Maintenance activities are an integral part of the performance of any plant operations. A common myth is that a plant is either running on preventive maintenance or breakdown maintenance. The truth is a plant that is running successfully needs a healthy mix of corrective maintenance and preventive maintenance strategy to avoid unplanned downtime. It is important to understand the difference between the two techniques so that the right one can be applied in the right situation to maximize productivity and efficiency.

Here is all about Breakdown Maintenance vs. Preventive Maintenance:

What is Breakdown Maintenance?

As the name suggests, breakdown maintenance is the corrective maintenance action required to be undertaken in case of equipment failure or emergency maintenance. This type of maintenance management is performed by maintenance teams only when it is urgent and impacts productivity. For instance, a water cooler that plays an integral role in the production process has broken down and needs to be repaired immediately. 

What is Preventive Maintenance?

As the name suggests, preventive maintenance activities are the maintenance tasks that are performed in a cycle to keep the overall plant running at high efficiency. The objective of the preventive maintenance program is to ensure that all minor issues are taken care of at this stage itself before they balloon into a situation of a breakdown.

Types of Breakdown Maintenance

Breakdown maintenance can be categorized into the following:

Planned Breakdown Maintenance: In this scenario, the management and plant operations team is aware of a possible breakdown at one of the machines or units in a plant. However, since it will not directly impact productivity and day-to-day operations of the plant, the organization lets it wear down and break.

Unplanned Breakdown Maintenance: It is one of the most common types of breakdown witnessed by almost all companies across the globe. When a machine or plant fails, it will directly impact the work orders, productivity, and efficiency of the organization. It is inconvenient, unexpected, and, most importantly, costly to the organization.

Types of Preventive Maintenance

Preventive Maintenance can be categorized into the following:

Risk-based Maintenance: In this method, the risk of failure is assessed for all equipment and machinery, and the frequency and level of maintenance are decided accordingly. The risk could be its importance to the manufacturing or process or the cost of breakdown maintenance. Higher the risk, the higher the importance of preventive maintenance.

Failure-finding Maintenance: There is some equipment in a machine that only functions if the normal scenario has been disturbed. These could be safety belts, valves, bulbs, etc. This maintenance method works on finding out if such equipment is working properly.

Time-based Maintenance: Also known as scheduled maintenance, regular maintenance is undertaken for assets regardless of their state under this method. It is done with the belief that all equipment has a lifespan, and it is essential to undertake regular maintenance to increase the overall life of the asset.

Condition-based Maintenance: This method focuses on only a part of the machinery showing signs of failure. The idea is to avoid a breakdown and undertake corrective maintenance before the functional breakdown.

Predictive Maintenance: This method of maintenance uses advanced techniques like analytics, the internet of things (IoT), and machine learning, etc., to predict the performance map of an asset and look for declining performance. This method allows technicians to look for possible breakdowns early on with the help of technology and undertake corrective maintenance.

Breakdown Maintenance Example

Planned breakdown maintenance work is for parts that are non-essential and easily replaceable. For instance, parts like batteries, bulbs, and hand tools are part of the planned breakdown maintenance.

On the other hand, unplanned breakdown maintenance is about handling the emergency by reducing the breakdown time and getting the asset up without much effect on productivity and efficiency. For instance, the racing cars used in Formula One Championship may face a flat tire at any point during the race. This is part of the unplanned maintenance. The maintenance team at the pit stop is so trained that they can repair it in a matter of seconds.

Preventive Maintenance Example

Taking the Formula One example further, while a flat tire is not seen regularly due to advanced technology, a pit-stop break is a regular affair. It is part of the preventive maintenance activities. A world record of 1.82 seconds was achieved by Aston Martin’s Red Bull’s F1 team in 2019, beating the previous record of 1.88 seconds.

The team of technicians at the pit stop is expected to change tires, make wing adjustments, clean helmet visors, and fix any other mechanical problems that may exist. The seamless work at Formula One pit-stops is one of the best examples of preventive maintenance.

Breakdown Maintenance vs. Preventive Maintenance: Key differences

The key differences between breakdown maintenance and preventive maintenance can be categorized as follows:

  Breakdown Maintenance Preventive Maintenance
Definition This maintenance activity begins in case of a breakdown of an asset. This maintenance activity prevents any breakdown and keeps the planning running at total efficiency.
Trigger The trigger for breakdown maintenance is the occurrence of downtime The trigger for preventive care is to save time and maintain efficiency.
Cost The cost of breakdown maintenance is high The cost of preventive maintenance is relatively lower.
Cost Savings The cost-saving depends on asset breakdown and maintenance plan Cost-saving is expected to be around 12 to 18%.
Pros · Reduces maintenance costs for non-critical assets.

· Reduces spending on preventive maintenance for non-critical assets.

· Increases asset lifespan.

· Increases efficiency & productivity.

· Better utilization of organizational resources.

Cons It is more suitable for a limited number of assets

Requires meticulous planning and execution

It looks like an expensive item to get started.
Use case A technician is required to replace a belt that has worn out in a machine Replacement of filters and other parts in the plant based on the advice provided by the manufacturer.


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Also read: Predictive Maintenance vs. Preventive Maintenance

Condition-Based Maintenance vs Predictive Maintenance