catches technicians off guard, forcing them to spend time searching for manuals and schematics, ordering the right parts, and attempting to diagnose and fix the problem. This results in inefficiencies and wasted time.

  5. Negative Impact on Backlog

    Emergency repairs often take precedence over planned work, leading to delays or even the cancellation of scheduled maintenance altogether. This can result in a growing maintenance backlog that becomes increasingly difficult to manage once it starts piling up.

  6. Increased Energy Costs

    When equipment is not adequately maintained, it tends to consume more energy than necessary. Simple tasks such as greasing moving parts or changing filters can lead to a 15% reduction in energy consumption. Neglecting these maintenance activities contributes to higher energy costs in the long run.

Reactive Maintenance vs Proactive Maintenance

It’s generally not recommended to rely solely on reactive maintenance. According to Aberdeen, the manufacturing industry loses around $50 billion each year due to unexpected periods of equipment downtime. International Society of Automation (ISA) suggests that organizations that depend on reactive maintenance could lose up to 20% of their overall productivity.

So, let’s break it down. Reactive maintenance is essentially fixing things only when they break down or encounter problems. On the other hand, proactive maintenance takes a preventive approach by trying to anticipate issues and prevent failures before they happen. This involves planning maintenance tasks based on data collected from Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS), machine sensors, and condition-based monitoring mechanisms. The goal is to tackle the root causes of asset failure. For example, you might measure the vibrations of a rotating machine to assess its condition and take action accordingly.

Reactive Maintenance Examples

Taking Care of Your Car

How many times have you come across a situation where a car just wouldn’t start because the battery had died, leaving the owner to jumpstart it and eventually replace it? In such cases, the driver was simply reacting to a maintenance issue. Let’s consider another scenario: you take your car for an oil change, and during the servicing, the technician realizes that your headlights also need attention. You can choose to have the repairs done right away or schedule them for another day. However, if your headlights suddenly stop working while you’re driving on a dark road at night, you will find yourself in need of urgent maintenance.

Maintaining Our Roads

When roads are constructed, they are designed to withstand the test of time. However, they will inevitably face wear and tear, especially on roads with heavy traffic. Potholes are one of the most common problems we encounter on our roads. Fixing these potholes can only be done after they appear, as a reactive measure.

Get a CMMS to Run Your Maintenance Workflows

Reactive maintenance is all about addressing problems as they come up. It works well for assets that aren’t too important and doesn’t require a lot of upfront costs for maintenance systems. However, it does have its limitations, especially when it comes to critical assets. To effectively manage assets, it’s often beneficial to combine reactive maintenance with proactive maintenance in a reliability-centered approach.

NEXGEN CMMS software empowers maintenance teams to proactively create pre-designed work order templates and promptly assign tasks whenever maintenance requirements arise. This software is a valuable tool for busy managers as it helps them keep track of maintenance activities, plan, and make maintenance operations more efficient. Additionally, it allows them to analyze failure data to better understand maintenance needs. NEXGEN simplifies the maintenance process and makes it much more manageable. If you’re interested in seeing how NEXGEN can benefit your organization, don’t hesitate to request a demo today.