Reactive Maintenance (also commonly referred to as Corrective Maintenance) is the technical activity carried out after a failure has occurred and its purpose is to restore an asset to a condition in which it can perform its intended function, either by repairing or replacing it.
This does not mean that Reactive Maintenance is only to be implemented by itself. It can be used as part of a wider strategy to plan your maintenance.
The “into the ground” approach
If Reactive Maintenance is used on its own, it is often nicknamed the run-to-failure maintenance. No precautionary actions are performed on piece of equipment which is deliberately left running until it breaks down. Only afterwards is it repaired or replaced.
This “into the ground” approach is actually ideal for low-priority equipment, without which the company’s operations can continue running normally. It is also a viable approach for assets of lower value where consistent monitoring or maintenance may ultimately prove more expensive than reparations or substitutions when malfunctions occur.
However when applied to high priority equipment, it may eventually lead to downtime since normal operations will need to be halted as technicians work. It can also lead to very high long-term expenses if applied to assets of higher value.
Reactive Maintenance as part of a bigger picture
Even with comprehensive Preventive Maintenance or Predictive Maintenance plans in place, Reactive Maintenance can (and should) be employed. When it is integrated to other methods, it is known as reactive maintenance.
As useful as these plans can be in some circumstances, these proactive maintenance strategies are not 100% effective. There will always be unexpected failures, albeit fewer, with Preventive or Predictive Maintenance. Reactive measures will often need to be taken to fix unplanned failures and so it is well worthwhile training your team to understand them.
Typically, experts suggest that you observe the 80/20 rule. That is to say that only 20% of maintenance should constitute corrective actions, whilst the remaining 80% should be directed towards proactive maintenance.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of Reactive Maintenance?
Many professionals do not consider the advantages of reactive maintenance, but it is important to recognise that in certain cases, it is not only advisable but actually important.
In the event that an asset of limited importance becomes faulty, the costs involved in simply ‘repairing’ it will be considerably lower than trying to conduct a full investigation using a preventive methodology. For equipment that is not crucial to the running of your operations, a more direct, reactionary approach may be better. Let’s see:
What are the advantages of reactive maintenance?
- Lower short-term costs: Due to it’s reactive nature, there are very few administrative or financial costs involved until something goes wrong. If everything remains functional, you don’t pay anything!
- Minimal planning required: Reactive maintenance consists of very targeted action on specific components of installations or devices that are faulty. It requires very limited complex planning.
- Simpler process: The process is easy to understand, since you only need to take action when some kind of problem occurs.
- Best solution in some cases: There will be times when the amount of time and money invested in preventive maintenance planning and strategy will be a lot more than the simple ‘stop and repair costs’ of reactive maintenance.
What are the disadvantages?
- Unpredictability: Relying on reactive maintenance can be problematic if the equipment is not monitored after purchase, leading to more failures that are highly unpredictable and whose cause is unknown.
- Paused operations: Unexpected failures may be slowed down by not being able to access materials which may lead to increased periods of inactivity.
- Equipment not maximized: This approach doesn’t protect or look after the equipment and therefore reduces the lifetime of the assets. It simply fixes the asset on a short term basis.
- Higher long-term costs: Reactive maintenance is applied when it is believed that the stop and repair costs in case of failure will be less than the investment required for planned maintenance. But this doesn’t always happen. When a more serious failure occurs, it can be an extremely costly and slow process to fix. Large periods of inactivity have negative effects on reputation, client satisfaction, safety and on the ability to run a business efficiently and productively.
How Do You Reduce Your Reactive Maintenance Load?
As we see, Reactive maintenance is a perfectly appropriate choice in some scenarios. However, wherever possible, you’ll want to plan your interventions in advance (remember the 80/20 rule?). To reduce the amount of reactive maintenance that you conduct, you could try to…
Provide the appropriate tools
All staff need to have access to a full set of working tools so that they can act quickly and effectively. Using maintenance management software might be a suitable solution as it can collate all manuals and documents relating to equipment into a single platform and grant everyone access to them.
It also brings together important reports, integration with other modules and advanced monitoring capabilities which can all help technicians do their job better.
Improve your team
You should try to join forces with qualified technicians that are trained to act quickly and efficiently in all types of equipment failures and malfunctions. As well as selecting the perfect team from the off, you can supplement the development of your team by providing them extra coaching or vocational training.
Given the nature of maintenance work, which requires competent communication at all times, it is especially important to have a well motivated team that strives to maintain a good level of service.
Educate your staff
Any member of staff within the organisation should be able to carry out failure reporting.
Non-maintenance staff should be equally capable to detect potential maintenance issues and differentiate them. For example, all staff should be able to recognise that an unusual noise during machine operation may signal a potential failure. Staff can use maintenance software to solve this issue. It will also make it easier for managers to assign the most appropriate technician for particular problems.
Automate technician assignments
Depending on the nature of the failure, malfunctions should be automatically assigned to the most appropriate technician without too much administrative work. For example, when a failure occurs in an electrical circuit, it is preferable that the task is automatically and seamlessly assigned to one of your electricians. And if it is in the water system, it should be assigned to a plumber, and so on.
Optimise the team’s workload
A good solution to carrying out reactive maintenance is to schedule tasks based on the analysis of your work-order data. It will help you to prioritise your tasks and to ensure that your maintenance team are focusing their time on the most important jobs.
Check and organise failures
It is very useful for technicians and managers to be able to able to consult information regarding failures and their current status at any time from any place. Using a CMMS, staff can find out exactly what has been done and what tasks are still pending.
Maintain a good stock of equipment
Stockrooms should have a well-equipped reserve of diverse parts of equipment and materials. Technicians should not have to wait for long periods of times for simple items like bolts and screws!
Equipment should be inspected whenever reactive maintenance is done carried out. This will help to identify the reason for the failure and to allow for action to be taken to eliminate or reduce the frequency of similar failures. Maintenance management software, such as Infraspeak, can ease the work of technicians as it allows them to consult any tardy interventions or repeated failures.
Download our free guide to learn about:
- The most common causes for reactive maintenance (with data from multiple studies);
- How to reduce your downtime, 8 different ways.
- 5 tips to reduce your MTTR when breakdowns do happen.
There are plenty of choices when it comes to maintenance strategies. The solution might be considering the pros and cons of each and select the ones that are most suitable for your company. One of our most valuable advice is that reactive maintenance is always used as something strategic, rather than catastrophic. This is the best way to define the proper work plan and allocations.
The main problems associated with reactive maintenance only become relevant in the event that they are not partnered with measures of preventive maintenance. Our experience, based largely on feedback from our clients, shows that the best results are achieved when both methods are employed together.
Did you know?
A Computerised Maintenance Management System can help you create, manage and evaluate your maintenance strategy. The Infraspeak CMMS provides you with a multitude of features, including failure reporting, asset, work order management, cost management and more.