Maintenance Management
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Reactive v/s Preventive Maintenance: Which One To Choose

Reactive maintenance fixes assets that have broken down; preventive maintenance proactively services assets. Choosing appropriate strategies based on asset criticality and balancing cost, risk, availability and efficiency is key for facilities.

Tamoghna Chakraborty
Title card- reactive maintenance v/s preventive maintenance

Maintenance management is crucial for organizations to ensure the upkeep of assets and facilities, optimizing their availability, reliability and performance. Effective maintenance lowers costs related to replacement and downtime while maximizing safety, efficiency & sustainability. Although there are many types of such maintenance strategies, let us take a look at two of the widely used maintenance strategies : preventive or reactive maintenance. 

Reactive Maintenance

Reactive maintenance is as it sounds, arises when the particular asset or equipment has already broken down. Maintenance is undertaken once it is seen that the specific asset has broken down and cannot work anymore. Maintenance in such cases is seen to be very expensive . For example, a specific asset has been damaged and has undergone complete failure. In that instance, reactive maintenance is undertaken to give CPR to the asset so that it can again work in its previous state of high productivity. The logic behind reactive maintenance is that an asset or a piece of equipment should only be fixed when it has undergone failure i.e. when there has been a complete breakdown. When key facility infrastructure like power backup, elevators or central air conditioning fails suddenly due to lack of preventive maintenance, it severely disrupts operations, impacting staff productivity and tenant/resident experience. It can also cascade into safety hazards or secondary equipment damage. While the reactive approach saves on routine servicing costs, for mission-critical assets, the risks and hidden costs of failure far outweigh short-term savings. Ultimately, assets must be differentiated into critical versus non critical infrastructure based on impact. Reactive works better only for the latter.


  • Lower Initial Costs: Reactive maintenance requires minimal upfront investment since there's no need for ongoing preventive measures or scheduled maintenance activities. This can be advantageous for organizations with limited budgets or those prioritizing short-term cost savings over long-term asset reliability
  • Less Resource Required: If the organization solely relies on reactive maintenance and reactive maintenance only, then obviously it is going to perceive the assets as equipment that only need help when it has broken down. As there will be no need for frequent inspections and regular maintenance operations, the organization could commit less resources (technicians, budget) while dealing with broken-down equipment.As there would be no need for frequent inspections and regular maintenance operations, the organization would effectively utilize its available resources.This makes the process cost effective.


  • Doesn’t work for all types of equipment: Reactive maintenance is recommended to be performed on assets with less criticality. The reason is that if this particular maintenance strategy was used on assets with a high critical nature, then it is evident that the workflow will be hampered as maintenance will only take place once the asset has broken down. This also means that as the complexity of the issue is not known, it becomes difficult to predict the time taken to again return back to normal operations or even the amount of money required to mend the asset. Hence, only assets with less critical nature are recommended for this strategy as when the criticality increases, the intricacies of reactive maintenance becomes evident.
  •  Decreased Reliability: When maintenance is only performed in response to equipment failures, there is a higher risk of decreased reliability and uptime. Without regular inspections and preventive maintenance, small issues can escalate into major problems, leading to more frequent breakdowns and longer downtime periods. 
  • Safety Risks:  Reactive maintenance practices can pose significant safety risks to both personnel and the environment. Sudden equipment failures can create hazardous situations, such as poor air quality due to malfunctioning of air supply,  which may result in accidents, injuries, or environmental damage if not promptly addressed.

Preventive Maintenance

Preventive maintenance is a systematic approach to maintaining equipment and facilities by performing routine inspections, servicing, and repairs before issues arise. It is necessary to ensure the reliability, longevity, and optimal performance of assets in various industries. By proactively identifying and addressing potential problems, preventive maintenance helps minimize the risk of unexpected equipment failures, costly downtime, and safety hazards. Utilizing preventive maintenance reduces the likelihood of equipment breakdowns, extends asset lifespan, and enhances operational efficiency by keeping equipment in optimal working condition. The uses of preventive maintenance extend beyond mere equipment upkeep; it also plays a crucial role in ensuring workplace safety, regulatory compliance, and cost control. Regular inspections and servicing help identify and mitigate safety hazards, preventing accidents and injuries to personnel. Moreover, industries with stringent regulatory requirements, such as healthcare and aviation, rely on preventive maintenance to comply with standards and regulations governing equipment maintenance and safety. Additionally, preventive maintenance helps organizations manage costs more effectively by avoiding expensive emergency repairs, minimizing downtime, and maximizing productivity. 


  • Increased equipment reliability: By regularly inspecting, servicing, and repairing equipment, preventive maintenance helps identify and address potential issues before they escalate into major problems. This proactive approach reduces the likelihood of unexpected breakdowns and ensures that equipment operates reliably, minimizing costly downtime and interruptions to operations.
  •  Extended asset lifespan: Regular maintenance activities, such as lubrication, cleaning, and component replacements, help prevent wear and tear, corrosion, and other forms of degradation that can shorten the lifespan of equipment. By preserving the integrity of assets, preventive maintenance enables organizations to maximize the return on their investment and defer the need for costly replacements or upgrades.
  •  Cost savings: While preventive maintenance requires upfront investment in resources and labor, it ultimately results in cost savings over the long term. By avoiding unplanned repairs, emergency service calls, and production losses associated with equipment failures, organizations can reduce maintenance expenses, optimize asset utilization, and improve overall operational efficiency. Additionally, preventive maintenance helps prevent catastrophic failures that could lead to costly repairs, regulatory fines, or reputational damage, further enhancing cost control and risk management efforts.


  • Over-maintenance: Implementing preventive maintenance programs can sometimes lead to over-maintenance, where unnecessary or excessive servicing is performed on equipment. This can result in wasted resources, including labor, materials, and downtime, without providing significant benefits in terms of reliability or performance.
  •  Resource allocation: Preventive maintenance requires dedicated resources, including personnel, time, and materials, to perform routine inspections and servicing activities. Allocating these resources effectively can be challenging, especially for organizations with limited budgets or competing priorities. 
  • Potential for missed failures: Despite regular inspections and servicing, preventive maintenance programs cannot guarantee that all potential failures will be detected and addressed in a timely manner. Some issues may remain undetected or develop between scheduled maintenance intervals, leading to unexpected breakdowns or performance degradation. 

So, which one is for you?

Choosing between reactive maintenance and preventive maintenance requires careful consideration of the pros and cons of each approach. Reactive maintenance offers the advantage of immediate response to equipment failures, addressing issues as they arise rather than investing resources in advance and on equipment that require a less amount of criticality for the asset. However, this approach often results in higher costs due to emergency repairs, increased downtime, and potential safety risks.
On the other hand, preventive maintenance involves proactive measures such as regular inspections, scheduled maintenance tasks, and timely replacement of parts to prevent breakdowns and prolong equipment lifespan. While preventive maintenance requires upfront investment in resources and planning, it ultimately leads to lower operational costs, improved reliability, and enhanced safety. By prioritizing preventive maintenance, organizations can minimize unexpected downtime, optimize asset performance, and mitigate the risk of costly repairs and accidents, making it the more favorable option for long-term operational efficiency and sustainability.

Another approach could be using reactive approach for less critical assets and preventive approach for other assets that are highly critical in nature. That way you have the best of both worlds with cost and resource efficiency,  along with less risks!

What do you think? Let us know 

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