Proactive maintenance refers to an organization's planned efforts to update, maintain and repair equipment used in manufacturing or production. In contrast, reactive maintenance means the organization waits until pieces of equipment and tools break down before repairing them. A proactive strategy is generally more effective in the long run.

Proactive Maintenance Basics

Proactive maintenance strategy includes scheduling regular and intentional check-ups, upgrades and improvements to equipment. A business establishes daily, weekly or monthly checklists of equipment functionality and regular cleaning checklists after each shift. A November 2013 Food Engineering magazine article, for example, explains how some food and beverage plants use calendar schedules to evaluate and maintain key production line assets. In the event equipment does begin to wear, the business repairs it, attempting to extend its life for as long as possible before replacement. A full staff of maintenance workers is normally needed to manage and oversee the ongoing maintenance activities in a large company.

Proactive Maintenance Pros and Cons

The primary benefit of proactive maintenance is that a business can often prevent more complex and expensive repairs by keeping equipment in good working condition over time. Rather than a temporary fix, the company invests in proper repairs and upgrades when necessary to keep the production process efficient. A proactive maintenance plan may also involve investment in sophisticated technology that helps recognize and repair hard-to-detect problems sooner. The Food Engineering article notes that food and beverage plants can often avoid costly production shutdowns with proactive maintenance, repairs or replacements of key equipment. The biggest challenge with proactive maintenance is that the investment in full maintenance staffs and modern technology may exceed the budgets of some small companies.

Reactive Maintenance Basics

A reactive maintenance strategy is essentially a "wait until it breaks" approach to repairs. A reactive approach is common during periods of general economic recession or a downturn for a company as an attempt to mitigate costs. Some companies also apply a reactive approach to less important equipment and machinery that won't delay production if it breaks. A single blade on a saw, for instance, can often be quickly replaced when it wears down. Therefore, the company might opt to avoid significant time and investment in keeping it sharp.

Reactive Maintenance Pros and Cons

The most compelling benefit of a reactive maintenance strategy is that it allows a company to operate with a smaller maintenance crew and to minimize ongoing investments in maintenance. Some companies operate with a "run to failure" approach, which means they simply allow less essential equipment to run until it breaks down and then replace it. The biggest problem is that companies may ultimately have to invest more to fix major problems that result from a reactive approach. The company may not get the maximum life span out of a quality piece of equipment because it doesn't proactively maintain and repair the item. Worn equipment is also a safety hazard, advises Emerson Process Management. If a large piece of equipment breaks, for instance, flying parts pose risks to people and equipment nearby.