Corrective maintenance, sometimes known as reactive maintenance, is the foundation of any industrial organization’s maintenance strategy.
There's an important distinction in that corrective maintenance can be planned, whilst reactive maintenance is typically enacted after a failure has occurred or the machine is showing signs of damage. The machine is then inspected, repaired, restored, or replaced as part of a process to bring it back to correct operating and productive condition.
Most organizations will adopt corrective maintenance in the following instances:
- After a piece of equipment has broken down
- If a routine inspection uncovers a faulty component
- If output quality is degrading
- As an action as part of preventative, condition-based or predictive maintenance
Corrective maintenance can be either planned or unplanned
Unplanned corrective maintenance
This happens when machinery or equipment breaks or degrades without any prior preparation or between maintenance schedules (which may be based on Mean Time Between Failure – MTBF information). For example, your team are so busy performing maintenance on other machines that effective maintenance of another machine goes overlooked, resulting in a failure and increased downtime with additional expenses to have the machinery fixed.
Planned corrective maintenance
It's not uncommon to intentionally run a machine until it fails (where impact of failure is low), after which it is then repaired or replaced. This ‘planned failure’ approach is usually forced behaviour due to high levels of redundancy and other business pressures. More commonly, planned corrective maintenance comes as a result of preventative, condition-based or predictive maintenance to identify problems before machine failure and then adopt corrective maintenance actions to inspect, repair, restore or replace the faulty machine.
Important considerations with corrective maintenance
It is common for organizations to shift from the more reactive corrective maintenance to a time-based or condition-based approach (preventative or predictive). No matter what other maintenance methodologies are in the mix, there will always be an element of corrective maintenance and ensuring this is efficient is the foundation of a robust maintenance strategy. The key is not to rely on corrective maintenance alone for assets that are critical to business operations.
Advantages of corrective maintenance
If the failure of an asset has little impact on your organization’s production or employee safety, this methodology can be the simplest and lightest in terms of processes to adopt.
Low operational expenditure
There is no investment in hardware, software, and labor to track, monitor, and manage any form of preventative or predictive maintenance procedures.
Little is required in terms of maintenance planning and supporting processes when operating a corrective maintenance strategy.
There may be processes around how problems are fixed but there are no processes around pre-empting and avoiding these. Corrective maintenance has almost no management overhead.
Disadvantages of corrective maintenance
For all but the most basic of operations, a purely corrective / reactive maintenance approach could be costly may even have safety implications your employees, customers and overall business.
Increased unplanned downtime is significant. For critical equipment, downtime will halt production. Corrective maintenance has no way to anticipate and plan around potential failure.
Critical assets can break down when they’re most needed (re. Murphy's Law). Unless a large, expensive, spares inventory is maintained a failure could result in a machine being offline for months whilst a part is on back-order.
Higher long-term costs
Interruptions will lead to your organization’s operational costs spiralling out of control, a shortening of the lifespan of machinery, fulfilment issues, reputation damage and huge inefficiencies if you only fix machinery when it breaks.