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Navigating the Maintenance Maze

A Guide to Reactive, Preventative, Predictive and Perspective Maintenance Approaches

access_time 8 min read

Effective maintenance is crucial in any operational environment to ensure longevity, functionality, and safety. Several maintenance strategies can be used based on the specific needs of a system or machinery. However, it can be difficult to decide which approach to take. This article will discuss the four maintenance approaches - Reactive, Preventative, Predictive, and Perspective - and when it might be best to use each method.

Factors Influencing Decision

The decision-making process for selecting the appropriate maintenance approach is far from arbitrary; it’s a complex calculus influenced by an array of factors such as:

  1. Asset Criticality: Some equipment is more critical to operations than others. The failure of a critical machine could significantly disrupt production.
  2. Cost Considerations: Budget constraints may limit the use of more advanced maintenance strategies.
  3. Technology Availability: Advanced maintenance approaches like predictive and prescriptive require specialized monitoring equipment and software, which may not be available or feasible for all organizations.
  4. Operational Complexity: In highly complex operations, failure of even a single piece of equipment can have cascading effects.
  5. Resource Availability: Skilled labor and expertise are needed for implementing and interpreting the data for predictive and prescriptive maintenance strategies.
  6. Data Availability: The quality and quantity of data available can influence the choice of maintenance.
  7. Regulatory Requirements: In some industries, maintenance approaches are not just a matter of choice but are dictated by regulatory standards, which must be followed.
  8. Past Experience: The historical data and experience related to equipment failures can provide valuable insights into which approach would be most effective.
  9. Business Goals: Overall business objectives such as improving uptime, reducing costs, or enhancing product quality can influence the choice of maintenance strategy.

By carefully evaluating these factors, facility managers can make well-informed decisions on which maintenance approach will best meet their needs and constraints.

The Four Approaches

1. Reactive Maintenance (breakdown maintenance)

Reactive maintenance, also known as breakdown maintenance, is a maintenance approach where repairs and maintenance tasks are performed only after a machine or equipment has failed or broken down. In this strategy, no planned inspections, scheduled upkeep, or predictive monitoring is done. Instead, resources are allocated to fix problems as they arise, often unexpectedly.

While reactive maintenance can sometimes be more cost-effective for non-critical equipment, it comes with the risk of unplanned downtime, higher repair costs, and potential safety hazards. It is generally considered the least efficient and most risky maintenance approach, particularly for critical or complex systems. Relying solely on reactive maintenance could lead to higher costs in the long run, particularly for high-value machinery.

When to Choose:

Reactive maintenance becomes a suitable approach primarily under a few conditions. Firstly, it's apt for non-critical equipment that, if failed, wouldn't substantially disrupt operations. Secondly, if the associated costs of downtime are minimal, it might be more economical to wait for a failure rather than undertake regular inspections. Additionally, if the equipment is under warranty, routine interventions could invalidate that warranty, making a reactive approach more beneficial.


A non-essential light fixture in a hospital corridor goes out. Rather than having a regular checkup for such lights, maintenance is only called in when a staff member reports the outage.

2. Preventive Maintenance (scheduled maintenance)

Preventive maintenance (PM) practices have become integral to modern-day industrial operations. Its importance lies in the proactive approach to managing equipment and machinery, ensuring optimal performance and longevity. The goal is to mitigate the risks of equipment failure, maximize productivity, and reduce associated costs.

When to Choose:

Preventive maintenance becomes the strategy of choice in certain scenarios. When equipment follows a predictable lifecycle or demonstrates identifiable wear patterns, it's advantageous to implement regular check-ups. By doing so, not only can the equipment’s operational lifespan be notably extended, but potential downtime and the associated risks of failures can be proactively mitigated, especially in situations where the implications of waiting for reactive maintenance could be detrimental.


Medical ventilators in an ICU are inspected and serviced every month, regardless of whether there's an immediate sign of wear or malfunction. This ensures they're always ready for critical use.

3. Predictive Maintenance (usage-based)

Predictive maintenance (PdM) represents an innovative approach in the maintenance landscape, leveraging advanced technological tools to optimize equipment performance and extend their lifespan. By continuously monitoring the health of equipment in real-time, PdM enables timely detection and resolution of issues and allows the prediction of future states of equipment, thereby mitigating risk. The distinction lies in providing apt information at the right time to the right people.

When to Choose:

Predictive maintenance emerges as the ideal approach under specific circumstances. It's particularly well-suited for critical equipment where any unplanned downtime could result in significant costs. Furthermore, when failures of the equipment don't conform to predictable patterns that preventive strategies can address, a predictive approach offers a more tailored solution. This methodology is further amplified in effectiveness when the equipment either comes with integrated sensors or has the capability to be retrofitted with them.


A manufacturing plant uses sensors to monitor the vibrations and temperatures of critical machinery. When irregularities are detected, maintenance is performed to preempt potential breakdowns.

4. Perspective Maintenance (machine learning prediction)

In modern industrial operations, where uptime and efficiency are paramount, maintenance strategies have evolved. Among these strategies, Prescriptive or Perspective Maintenance (RxM) has emerged as a revolutionary approach that anticipates equipment failures and provides actionable insights to prevent them. With its roots firmly embedded in predictive maintenance, RxM takes data-driven decision-making to new heights, transforming the landscape of the Facility Management Industry.

When to Choose:

Perspective maintenance should be favored in environments characterized by intricate interconnections among systems. In such settings, a malfunction in one segment might trigger a chain reaction, producing cascading effects throughout. Given this complexity, there arises a necessity to adopt a comprehensive, overarching perspective on maintenance, ensuring a grasp on how it reverberates across the entire operation. The ultimate goal of this approach isn't merely to fine-tune individual assets but to holistically enhance the system's overall efficiency and ensure its prolonged lifespan.


Instead of just the machines, perspective maintenance in a hospital might involve studying patient flow, bed availability, and equipment usage rates. For instance, if a particular diagnostic machine is in high demand and its downtime would clog patient flow, it might be given maintenance priority.


In the complex maze of facility management, understanding the nuances between reactive, preventive, predictive, and prescriptive maintenance approaches is more than just academic—it's essential for operational excellence. Each approach has its merits and drawbacks, and the key to successful maintenance management lies in knowing when and how to implement each. The choice will depend on a number of factors, including the nature of the equipment, operational priorities, budget constraints, and potential risks involved. A combination of these strategies can often provide the best results, balancing cost, equipment longevity, and operational efficiency.


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