Understanding the 4 Main Types of Maintenance: A Comprehensive Guide for non-maintenance professionals

SSG Insight
  • Published date: 12 March 2024
  • Author: Louise Simpson

This article is for all the non-maintenance people out there who want to understand the fundamentals of maintenance management, it aims to support you to contribute to informed discussions and decisions regarding things like equipment management and resource allocation. 

Why are we writing this? The SSG Insight team could talk all day long about maintenance management with maintenance professionals, and whilst this is one of our favourite past times, we also love to work with the non-maintenance personnel who might be involved with Agility CMMS. Like anything in life or indeed professional life, it helps to understand the fundamentals of a subject so that you can contribute and collaborate, and with maintenance management, the fundamentals are often where the conversation begins with non-maintenance professionals from equipment management to resource allocation, optimal performance to asset longevity. 

Let us start by giving you a brief overview of these four main approaches to maintenance: 

  • Preventive maintenance, akin to regular check-ups for machinery, aims to prevent breakdowns before they occur, ensuring smooth operations and longevity.  
  • Predictive maintenance employs advanced technologies and data analysis to forecast potential failures, allowing for timely interventions and cost savings.  
  • Reliability-centered maintenance focuses on understanding failure modes and prioritising maintenance efforts based on criticality, optimising resources, and enhancing reliability. 
  • Run-to-failure maintenance, while the simplest approach, can be likened to driving a car until it runs out of fuel – cost-effective in the short term but potentially risky in the long run.  


Now that you have the basics, let us take a more in-depth look at each: 

Preventive Maintenance: 

Definition: Preventive maintenance involves regularly scheduled inspections, tasks, and repairs aimed at preventing equipment failure before it occurs. 

Benefits: By proactively addressing potential issues, preventive maintenance helps avoid costly downtime and extends the lifespan of equipment. 

Average Cost: While preventive maintenance incurs a moderate cost, it is typically lower than reactive maintenance in the long run. 

Implementation: Organisations require reliable systems like spreadsheets or Computerised Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) to effectively organise and manage preventive maintenance tasks.


Predictive Maintenance: 

Definition: Predictive maintenance utilises condition-based monitoring and data analysis to predict equipment failures and schedule maintenance accordingly. 

Benefits: When executed effectively, predictive maintenance can optimise maintenance schedules, reduce maintenance frequency, increase reliability, and lower overall costs. 

High Cost: Implementing predictive maintenance involves significant upfront costs due to the need for sophisticated monitoring equipment and data analysis tools. 

Data Requirements: Larger, more complex organisations benefit most from predictive maintenance, as it requires extensive data collection and accurate analysis.


Reliability-Centered Maintenance (RCM): 

Definition: Reliability-centered maintenance focuses on investigating failure modes to develop tailored maintenance strategies based on equipment reliability and criticality. 

Benefits: RCM aims to optimise maintenance efforts by prioritising tasks based on equipment importance, ultimately leading to improved reliability and cost savings. 

High Cost: RCM implementation comes with substantial costs due to the extensive analysis and data required to develop effective maintenance strategies. 

Maintenance Maturity: Organisations must possess a high level of maintenance maturity to successfully implement RCM, as it demands a thorough understanding of equipment failure modes and maintenance optimization.



Definition: Run-to-failure involves operating equipment until it breaks down, then fixing it as needed. 

Benefits: This approach is the least costly and easiest to implement, making it suitable for organisations with limited resources or simpler maintenance needs. 

Low Cost: Run-to-failure maintenance incurs minimal upfront costs since it requires no proactive maintenance efforts. 

Implementation: Organisations can implement run-to-failure maintenance using basic tools like spreadsheets or simple CMMS, making it accessible to smaller businesses or industries with less complex equipment.



Each type of maintenance strategy offers unique advantages and challenges, and the choice depends on factors such as equipment criticality, organisational resources, and maintenance goals. By understanding the differences between preventive, predictive, reliability-centered, and run-to-failure maintenance, organisations can develop tailored maintenance approaches to optimise equipment performance and minimise downtime. 

We hope that this article has been useful to the non-maintenance professionals and that the brief insights above support you to effectively collaborate with your maintenance teams to ensure the optimal performance and longevity of equipment, ultimately contributing to the organisation’s success.

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