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What is Reactive Maintenance?

Facility management embodies a spectrum of strategies crucial for the seamless operation and longevity of buildings and equipment. However, navigating the diverse array of approaches can be quite the undertaking! One standout strategy is reactive maintenance, where we tackle issues as they arise, acting as fearless problem solvers. Understanding the significance of reactive maintenance requires delving into the broader landscape of maintenance types in facilities management. This guide delves into the depths of reactive maintenance, detailing its application, advantages, disadvantages, and how it fits into the broader maintenance strategy landscape.


Understanding Reactive Maintenance

At its core, reactive maintenance is about addressing repair and maintenance needs as they arise, without pre-scheduled plans. It's the "fix it when it breaks" approach, where actions are taken only after a failure has been detected. This strategy is straightforward but comes with its set of challenges and considerations.

Ideal Scenarios for Reactive Maintenance

Reactive maintenance isn't universally applicable but serves well under specific conditions:

  • Urgent Repairs: When something breaks and poses an immediate risk or could cost us big time, it's reactive maintenance to the rescue.
  • When Costs Matter: If the gear is cheap to replace or not crucial, going for a quick fix can be easier on the wallet than regular check-ups.
  • Simple Systems: For straightforward systems that are easier and cheaper to replace than maintain, this approach is often best.
  • Plan B: Sometimes, it's the stopgap solution while we gear up for a more thorough maintenance strategy or when the budget's tight.

The Pros and Cons Explored


  • Immediate Cost Savings: By avoiding regular checks, it offers upfront savings on maintenance costs.
  • Flexibility: Suitable for environments where maintenance schedules are hard to predict or enforce.
  • Simplicity in Management: Without the need for elaborate planning, it can be easier to manage in smaller operations.


  • Operational Risks: Increased risk of unexpected downtime, which can interrupt essential services or production.
  • Potential for Higher Expenses: Emergency repairs often cost more, leading to higher overall maintenance expenses.
  • Safety Concerns: Delayed maintenance can pose safety risks, particularly in critical systems.

Reactive Maintenance vs. Preventive and Predictive Maintenance

While reactive maintenance waits for a failure to act, preventive and predictive maintenance strategies aim to avoid failures before they occur. Preventive maintenance is schedule-based, relying on regular checks and maintenance tasks. Predictive maintenance goes a step further by using data and analytics to predict when maintenance should be performed, even before signs of wear and tear are visible.

Implementing Reactive Maintenance with Foresight

Reactive maintenance waits until something breaks. It's simple but can end up costing more if small problems grow into big ones. It's like only going to the doctor when you're incredibly ill instead of having regular check-ups.

For certain assets, reactive maintenance is not just inevitable but also practical. Implementing it effectively, however, requires strategic thinking:

  • Comprehensive Asset Inventory: Knowing what assets you have and their impact on operations helps prioritise which can be left to a reactive strategy.
  • Efficient Response Systems: Having the right tools, parts, and labour on hand for quick fixes reduces downtime.
  • Data-Driven Insights: Collecting data on repairs and failures can highlight patterns, informing decisions on when to shift to more proactive maintenance models.

Preventative Maintenance: Preventing Problems

While reactive maintenance addresses immediate needs, integrating it within a broader strategic framework ensures long-term operational efficiency. This involves regular reviews of maintenance outcomes, cost analyses, and the potential integration of technology to streamline response times and effectiveness. Preventative maintenance is all about regular check-ups to stop problems before they start. By proactively addressing issues and performing timely repairs, you can extend the life of your equipment, improve asset reliability, and lower long-term costs.

Sure, preventative maintenance requires upfront planning and investment, but it significantly reduces the likelihood of unexpected failures and the associated risks. Plus, you'll have peace of mind knowing that your assets are being taken care of.

Predictive Maintenance: The High-Tech Approach

Predictive maintenance uses tech like sensors and data to guess when something might break. It lets you fix things just in time, reducing downtime and saving money. It requires tech and know-how but can be super-efficient. This allows you to perform just-in-time maintenance, minimising downtime, and maximising cost savings.

Of course, implementing predictive maintenance requires investment in advanced monitoring technology and analytical tools, as well as the expertise to interpret data. But imagine the efficiency gains and significant cost savings you'll achieve by avoiding unnecessary preventive maintenance tasks.

Choosing the Right Strategy

Choosing how to keep your facility running smoothly is key. This involves understanding the specific needs, risks, and operational priorities of your facility. A blend of these strategies often represents the most balanced approach, optimising both costs and operational reliability.

No one-size-fits-all here. Think about what's critical in your facility, your budget, and what tools you've got. While reactive maintenance may suffice for non-critical assets with lower repair costs, preventative maintenance offers a more balanced approach for ensuring reliability and reducing the risk of unexpected failures. If you're ready to embrace the future, predictive maintenance represents the pinnacle of maintenance efficiency. It's ideal for critical assets where the costs of failure are high.

A holistic maintenance strategy that combines elements of reactive, preventative, and predictive maintenance tailored to your facility's needs will yield the best results.

Managing Reactive Maintenance

Even though it's not always the favourite, you can manage reactive maintenance smartly:

  • Know What's Key: Figure out which assets you really can't do without and focus on those.
  • Be Ready to React: Have a team or tech ready to jump on problems fast.
  • Keep Good Records: Know your assets inside and out to speed up fixes.
  • Build Strong Partnerships: Have go-to people for quick repairs.
  • Train Your Team: A skilled crew can tackle unexpected issues efficiently.
  • Invest in Tools: The right gear can make fixes faster and easier.

Reactive maintenance has its place, especially for non-urgent stuff. But mixing in some preventative and predictive strategies can give you the best of all worlds, keeping your facility in top shape.

The Role of a Facilities Manager in Reactive Maintenance

Facilities managers are the unsung heroes when it comes to handling quick fix maintenance. Their day-to-day involves a mix of sharp planning, smart resource use, leading teams effectively, keeping everyone in the loop, and constantly looking for ways to do better. Here’s how they keep things running smoothly:

  • Planning Ahead: Facilities managers stay ready, knowing which areas might need quick fixes and preparing their teams to jump into action.
  • Using Resources Wisely: Facilities managers must make informed decisions to address the most pressing issues first.
  • Leading the Team: Good leadership shines in emergency fixes. Facilities managers guide their teams through the chaos, keeping spirits high and making sure everyone knows the game plan.
  • Communication: Nobody likes being in the dark, especially when things break down. These managers keep everyone informed about what’s broken, how long the fix will take, and what to expect next.
  • Always Improving: After every quick fix, they're looking into what went wrong and how to stop it from happening again. Continuous improvement is their mantra for fewer emergencies down the line.

A Shout out to Facilities Managers

Understanding the role and scope of reactive maintenance is the first step toward mastering facility management. The journey toward excellence involves exploring more comprehensive strategies that balance immediate needs with long-term goals, such as achieving sustainability, compliance, and operational efficiency.

To all facilities managers weaving reactive maintenance into their strategies: it’s about striking the right balance between all maintenance types to keep operations smooth and everyone happy.

Embrace the challenges and opportunities of including reactive maintenance in your strategy. It's about finding that sweet spot in your maintenance plans that keep your facility safe, efficient, and on track for success. Here's to mastering the art of maintenance, driving facilities excellence!

At SFG20, we understand the challenges of managing reactive maintenance, and our tools and expertise can help you streamline your operations for maximum efficiency and cost-effectiveness. With our innovative technology and commitment to staying updated with industry standards and regulations, you can trust us to be your reliable partner in facilities management. Together, let's create environments that are efficient, cost-effective, and built to last.

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