Breakdown Maintenance 101: Definition, Types, Examples, and Benefits

Chris JacksonMarch 24, 2023

Imagine this: you’re on the assembly line of a factory, working hard to produce goods for your company. Suddenly, you hear a loud noise, and your machine stops working. This is where breakdown maintenance comes in

Breakdown maintenance is the type of maintenance that is performed on a piece of equipment that has experienced a failure, fault, or malfunction. Its main goal is to restore the equipment to its normal operating condition as quickly as possible so that you can get back to work

Unlike preventive maintenance or condition-based maintenance, breakdown maintenance is reactive to keep equipment running and is usually performed after the equipment has failed. It’s like a superhero coming to the rescue when something goes wrong

While breakdown maintenance is typically unplanned and performed in response to an unforeseen event, it can also be planned, which is “good” breakdown maintenance. This involves scheduling maintenance work during planned downtimes, such as during a plant shutdown, to minimize the impact of unplanned breakdowns. It’s like preparing for a storm before it hits so that you’re ready when it does

In this blog, you’ll learn:

Breakdown maintenance is a crucial part of equipment maintenance, and it can be categorized into different types based on the level of planning and the kind of work performed

Reactive Maintenance

As the name suggests, reactive maintenance is performed in response to an unforeseen event or failure. It’s the most common type of breakdown maintenance and is usually performed to restore the equipment to its normal operating condition as quickly as possible. In fact, according to a study by Plant Engineering, 55% of all maintenance activities in manufacturing facilities are reactive maintenance. An example of reactive maintenance would be fixing a machine that has stopped working suddenly, like a printing press that has stopped printing

Preventive Maintenance

Predictive Maintenance

Predictive maintenance is a data-driven approach that uses sensors and other tools to monitor equipment performance and predict when maintenance will be required. By analyzing data on equipment performance, predictive maintenance can identify potential issues before they cause a breakdown. A study by McKinsey found that predictive maintenance can reduce equipment downtime by up to 30% and maintenance costs by up to 10%. An example of predictive maintenance would be using vibration analysis to detect a worn bearing in a pump before it fails

Run-to-Failure Maintenance

Run-to-failure maintenance is a type of maintenance where equipment is operated until it fails. Once it fails, it’s then repaired or replaced. This approach is typically used for low-priority equipment or equipment that is easy to replace. According to a study by Plant Services, run-to-failure maintenance can be the most cost-effective option for equipment with a low impact on operations. An example of run-to-failure maintenance would be replacing a light bulb only after it has stopped working

Real-World Examples of Breakdown Maintenance

Manufacturing Industry

Breakdown maintenance can occur in manufacturing when a machine or equipment fails unexpectedly. For example, a conveyor belt may break down, causing a halt in production. In this case, maintenance crews will be called to fix the conveyor belt as quickly as possible to minimize downtime

Aviation Industry

In aviation, breakdown maintenance can occur when an aircraft experiences a mechanical failure. This type of maintenance is critical, as it can prevent accidents and ensure that planes are safe to fly. For example, if an airplane’s engine fails, mechanics must perform immediate maintenance to repair or replace the engine

Healthcare Industry

In healthcare, breakdown maintenance can occur when medical equipment fails. For example, if a hospital’s MRI machine breaks down, patients may be forced to delay their appointments or go to another facility. Maintenance crews must quickly diagnose and fix the problem to minimize disruptions to patient care

Transportation Industry

Breakdown maintenance can occur when vehicles experience mechanical failure. For example, passengers may be delayed or stranded if a bus or train breaks down. Maintenance crews must quickly diagnose and repair the problem to get the vehicle back on the road or track as soon as possible

5 Benefits of Breakdown Maintenance You Must Know

There are several key benefits to using breakdown maintenance in certain situations. Here are some of the critical benefits of breakdown maintenance:


Breakdown maintenance can be a cost-effective strategy because it only requires maintenance to be performed when necessary. This can save money on maintenance costs and reduce the overall maintenance budget

Reduced downtime

Since breakdown maintenance only involves repairing equipment after it has broken down, there is no need for scheduled downtime. This can help reduce the time equipment is offline and increase overall availability

Increased equipment lifespan

By only repairing or replacing equipment when necessary, breakdown maintenance can help extend the lifespan of the equipment. This is because the equipment is not being subjected to unnecessary maintenance, which can lead to wear and tear over time

Efficient use of resources

Breakdown maintenance can efficiently use maintenance resources because it allows maintenance teams to focus on the most critical equipment first. This can help to ensure that maintenance resources are being used in the most effective way possible

A better understanding of equipment performance

Since the equipment is only being repaired after it has broken down, breakdown maintenance can provide valuable insight into the performance of the equipment. This can help maintenance teams identify failure patterns and improve equipment design or maintenance processes


Breakdown maintenance can be effective in certain industries where unexpected equipment failures can have serious consequences. By focusing on repairing only broken equipment, downtime can be minimized, costs reduced, and equipment lifespan extended. My research highlights the benefits of implementing a breakdown maintenance plan, including cost-effectiveness and better equipment performance. While not ideal for all situations, it is a crucial tool in specific circumstances and should be part of an organization’s maintenance strategy. Consider Axonator mobile CMMS software to streamline maintenance activities

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