On this blog, we talked many times about the benefits of being proactive with your maintenance and how to make a switch from reactive to preventive maintenance.

Today, we will take a step back and have a hard look at corrective maintenance. We will discuss what is corrective maintenance, explore its relationship with reactive maintenance, show you how to efficiently incorporate corrective maintenance into your everyday workflow, and wrap things up with a few examples.

No long intros this time, let’s get straight to the subject at hand.

What is corrective maintenance?

There are a few similar descriptions that are thrown around but the essence is this – corrective maintenance refers to any maintenance task that is performed to restore equipment, machine, or a system to proper working order.

Looking at that definition alone you might ask: Isn’t corrective maintenance just another one on the long list of synonyms for reactive maintenance (like breakdown and run-to-failure maintenance)?

While they might be hard to distinguish sometimes, we would argue they do not describe the same thing.

For instance, if someone would ask you which maintenance strategy are you using, then the more correct answer would be reactive maintenance. This is because corrective maintenance represents a type of maintenance action you are doing, not the whole strategy.

Benefits of doing corrective maintenance the right way

Having an optimized corrective maintenance process brings along multiple benefits such as:

  • reduced duration of both planned and unplanned downtimes
  • reduced cost of running a reactive maintenance strategy
  • reduced overall cost of your maintenance operations

The goal of every maintenance team is to be fast and effective, especially when it comes to unexpected breakdowns of critical equipment. That is the reason enough for every maintenance department to take a closer look at how they are doing corrective maintenance.

Before we go on to discuss how to efficiently use it, we’ll take 2 short stops to look at a couple of different ways corrective maintenance can be subdivided.

Corrective maintenance subdivisions

Immediate vs deferred corrective maintenance

This subdivision is based on when the corrective actions are taken in relation to when the problem or failure was detected.

Immediate corrective maintenance refers to corrective actions that take place immediately after failure.

Deferred corrective maintenance refers to corrective actions that are postponed/scheduled for later. There are many reasons why corrective maintenance might be deferred such as:

  • technicians are needed on a higher-priority case
  • replacement parts are not available
  • you need to call out a specialist to perform needed corrective actions
Planned vs unplanned corrective maintenance

People like to think that reactive maintenance represents the lack of a maintenance plan, but that is not always the case.

Not all assets are worth putting on a preventive or predictive maintenance program. Sometimes, you consciously make a decision to let a machine run to failure and are able to schedule corrective action when the failure occurs. This is what you would call planned corrective maintenance.

Unfortunately, things are not always going according to plan. Poorly performed preventive maintenance inspection or an unfortunate accident is all that is required for you to end up with an unexpected breakdown on your hands. These scenarios require sudden corrective actions to be performed to return the assets to operation, aptly named unplanned corrective maintenance.

How to efficiently use corrective maintenance

If you heavily rely on reactive maintenance at your organization, then it is extremely important that you have a polished corrective maintenance workflow.

Being effective at doing corrective maintenance means that:

  • machine operators and other employees have a quick and easy way to report problems
  • technicians that are doing the work have quick access to all necessary information (like problem description, asset history, OEM instructions…) to perform corrective actions
  • you have an efficient way to schedule and monitor the progress of all maintenance tasks, as well as the ability to manage task priority
  • you have an open communication line so pertinent information can be easily communicated between different team members

Even if you are running a proactive maintenance strategy, doing some corrective tasks from time to time is an unavoidable reality. So for everybody’s sake, let’s explore how you can extract the most value out of corrective maintenance and how a CMMS can support these efforts.

#1) Streamline the reporting process

If you want to ensure that all of the corrective actions are addressed in a timely manner, you need a system where employees have an easy way to submit a ticket, while maintenance team has an easy way to oversee and manage it.

For those that track everything manually, you generally have a couple of viable options:

  1. Set up a Work Request Box people can use to drop off work request tickets. Someone from the maintenance team can be appointed to frequently check the box and assign them according to their priority.
  2. Appoint one person on the maintenance team that is a point of contact for all requests. He or she can proceed to filter them out according to their priority.

If you don’t have this process laid out, your maintenance technicians will end up in a situation where they will start to receive work request phone calls in the middle of other important work. This will not only slow them down but will also cause unnecessary friction. Not to mention how issues submitted only through word of mouth (without a paper or digital trail) can easily get forgotten and left unattended.

Just think about how many big problems are the direct consequence of small problems that were not taken care on time and you’ll quickly realize why is this so important.

How to streamline reporting with CMMS

If you have a maintenance software that offers a work request portal, any employee at your organization can use it to quickly and easily submit a maintenance request. To make things even smoother, this process can be optimized even further with QR codes.  

For illustration, here’s how a work request system is implemented in Limble:

Work request portal

While the mentioned ticketing systems can still work, it is not rare that tickets get lost and/or duplicated, which can bring a lot of frustration to everyone involved and prolong costly downtimes. The digital way of tracking and submitting work requests is simply vastly superior.

#2) Tune the workflow

It doesn’t matter if the problem is found during a regular inspection or a maintenance technician is going off-site to take care of a submitted work request, knowing what he needs to do and having important information on hand will significantly speed up their work.

Here are some things you can do to ensure the quality and speed of any corrective maintenance process:

  • teach everyone how to properly describe the problem and submit the work request, as well as what are the additional valuable information they can leave that might be useful to technicians
  • ensure that technicians have access to OEM recommendations, asset history logs, fault patterns, and any other information they might require
  • create a set of standard maintenance procedures technicians can follow when dealing with complex assets
  • ensure that necessary spare parts are in stock so that the technicians don’t have to improvise solutions out of thin air

One thing that didn’t really fit on the list above but is important to say is that you should also make sure that your technicians are properly trained for the tasks assigned to them. Otherwise, doing everything we mentioned on the list above will not mean that much.

How to tune your workflow with CMMS

There are many different ways in which a CMMS can optimize your workflow, but we will focus on the things that affect how you perform corrective tasks.

Here’s just a short snippet of useful features a modern CMMS can provide in this context:

  • quick access to maintenance logs and reports for every asset
  • centralized asset card that provides a quick way to find any available information about the asset at hand (like OEM recommendations, fault patterns, and maintenance procedures)
  • spare parts management system helps you control your inventory so you never run out of replacement parts

Besides everything mentioned, a CMMS also improves your scheduling and communication flow, which we will discuss next.

#3) Manage scheduling

If you’d go on to survey well-run maintenance departments, we bet you’d find that one thing they have in common is clearly defined maintenance strategy supplemented with an efficient way to schedule and oversee the progress of all maintenance tasks.

First, let’s overview what is the information you want to have available at all times:

  • list of active (in-progress) corrective tasks
  • list of corrective tasks that still need to be scheduled
  • which technicians are assigned to which corrective tasks
  • who is free to cover corrective tasks that still need to be scheduled and when (which infers that the person giving the assignments has to be generally aware of the schedule of everyone on their maintenance team)

If you aren’t technical, having a large whiteboard to serve as a job board can give you a decent overview of needed information (if you are running a fairly small maintenance department).

Medium to large-sized maintenance teams have to employ some kind of technology with a centralized database if they hope to have any chance to stay in control of their work and operational costs. MS Outlook combined with different spreadsheets was an early solution, but with the increased availability of computerized maintenance systems, there’s little reason to continue trying to “get by” using those outdated methods.

One problem that you will often face, disregarding how you schedule and track corrective work, is the priority problem. As maintenance managers have to operate within limited budgets, there will always be situations where some corrective tasks have to be delayed or rescheduled. While this can be tackled on a case-to-case basis, it’s also not a bad idea to assign different levels of priority to your assets so everyone immediately knows which corrective tasks take priority.  

How to improve scheduling with CMMS
According to this research we’ve done last year, maintenance scheduling was one of the most requested features in a CMMS.   

most requested CMMS features

That didn’t surprise us because CMMS systems were initially developed to help you track and manage maintenance work.

This means that they allow you to completely digitalize your maintenance scheduling. The only thing you need to do beforehand is to add assets and maintenance technicians to your software.

After that, you can effectively assign corrective tasks to technicians that are free, track the work progress, reassign technicians to other tasks or reschedule the work as you see fit – all of it with just a few clicks.

For more info on how CMMS improves your scheduling capabilities, be sure to read our in-depth step-by-step guide on how to create a preventive maintenance plan.

#4) Ensure proper communication channels

No matter how hard you try, you will never be able to come up with a set of procedures that will work for everyone, in any situation. Additional information will sometimes have to be shared on the fly.

On top of that, you shouldn’t forget that corrective tasks are not only a problem for your maintenance team. People working with assets that are waiting to be repaired also need to be updated on the progress of maintenance work.

Imagine a situation in which the maintenance manager didn’t notify the line manager that the technician is coming in. If a maintenance guy just randomly shows up to fix something, there’s a decent chance he will have to sit around for 20 minutes until the production stops or space is cleaned and ready for him to start. We can all agree that this is horribly inefficient.

Making sure everyone is on the same page means that you need to have a clear line of communication between everyone that is in some way affected by the corrective work that needs to be performed. Let them know what is wrong and how long it is going to take to fix the problem so that you can schedule work with minimum overlap.

How mobile CMMS opens up lines of communication

For this particular section, we wanted to focus on mobile CMMS because that mobility is what enables real-time communication.

We cannot speak for other CMMS providers, but if you are using Limble, here’s what you can do:

  • use work request portal to submit tickets
  • quickly communicate task priority changes with your maintenance team through in-app and email notifications
  • everyone with the access to the tool can leave comments and pictures on specific work orders which is often used by maintenance technicians to collaborate on complex issues from remote locations

Lastly, it is important to keep in mind that having all important information accessible in one place from any location often eliminates the need for actual communication which minimizes unnecessary request for updates that slow everyone down.

Data gathered from our clients suggests that using our Android and IOS mobile apps improved their organization, communication, accountability, and productivity by up to 30%.

Corrective maintenance examples

To really dumb down on what we believe to be the most accurate definition of corrective maintenance, we will describe a few different scenarios in which corrective maintenance is used.

Example #1 – After asset breakdown

This is the most basic and common example of corrective maintenance action.

Let’s imagine you are running a production facility. One machine breaks down and the whole production line stops. You send for someone on your maintenance team to inspect and fix the problem. The technician listens to the problem description, performs an inspection to see if it is a mechanical or electrical fault. He finds the faulty part and replaces it – which puts the asset back into the condition where it can perform its intended function.

The technician conducted an analysis after an unexpected breakdown, isolated the problem, and made the necessary corrections – in other words, he performed unplanned corrective work.

Example #2 – Problem noticed during preventive maintenance work

For this example, let’s imagine a maintenance technician that is performing a scheduled maintenance task that consists of an oil change and a visual inspection. While doing that, he notices that one bearing is worn out and needs to be replaced. There were spare bearings in stock so he is able to perform the replacement right away – doing, what we could call, immediate corrective maintenance.  

Example #3 – Sensors show out-of-limit misalignment

For the last example, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of a maintenance manager that has all of his important asset on a condition-based maintenance program. That basically means he retrofitted all critical assets with sensors so he can monitor the condition of his machines in real time.

If you are considering to implement condition monitoring sensors at your facility, be sure to check out our modular IoT sensor setup that solves the problem of complicated and costly installations.

For the purpose of this example, we will throw around some arbitrary numbers.

After some time, a wireless sensor mounted on a rotating shaft of a pump signals that the shaft is out of alignment for 5 millimeters, while the safe operational conditions allow for only up to 3 millimeters of misalignment. This clearly indicates that some corrective actions have to be scheduled as soon as possible.

Now, keep in mind that the failure didn’t happen yet. The pump still performs as intended, but the failure can happen at any moment which poses significant cost and safety risks. Luckily, the technicians are able to immediately disassemble the pump and perform corrective actions – be it a simple tightening of loose parts or replacing cracked ones.   

This example illustrates how you can perform corrective maintenance even on assets that didn’t actually experience functional failure. While failure is still the most common trigger of corrective maintenance, the increased use of condition-monitoring equipment and predictive analytics opens the door for other types of triggers.

Staying ahead

There is no organization that can completely eliminate corrective maintenance from their organization, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying to reduce the number of unplanned corrective actions by employing proactive maintenance measures.

We hope that this guide will help you optimize your corrective maintenance process so you are prepared to efficiently deal with all maintenance problems.

As always, if you have any question, feel free to jump to the comment section or send us a message directly through our contact form.

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