Breakdown Maintenance

Table of Contents

Breakdown maintenance is a valuable maintenance strategy. Relying solely on breakdown maintenance, however, is not recommended. This strategy is not cost-effective in the long term, but it can be helpful when used properly and in certain situations. 

What is Breakdown Maintenance?

Breakdown maintenance, also called reactive maintenance, is a type of corrective maintenance. Reactive means you do this maintenance strategy in reaction to failure or breakdown. Corrective means these are maintenance actions to correct the failure or breakdown. 

Thus, breakdown maintenance is the strategy where you perform reactive and corrective methods to address asset failures, malfunctions, and breakdowns. To execute breakdown maintenance, these failures must occur before you can react and correct them. In contrast, preventive maintenance is where you perform actions that prevent these failures from happening.

Types of Breakdown Maintenance

There are two main types of breakdown maintenance:

Planned Breakdown Maintenance

Also called run-to-failure maintenance, this type is where a maintenance program prepares for and even expects breakdown to happen. Facilities utilize run-to-failure maintenance when it is more cost-effective and less disruptive to let assets malfunction before servicing them. For example, it is more efficient to wait for light bulbs to burn out before replacing them than doing preventive maintenance to prevent them from burning out.

For run-to-failure maintenance to be successful, it requires strict documentation and control. Assets and their components must have a maintenance map indicating which are allowed to run to failure and which must go through regular preventive maintenance. Without these specific instructions and established rules, planned breakdown maintenance only leads to asset damage and expensive maintenance costs.

Unplanned Breakdown Maintenance

Also called emergency maintenance, unplanned breakdown maintenance is essential in any corrective maintenance program. Emergency breakdowns are, after all, unavoidable occurrences in any facility. 

Although unplanned, this type of maintenance should still come with standard procedures or SOPs. These SOPs detail the necessary emergency maintenance steps as well as the materials, personnel, and other resources needed to execute these steps. This way, emergency maintenance can deal with unplanned breakdowns faster and more efficiently.

Pros and Cons of Breakdown Maintenance

Like all maintenance strategies, breakdown maintenance is not the sole solution to all maintenance issues. It has its pros and cons that you need to consider for successful maintenance results.


  • Simple – straightforward repair or replace decisions.
  • Cheaper – materials and tools are needed, but no investment in testing equipment or analysis.
  • Easier – low technical knowledge required to execute.
  • Faster – minimal hours needed, resulting in less downtime and minimal disruption to operations.


  • Potentially dangerous – unplanned failures add to personnel safety risk.
  • Long-term expenses – repeated repairs without addressing the root cause of failure are costly in the long term.
  • Production losses – frequent downtime can accumulate, resulting in significant productivity loss.
  • Unsustainable – a repair or replacement is often temporary because it doesn’t focus on solving the main problem.

When to Use Breakdown Maintenance?

Breakdown maintenance is only beneficial when used for the right situations, including: 

  • When assets are not designed or are inaccessible for regular maintenance.
  • For assets or asset parts that are easy or cheap to replace when they fail.
  • When assets are non-critical, i.e., won’t cause major disruptions or loss when they fail. Examples are hand tools and other equipment with spare or backup units.
  • For disposable assets that are meant to be replaced when they reach the end of their lifespan.
  • For short-life assets, such as batteries, lights, recirculation pumps, etc., which naturally fail within short periods.

Tracking Maintenance with CMMS

Like all maintenance strategies, proper documentation is the foundation of the successful execution of breakdown maintenance. Whether planned or unplanned, you must keep a record of breakdown maintenance for reference. This way, you can easily adjust and improve your maintenance program and make it efficient in reaching your bottom line.

When it comes to documentation and monitoring, there’s no better maintenance tool than a CMMS (computerized maintenance management system) like Redlist. CMMS provides fast, accurate, and paperless data gathering to monitor all maintenance processes. Its cloud-based data storage also allows easy access to the history of breakdowns, repairs, etc. Hence, any breakdown maintenance information is within your reach for faster and more efficient decision-making. Find out how Redlist can manage breakdown maintenance for you. Give us a call today!

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