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Difference Between Preventive Maintenance vs Breakdown Maintenance [With Examples]

August 18, 2022

 by Renaud Anjoran

Preventive maintenance in airline industry

CMC's manufacturing consultants often need to explain the differences between breakdown maintenance and preventive maintenance in a manufacturing setting. Before we take two extreme examples in other contexts to clarify this, let's look at breakdown maintenance and preventive maintenance within a factory setting.

In a factory setting, these 2 approaches can be contrasted as follows.

What Is Breakdown Maintenance?

  • Waiting for a piece of equipment or a tool to break down (and be unable to function appropriately) before repairing or replacing it.
  • Adapted for inexpensive devices such as an inkjet printer used to print accounting data.
  • Not suitable for expensive equipment since its lifetime is reduced.
  • Not suitable for equipment that needs to be precise to ensure the quality of the finished product.

What Is Preventive Maintenance?

  • Setting up a plan for taking each piece of equipment down and performing specific actions to improve its ability to do the job economically and minimize unexpected downtime.
  • It is the opposite of the above approach (waiting for a breakdown).
  • Sustains the economic lifetime of the equipment.
  • Greatly enhances process control, which means better quality at the end of the lines.
  • Better safety performance for the plant, since the equipment is less likely to break down in an unexpected way.

Breakdown Maintenance vs Preventive Maintenance

Breakdown maintenance is performed by running equipment until it malfunctions, at which point repairs and maintenance is carried out. Preventive maintenance follows a schedule in which tasks are finished at predetermined intervals before downtime occurs.

Preventive Maintenance Example in the Airline Industry

Airline companies have very sophisticated preventive maintenance systems. A recent mid-flight engine explosion, like the A380 suffered recently, is rare.

These accidents have gotten so rare that no victim died on a commercial flight in 2017. When including non-commercial flights, the numbers are also meager:

air travel safety graph

Source: Photo by @StatisticCharts CC by 2.0

This results from many efforts, among which are excellent maintenance practices. It's not the result of chance alone, but of very methodically going after the potential causes of accidents.

It is PROACTIVE.

Breakdown Maintenance Example in the Tour de France

Let’s now look at the bike riders of the Tour de France. Once in a while, they have a flat, which is a random occurrence, and they have no control over the roads. That’s an example of breakdown maintenance.

So, the best approach when they get a flat tire is to wait on the side and get a replacement wheel (or a replacement bike) from the support team. Their team is exceptionally organized and has experienced mechanics available immediately when needed, and the switch can often be done in less than 20 seconds.

They have perfected this approach. However, this is REACTIVE.

The Bottom Line

A systematic and preventive approach is all the more necessary for equipment and facilities that are expensive to replace and whose function impacts quality and safety.

Find out how process improvement methodologies can vastly improve factory productivity by clicking the link below.


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Topics: Cost Reduction, Preventive Maintenance

Renaud Anjoran

Renaud Anjoran

15 years experience in China.
Partner, China Manufacturing Consultants.
Worked with hundreds of factories in China.
Certifications: ASQ CQE & CRE; ISO 9001 & 14001 lead auditor.
Author of well-read blog, Quality Inspection Tips.

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