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Twenty Reasons To Stop Firefighting

Klaus M. Blache | February 11, 2020

If your approach to reliability and maintenance is fixing what’s broken, you’re wasting time and money and reducing safety.

One of the most effective steps you can take to have a positive impact on all areas of your business and your ROI (return on investment), is to minimize reactive maintenance.

Here are twenty reasons why this is critical:

• Emergency repairs can cost three to more than ten times that of planned maintenance. It’s at least six times more expensive to operate with a highly reactive maintenance process.

• There are also related costly production losses, since most reactive maintenance means that the equipment is down. These losses can be five to 20 times more than the cost of performing the proper maintenance.

• Unplanned repairs are more time consuming.

• Rework due to insufficient root-cause analysis will result in having to fix it all over again.

• Lack of precision maintenance techniques causes premature failure of the equipment. That requires such practices as always applying correct torques and tensions on your components and proper tolerances at operating temperature. These things are often not done with precision when in emergency mode.

• Backlog will increase since you are using resources that were originally designated for other functions.

• It’s difficult to control costs with a high number of unexpected failures.

• Proper maintenance practices relate to lower energy costs.

• By doing maintenance too often, you are most likely re-introducing some form of infant mortality into your equipment. This may lead to additional reactive maintenance.

• Repairs cannot be prioritized and constant rework of schedules makes planning and scheduling less effective and more costly.

• Too often, reactive-maintenance-related data does not get properly entered into the maintenance computer system for further analysis.

• High variability in machinery and equipment performance reduces product quality and product-run effectiveness.

• Reactive maintenance increases costs for spare parts because you are frequently expediting delivery and/or increasing inventory.

• Increased reactive maintenance is directly related to a rise in safety issues.

• Running to failure and praising “firefighting” repairs will never change the culture to following standardized best practices.

• Effectively using CBM (condition-based monitoring) requires a change in culture and trust of the data being collected. CBM is a step toward implementing prescriptive maintenance, in which algorithms assign work orders based on data analysis.

• Starting and stopping complex equipment typically introduces more issues.

• Supporting reactive maintenance is counter to the knowledge that reliability/maintenance is everyone’s responsibility.

• Moving from reactive to condition-based maintenance typically results in an ROI of at least 10 times.

• Cumulatively, all of the negative things (decreased safety, poor culture, reduced capacity, increased process variability and lower quality, and higher cost) tied to reactive maintenance move your process to a downward spiral.

Top-quartile reactive maintenance in North America is currently at 9%. My best practice value is 10% +/- 5%, based on your type of business and reliability & maintainability process maturity. There are more negative impacts of highly reactive maintenance practices, but the twenty listed above should be sufficient to motivate some improvement. So many parts of your organization can benefit from improving just this one key performance indicator. EP

Based in Knoxville, Klaus M. Blache is director of the Reliability & Maintainability Center at the Univ. of Tennessee, and a research professor in the College of Engineering. Contact him at



Klaus M. Blache

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