Across industry, many definitions are used when it comes to the different
types of maintenance. It can quickly get confusing when people talk about
preventive maintenance, condition based maintenance, predictive
maintenance but actually, have something else in mind than you do. Some
people get very excited about these definitions and can spend a lot of time
on for example disagreeing with what is and what isn’t preventive
maintenance. Let’s not do that, instead, I’ll offer you my view on the different types of maintenance.


As far as I am concerned, terminology is not important. Other than making
sure we are talking about the same thing. If what I consider to be condition
based maintenance, you call predictive maintenance that doesn’t really

As long as we can sensibly talk about the underlying principles.

When to use condition-based maintenance. And how to use it.

However, as I’m often asked questions about the different types of maintenance I decided to put a quick overview together of the types of maintenance.

At least, the way I see it:


At the top level, I see maintenance being either preventive or corrective:

When we do preventive maintenance we are doing a task before a failure
has occurred. That task can be aimed at preventing a failure, minimising
the consequence of the failure or assessing the risk of the failure occurring.

When we are conducting corrective maintenance the failure has now
occurred and we are basically reinstating equipment functionality. To be
clear, corrective maintenance can be the result of a deliberate run-tofailure


Preventive maintenance can be defined as “an equipment maintenance strategy based on replacing, or restoring, an asset at a fixed interval
regardless of its condition. Scheduled restoration tasks and replacement
tasks are examples of preventive maintenance tasks.”

Preventive maintenance (or preventative maintenance) is basically a type
of maintenance that is done at a regular interval while the equipment is
still functioning with the objective of preventing failure or reducing the likelihood of failure.

Preventive maintenance can be time-based i.e. every week, every month
or every three months. But preventive maintenance can also be based on
usage e.g. every 150 cycles, every 10,000hrs or like your car: service every

Apart from the regular interval approach (time based maintenance) there
are also other types of maintenance that fall within the category of preventive maintenance:

} Time Based Maintenance (TBM)
} Failure Finding Maintenance (FFM)
} Risk Based Maintenance (RBM)
} Condition Based Maintenance (CBM)
} Predictive Maintenance (PDM)

In the rest of this article I will explore each of these types of maintenance
in more detail including when you should consider using them.


Time Based Maintenance refers to replacing or renewing an item to
restore its reliability at a fixed time, interval or usage regardless of its
condition. This is what Moubray calls Scheduled Restoration or Scheduled
Discard tasks in his RCMII book.

I limit the use of that phrase, as for some reason people then jump to the conclusion that other maintenance is not scheduled. When in fact of
course all maintenance should be scheduled through our Weekly
Schedule. The only exception would be Emergency Maintenance, which
due to its very nature of requiring immediate attention cannot be

The purpose of Time Based Maintenance is to protect yourself against the
failure of known wearing parts which have predictable Mean Time
Between Failure (MTBF) i.e. Time Based Maintenance assumes that the
failure is age related and a clear service life can be determined. Or, that it’s simply not worth the effort to assess the condition and a time based replacement is more economical and still (reasonably) effective.

Time Based Maintenance can never effectively manage non-age related failure modes and therefore should only form a small part of your overall
maintenance program as >70% of the failure modes in your plant are not
age related (refer to the article 9 Principles of Modern Maintenance).


Failure Finding Maintenance tasks are aimed at detecting hidden failures
typically associated with protective functions. Think pressure safety
valves, trip transmitters and the like.

This type of equipment won’t be required to function until something else
has failed. That means that under normal operating conditions you will not
know whether this equipment is still functional i.e. the failure modes are hidden.

And since these failures are hidden, you’ll need to find them before you
are relying on that equipment to protect you. Simple really.

It’s important to realise that failure finding maintenance tasks do not
prevent failure but simply detect it. And once detected you’ll have to
repair the failure you found. Failure Finding Maintenance is conducted at
fixed time intervals typically derived from legislation or risk based approaches.


Risk Based Maintenance (RBM) is when you use a risk assessment
methodology to assign your scarce maintenance resources to those assets that carry the most risk in case of a failure (remembering that risk =
likelihood x consequence).

As a result, equipment that has a higher risk and a very high consequence
of failure would be subject to more frequent maintenance and inspection.
Low risk equipment may be maintained at a much lower frequency and
possibly, with a much smaller scope of work.

When you implement a Risk Based Maintenance process effectively you
should have reduced the total risk of failure across your plant in the most
economical way.

Risk Based Maintenance is essentially preventive maintenance where the
frequency and scope of the maintenance activities is continuously
optimised based on the findings from testing or inspection and a thorough
risk assessment. Examples of Risk Based Maintenance would be Risk
Based Inspection (RBI) as applied to static equipment like vessels and
piping or even pressure relief valves.


Most failure modes are not age related. However, most failure modes do give some sort of warning that they are in the process of occurring or are about to occur.

If evidence can be found that something is in the early stages of failure, it
may be possible to take action to prevent it from failing completely and/or to avoid the consequences of failure. Condition Based Maintenance as a strategy, therefore, looks for physical evidence that a failure is occurring or is about to occur.

Thinking of CBM in this way shows its broader applications outside condition monitoring techniques often only associated with rotating equipment.

An important concept within Condition Based Maintenance is the P-F
curve shown in the figure below:

The curve shows that as a failure starts manifesting, the equipment
deteriorates to the point at which it can possibly be detected (point “P”).

If the failure is not detected and mitigated, it continues until a functional
failure occurs (point “F”).

The time range between P and F, commonly called the P-F interval, is the
window of opportunity during which an inspection can possibly detect the
imminent failure and give you time to address it.

It is important to realise that CBM as a maintenance strategy does not reduce the likelihood of a failure occurring through life-renewal, but
instead is aimed at intervening before the failure occurs, on the premise
that this is more economical and should have less of an impact on
availability. In other words: condition monitoring does not fix machines and condition monitoring does not stop failures. Condition monitoring only lets you find problems before they become a failure.

A common rule of thumb is that the interval between CBM tasks should
be one-half or one-third of the P-F interval.

How much more effective CBM is above breakdown maintenance depends on how long the P-F interval is. With plenty of warning the rectification can be planned, materials and resources can be mobilised and breakdown prevented (though production is still stopped for the maintenance duration). When the P-F interval is only a few days the resulting organisational and workplace actions are much like a breakdown and the value of CBM is largely lost.

For CBM to be effective as a strategy, early intervention is essential. This
requires an efficient and effective process for data gathering, data analysis, decision making and finally intervention.

For failure modes where the P-F interval shows a large variability, condition monitoring is not an effective strategy.

If you’re interested to find more about how to best manage failure modes
don’t forget to check out the article Reliability Centered Maintenance – 9 Principles of Modern Maintenance.


Up until recently when people spoke about Predictive Maintenance (PDM)
this was usually as a synonym for Condition Based Maintenance. But in my
view with the advent of Artificial Intelligence, much lower costs of
equipment sensors (IIoT – Industrial Internet of Things) and machine
learning there is clearly a difference appearing between Predictive Maintenance (PDM) and Condition Based Maintenance (CBM), at least in my view.

I see Predictive Maintenance as an extension, a more advanced approach
to CBM where we use potentially many process parameters gained from online sensors to determine if our equipment is moving away from stable
operating conditions and is heading towards failure. A condition assessment that is extrapolated to make a prediction when failure is
expected to occur.

There are a lot of (very large) companies actively moving into this space
and it is certainly a fast-moving and exciting part of our discipline as
Maintenance & Reliability Professionals. However, I do still believe that
even the most advanced Predictive Maintenance approaches need to be
underpinned by sound reliability principles and understanding.


A Run to Failure or Corrective Maintenance strategy only restores the function of an item after it has been allowed to fail. It is based on the
the assumption that the failure is acceptable (i.e. no significant impact on
safety or the environment) and preventing failure is either not economical
or not possible.

Apart from being the outcome of a deliberate Run to Failure strategy
Corrective Maintenance is also the result of unplanned failures which
were not avoided through preventive maintenance.

A run to failure strategy can effectively be used for general area lighting, smart process instrumentation (without trip functionality) etc. where the consequence of failure is limited and would not necessitate a need for an urgent repair.

When opting for corrective maintenance as a strategy it is essential to ensure that the failure modes under consideration do not have the potential to become Emergency Maintenance.

You see, if you adopt run-to-failure for equipment that once it has failed
must be restored immediately to have doomed your organisation to a
reactive maintenance environment.

A reactive maintenance environment is not where you want to be. It is more expensive, less efficient, and less safe. So although a run-to-failure strategy can sometimes be a good option, make sure you decide wisely.


In the chart of maintenance types I broke ‘corrective maintenance’ into
two sub-types:
> Deferred corrective maintenance
> Emergency maintenance

And that was very deliberate because it is so essential that we absolutely minimize the amount of Emergency Maintenance we allow into our organisations.

As I already pointed out above Emergency Maintenance is expensive, various sources have suggested that Emergency Maintenance is 3 to 5 times as expensive as ‘normal’ preventive maintenance. Emergency Maintenance typically leads to longer equipment outages and more production impact. And it is less safe.

So when a corrective maintenance work request is raised it is essential
that you prioritise it properly to make sure that where possible you defer
the work request and give your team the time to properly plan and
schedule the work.

If you want to read more about prioritisation of corrective maintenance
have a look at the article You Will Fail Without Planning & Scheduling.


Emergency Maintenance is corrective maintenance that is so urgent that it
breaks into your Frozen Weekly Schedule (you do have one don’t you?). It
upsets your plans and schedules and typically throws everything into
disarray. Some people thrive in this type of environment and often get
heralded as heroes when they’ve worked 16hrs non-stop to get
production back online. But when it comes to the Road to Reliability it is a dead end.

Emergency Maintenance is the one and only maintenance type that we
really want to avoid as much as possible. In fact, World-Class
organisations ensure that less than 2% of their total maintenance is Emergency Maintenance. How much Emergency Maintenance do you


The table below shows a brief summary of:
> the different types of maintenance;
> what type of tasks are involved;
> the objective of the task;
> and how the interval between the tasks is determined.

An efficient and effective Preventive Maintenance Program will have a mix of all these different types of maintenance.


And frequently asked question is ‘what is breakdown maintenance’ and as
it’s not in my explanation I thought I’d just covered it here briefly. As far as I am concerned, breakdown maintenance is simply corrective maintenance
and not another type of maintenance in itself. In the case of breakdown
maintenance, you’ve had a failure and so now it needs to be fixed. And
depending on the risk associated with that breakdown it could be urgent
or less urgent.

But, in many people’s mind, breakdown maintenance is urgent maintenance, maintenance that needs to be done right now i.e. Emergency Maintenance. And if that’s the case for you, you know what to do: get rid of it!


I think I have covered this in the article, but as it’s such a frequently asked question I’ll just summarise the key differences here:

Preventive maintenance covers multiple types of maintenance that are
used before a failure has occurred. Predictive maintenance is a form of
preventive maintenance.

When most people talk about preventive maintenance they really mean Time Based Maintenance which is a repair or replacement on a fixed
interval irrespective of the condition of the equipment. The interval can be
time-based (days, weeks or months) or usage-based (operating hours, cycles or km).


The above table of types of maintenance does not include Autonomous
Maintenance or Autonomous Care (also referred to as Front Line
Maintenance in other organisations). The CLAIR (Clean, Lubricate, Adjust,
Inspect and Repair) activities conducted under Autonomous Care are
essentially a combination of the above strategies, but conducted on a
higher frequency by frontline staff.


Erik Hupjé is the founder of the Road to Reliability™ and has over 20 years’ experience in asset management, and specifically managing maintenance & reliability. He has worked in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the Philippines, the Sultanate of Oman, and Australia.

Erik has a passion for continuous improvement and keeping things simple. Through the Road to Reliability™, he helps Maintenance & Reliability professionals around the globe improve their plant’s reliability and their organisation’s bottom line.


I wrote this article based on a number of key sources listed below (and throughout the article):

The Professional’s Guide to Maintenance and Reliability Terminology by Ramesh Gulati, Jerry Kahn and Robert Baldwin, accessed in June 2018 at https://reliabilityweb.com/tips/articl/definition_preventive_maintenance