A Corrective Maintenance Object Lesson with Tacos
When you're a maintenance manager upkeeping your facility, equipment eventually breaks down - sometimes it just cannot be avoided or prevented. Corrective maintenance fills this need to restore critical systems that break down, but it's often viewed as a last resort to earlier forms of preventive equipment care.
That's an easy misconception.
Corrective maintenance has its place and, when used correctly, it can be a huge value-add for your maintenance operation. Allow us to explain why corrective maintenance action works with an analogy of a taco restaurant.
Think of equipment maintenance as a kitchen
Imagine your favorite taco stop. You know what the street looks like, the music that's playing and the sounds of the kitchen as you wait for your order. You can smell the spices, the produce and the grill at work.
Great, now everybody's hungry.
Similarly, there are plenty of applicable identifiers and imagery when it comes to your facility. It may not be nearly as fun to describe what a conveyor belt sounds like, but you're getting the idea. Just as there are many approaches to preparing a taco, corrective maintenance is working with what you find in your kitchen. That can lead to something great you wouldn't have considered before.
Corrective maintenance, also commonly known as reactive maintenance, is good to plan for when working with a variety of equipment, systems and facility processes. It often is needed when preventive maintenance just won't do, whether due to cost, time or resource scarcity. Let's give a few examples of what this looks like:
- Two of your forklifts breakdown in a day
- An HVAC filter expires early, leading to heating problems
- A bird invades the facility and takes down a critical light structure
- Servos on the production line wear down resulting in unplanned maintenance or corrective repair
Corrective maintenance is about sustaining a peak operational condition as long as possible, and then scheduling a maintenance task when absolutely necessary.
Say you're walking into your favorite taco shop. You know your order, you know what to expect and you know what type of salsa you want. You reach out to grab your usual lime Jarritos soda except they're out. You look up in disappointment, and they confirm that not only are they out of lime soda, but there's a recall on a lot of the ingredients they use with this taco. Your go-to order is not available.
Do you leave? Or do you trust the restaurant enough to try out something different? You ask what's available, and due to the mass recall, they've got this really quirky fusion thing of chicken, mango and fried avocado. This isn't remotely what you're used to eating when you come here.
But hey, y'know what, you've got an hour for lunch, you're already here and this place has proven itself time and time again, so why not? You grab a different Jarritos, maybe guava or mango. You wait, enjoy a few sips of your soda, taking in the same sounds and the same smells and then they deliver your tacos. And it is one of the best things you've ever eaten, maybe not as much as you love carne asada, but it was worth trying out.
"Not exactly what I had in mind, but it ended up being worthwhile" is the best-case scenario when it comes to corrective maintenance. A corrective maintenance plan originates out of necessity, and often with two key distinguishers:
- A run-to-failure strategy. An asset is allowed to run until failure and then is replaced or scheduled for repair
- Condition monitoring. Condition based maintenance and monitoring are performed as an aspect of preventive maintenance, as both are attempts to identify problems before asset failure
Corrective maintenance may often be a fallback plan. However, if you know when to identify and implement corrective action instead of other forms of maintenance, it can result in major benefits.
The pros and cons of a corrective maintenance strategy
Corrective maintenance activities can be random and unexpected, but getting equipment back up to speed after failure can be effectively planned for. Asset management means considering these kinds of advantages and disadvantages. The advantages of having a reactive maintenance strategy can look like the following:
- Cost-effectiveness for non-critical equipment. When you plan for corrective action to be taken after failure, it can save you from excess maintenance costs by only paying for equipment failure. When it's something less critical, costs can be way lower than scheduling preventive maintenance. The benefits may be less inventory and time spent on unnecessary maintenance
- Time saved on planning. Time is often your most important resource. Knowing that you run a particular asset until it can't anymore helps you save time. You and your operation know what non-critical equipment is down and how to plan around it. Maintenance doesn't kick in until it's absolutely necessary, which saves you mental energy
- Straightforward per case. Did it break down yet? No? Okay, wait till it does. Your maintenance team can focus on other priority tasks and then pivot back to re-establish resources when it's necessary. Deferred corrective maintenance can be the best solution in certain situations, setting aside cash and time in run-to-failure
But like with most strategies, there can be holes in this approach. Understanding weaknesses is what helps your maintenance operation improve. Potential disadvantages of corrective maintenance often look like these:
- Safety issues. If a run-to-failure strategy is used on the wrong asset, it could be dangerous. You can't send out food with E. coli. Corrective maintenance is about controlling what you can
- Different compliance standards. If you're not hitting compliance standards, it can compound safety issues. Standards change across the board and if you aren't careful, it can lead to problems for your operation
- Uncertain expenses. Depending on the asset, costs can fluctuate quickly. Knowing what your running-to-failure strategy will typically cost is how you mitigate large purchases. When it's a bad idea to outright replace or repair an asset, that's when you correct it with a predictive maintenance strategy
Preventive maintenance — or a surplus of ingredients
While it can be fun and lead to worthwhile value, you can't run a restaurant entirely on makeshift ingredients. Plenty of customers come in looking for their lime soda and carne asada and if they can't get it, they're likely to find some other shop that will.
Some advantages of preventive maintenance that corrective maintenance doesn't usually offer are:
- Fewer disruptions on essential equipment. Giving the essentials the attention they need keeps your operation running smoothly
- Reduced maintenance costs with regular repair. Your essential equipment is likely more costly if you implement a run-to-failure approach. When you do little fixes along the way, you can cut down those purchases immensely
- Less energy consumption. This can be both physical energy and mental energy of your staff. When you have a schedule of little fixes, it can prevent breakdown of both your facility and your people. Maintain both to gain better performance
Preventive maintenance is like a fully stocked kitchen with more insights on the front end - but it can cost you a whole lot more money. You may have all the ingredients you need from the offset but this may lead to excess food waste if you're not taking regular inventory. A preventive maintenance plan has a lot of the same components, such as scheduling routine fixes or implementing run-to-failure on non-critical equipment.
Some unintended consequences of preventive maintenance can include:
- More resources spent. You're doing a lot of leg work in the beginning, stocking the kitchen and making sure everything is operating well above capacity. You don't want to run out of ingredients or spare parts, but this can lead to excessive regulation and burnout of your staff. You can't be stressing your technicians planning for corrective task calendars two years out - that can come later.
- Over maintenance. Too much of a good thing leads to issues. Throwing out perfectly good ingredients because you have a new shipment that just came in can lead to issues. There is balance that can be found in keeping things fresh. The same is true with over-maintaining your resources just to check boxes.
Preventive maintenance and corrective maintenance aren't at odds with each other. Both are required for a well-oiled machine — or in a taco shop.
Conclusion: Do what's best for the kitchen
Corrective maintenance is a necessity that all facilities will deal with, whether planned or not. With a definitive approach, maintenance activity doesn't have to be costly. Condition monitoring allows you to let some inexpensive and easily-replaced, non-critical parts run to failure. With the right amount of prep, you can ensure replacements are available in stock and technicians have what they need to complete their tasks.
When thrown into the mix without proper planning, corrective maintenance will be costly to both your workforce and your operation. Maintenance cost, downtime and stalls can be taxing for your entire workforce. It's worth the effort to plan ahead and help your staff get their "tacos" out the door on time.
To get the most out of corrective maintenance, it's best to pair it with a preventive maintenance strategy so that technicians can adjust based on the problems they face. Maintenance is then planned in the moment before critical failure comes.
Preventive and corrective maintenance is made even easier with an EAM software — and MicroMain is inviting you to a free trial option.