Breakdown maintenance involves the repair or replacement of equipment and components after they have failed. This kind of management strategy can be contrasted with preventive and predictive maintenance, which are designed to avoid equipment failures. The breakdown maintenance approach is typically employed when failures are unlikely to result in workplace injuries or excessive downtime, though the costs associated with emergency repairs are often prohibitive. A policy of breakdown maintenance is sometimes instituted when a facility or business has scheduled to close or cease operations, especially if there are no plans to continue using the equipment afterward.
There are many different ways to approach the maintenance of facilities and equipment. Preventive and predictive maintenance are two methods designed to avoid catastrophic failures. Inspections are typically carried out on a regular basis in the case of preventive maintenance, while a predictive approach can allow for repairs to be scheduled based on data about prior failure rates. By performing regular checks or replacing components before they break, catastrophic failures can be avoided.
Unlike preventive approaches, breakdown maintenance is a reactive policy. This approach avoids the costs associated with inspections and preemptive repairs by simply allowing components to fail and then addressing the issue after the fact. The term "run-to-failure" is also used to describe this approach to maintenance, since that is what equipment is allowed to do. Equipment will typically be lubricated and receive other minor attention under this kind of maintenance policy, though that is usually the extent of any ongoing maintenance operations.
There are a number of costs that can be associated with a breakdown maintenance policy. Since any component can fail at any time under this approach, a maintenance staff must be ready to do many different types of repairs. This can involve maintaining a stock of replacement parts for every piece of equipment onsite, or else paying for rush shipping on new components as the old ones fail. There are typically also costs associated with downtime, so this approach to maintenance is not well-suited to any business operation that would suffer large monetary losses from the sudden failure of any given piece of equipment.
A policy of breakdown maintenance is sometimes instituted when a facility or business has been scheduled to close. This is often a calculated risk, since the decision assumes that the equipment will continue running long enough for the facility to be closed down. If there are plans to scrap the equipment at the end of the period, costly preventive maintenance can be seen as unnecessary.