12 Jul 2023

Reactive, Preventative & Predictive Maintenance: The Difference


In this blog we will explain what the three main kinds of maintenance are - reactive, preventative and predictive. 



Why is maintenance so important in facilities management? 

For facilities managers, asset management is a critical priority. Ideally, we want assets to run efficiently and continuously with minimal downtime. 

Every asset has a lifecycle. When it’s brand new, the asset will run perfectly, but over a given period it will deteriorate, fail and need maintenance, repair or even replacement. 

It’s particularly important that critical building systems don’t fail unexpectedly such as HVAC, Security and Electrical as this can be risky to building users, cause disruption and incur service fines. 

However, facilities managers must also consider the cost and efficiency of their maintenance routine. 


What is Reactive Maintenance? 

Reactive maintenance simply means that you repair assets only when faults occur and are reported. 

This has low running costs, as you are not regularly dedicating resources to maintenance, and no engineers or specialists are required unless something goes wrong. 

But the hidden costs become apparent when a total failure of your HVAC occurs at 3pm on a Monday afternoon. 

You might have to replace the system completely, and the disruption could last for a significant period. 

For less critical assets, reactive maintenance is perfectly acceptable – you’re not going to repaint every wall on your site every two years, and it’s not going to materially affect your service if you don’t immediately poly-fill that small hole in the corridor.  

But for your more critical services, being purely reactive can create bad feeling between your customers and you. 


What is Preventative Maintenance? 

Also known as Planned Preventative Maintenance (PPM), this means planning a scheduled maintenance routine for assets.  

The aim is to repair assets just before they fail in order to minimise the cost of maintenance and maximise their running time. 

A graph showing how an asset's health deteriorates over time, and preventative maintenance is done before it fails

PPM comes with a fixed cost but ensures all assets are kept operational for as long as possible. 

The disadvantage of PPM is that it is very rigid: meaning you’ll be paying for engineers to visit your site and confirm that the air conditioning is still working. 

You’ll also lose out on ‘asset lifetime’, meaning the time you could use the asset for without any failure or maintenance. 

Worse still, assets can have faults between inspections, which again exposes them to the risk of critical faults. 

A graph that shows the problem with preventative maintenance, assets can fail before repairs and it wastes time the asset could be running without breaking

PPM is usually scheduled based on historic data supplied by the manufacturer. 

This can be out-of-date or fail to reflect the real condition and usage of your assets. 


What is predictive maintenance?  

Rather than using rigid schedules informed by standard data on an asset (its expected lifecycle, typical wear on parts), Predictive Maintenance relies on continuously monitoring assets, gathering data for analysis that determines more precisely when an asset needs maintenance. 

A third graph showing how predictive maintenance can help you repair an asset just before it fails, saving money

The main goals of predictive maintenance are:  

  • Reducing costs and wasted time by avoiding unnecessary checkups 
  • Increasing the efficacy of maintenance with better data 
  • More efficient repairs closer to the actual fault point 
  • Asset data that better reflects its actual condition and use in your business 

Condition monitoring on assets can be done offline on a periodic basis, but many businesses are using sensors to continuously monitor assets and collect data. 


Conclusion: Reactive, Preventative and Predictive Maintenance 

Predictive Maintenance is still a relatively new approach, which means that its potential is not fully realised at this point, and it will continue to evolve in the coming years. 

It can also be expensive, meaning that the cost of implementation, from data gathering to intelligent processing, must be factored into the saved costs from reduced down times and unexpected faults. 

Many of our Facilities clients favour a hybrid approach – using predictive techniques for just their most critical assets in combination with a preventative strategy for all assets to reduce the number of reactive jobs and incidents. 

Talk to one of our sector experts today if you would like to find out more about any of these maintenance approaches. 


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