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Run to failure maintenance

Run to Failure Maintenance: Definition, Strategy and How to implement it

Run to failure (RTF) maintenance is a planned corrective strategy focusing on intervention only after a failure has occurred. Find out when it’s useful to implement and its benefits.

Planning and executing asset maintenance are crucial in various industrial sectors, from manufacturing productions to critical infrastructure. Managing and maintaining facilities, buildings, infrastructure, or any other asset can be a lengthy and complicated task. Fortunately, specific facility management software assists us in managing assets regardless of the type of maintenance we choose to adopt for them.

In this article, we delve into a type of failure maintenance: run to failure maintenance. Run to failure maintenance distinguishes itself as a planned corrective strategy that focuses on intervening only after a failure has occurred. While this strategy may seem counterintuitive, it can have useful applications in various contexts. Let’s explore it further in this article.

What Is Run to Failure Maintenance?

Run to failure maintenance, indicated by the acronym RTF, is a planned corrective maintenance strategy that acts by intervening on already occurred failures. Such a maintenance approach utilizes resources throughout their useful life, replacing or repairing them only when they fail and/or stop functioning, thus minimizing total maintenance costs.

Implementing this maintenance strategy requires some considerations, such as:

  • Understanding intervention and repair/replacement procedures.
  • Having equipment and spare parts readily available.
  • Having maintenance personnel in place.

It’s crucial for these considerations to be made before the failure occurs to minimize intervention times and prevent further damage, disruptions, or deferred maintenance strategies.

Run to Failure vs. Reactive Maintenance

Run to failure maintenance and reactive maintenance are both forms of breakdown maintenance, differing in the planning of maintenance intervention and the criticality of the failure. Specifically:

  • Run to failure is a planned corrective strategy designed to minimize total maintenance costs. It involves planning corrective actions to be taken after the failure. This type of maintenance is feasible on non-critical assets that do not impact an organization’s productivity or safety.
  • Reactive maintenance is an unplanned maintenance strategy executed when an asset fails suddenly, causing downtime, and must be repaired to avoid affecting productivity or safety.

Run to Failure vs. Preventive Maintenance

Preventive maintenance is a strategy involving regular and planned interventions on an asset to prevent failures. These interventions occur based on a predetermined time schedule or specific performance criteria.

On the other hand, run to failure maintenance intervenes only after a failure has occurred, replacing or repairing the failed component. The main distinctions are:

  • Temporal approach: Preventive maintenance is based on a predetermined time schedule or performance criteria, while RTF does not involve preventive interventions.
  • Costs and resources: Preventive maintenance requires allocating resources and time for planned interventions, while RTF minimizes costs and resources used until a failure occurs.
  • Risk management: Preventive maintenance aims to reduce the risk of failure through preventive interventions, while RTF accepts the risk of sudden failures in exchange for lower maintenance costs.

Run to Failure vs Predictive Maintenance

Predictive maintenance relies on data analysis and continuous monitoring of asset conditions to anticipate the optimal time for maintenance. This strategy utilizes indicators such as vibrations, temperatures, or other signals to identify early signs of failure and intervene before actual failure occurs.

The main differences are:

  • Timing of intervention: Predictive maintenance intervenes before an actual failure occurs, while RTF maintenance only intervenes after the failure has already occurred;
  • Utilization of data: Predictive maintenance is based on data analysis to predict failures, whereas RTF does not require predictive data analysis;
  • Costs and resources: Predictive maintenance may require investments in monitoring technologies and data analysis, while RTF may be more economical in terms of implementation costs.

What is an example of run to failure maintenance?

An example of run to failure maintenance involves replacing parts of an asset whose failure, and therefore discontinuity in operation, does not cause further damage to the rest of the resource or inconvenience to users.
For instance, replacing a light bulb can easily fall under a run to failure maintenance plan. This is because when a light bulb stops working:

  • Other bulbs in the room will still provide illumination;
  • Having a spare supply of light bulbs is easy and does not require excessive investment;
  • The brief period of non-operation does not pose risks to user safety.

It’s important to note that there isn’t always a single maintenance strategy suitable for a particular asset, but multiple maintenance types can be combined based on the resource. It is likely, therefore, that run to failure maintenance will be applied within the maintenance plan to those resources or parts thereof whose non-operation does not pose safety risks and can be repaired afterward, maximizing the resource itself and thus saving on total intervention costs.

Run to failure workflow

Run to failure workflow

When and why is it useful to implement a run to failure maintenance strategy?

Run to failure maintenance is useful when applying another type of maintenance is more expensive than replacing the resource itself. The earlier example of the light bulb is relevant: it is more cost-effective, both economically and logically in terms of intervention, to deal with a blown bulb than to preemptively replace it while it’s still functional.

If the failure has a minimal impact on the overall performance of the asset, a run to failure approach is preferable to preventive maintenance.

In general, run to failure maintenance is suitable for:

  • resources with a short useful life that can simply be replaced at the end of their lifecycle;
  • assets that are inherently disposable by nature;
  • durable assets, and/or parts thereof, associated with a low risk of failure;
  • non-critical assets whose failure does not affect the use of the rest of the asset;
  • resources where applying another type of maintenance is complicated.

How to implement run to failure maintenance in your maintenance plan?

To successfully implement this type of maintenance, some precautions will suffice, including:

  • a good inventory and availability of spare parts to quickly remedy the failure through total or partial replacement of the part;
  • prepared and available personnel to intervene quickly to avoid further damage,
  • maintenance planning through the support of specific facility management software that help plan activities, manage work orders, and tickets in an integrated manner to optimize resource utilization and reduce interference.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of run to failure maintenance?

This particular type of maintenance should only be applied after careful risk assessment associated with the failure of various parts of the asset, to avoid more serious damage. Nevertheless, when applicable, run to failure maintenance entails some advantages to consider:

  1. Minimal planning: by acting upon an already occurred failure, there’s no need to schedule interventions beforehand, but they will only occur after the damage;
  2. Easy implementation: implementing interventions upon failure, with parts and personnel available, is easy and intuitive;
  3. Low maintenance costs: utilizing resources until the end of their lifecycle can reduce downtime and avoid intervening on still functioning parts; however, this applies only to assets that are quick and easy to replace and especially to parts of assets considered “non-critical”.
Advantages of Run to Failure

Benefits of Run to Failure maintenance

However, it’s important to note that this type of maintenance strategy may entail some disadvantages including:

  • Risk of sudden failures: run to failure maintenance can entail the risk of sudden failures, which could impact productivity or safety;
  • Possible increase in downtime: interventions upon failure could cause unplanned downtime, affecting operational productivity.

The future of run to failure maintenance might involve greater integration of advanced technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence, to optimize interventions upon failure. However, RTF will continue to be a relevant strategy in contexts where maintenance costs need to be kept low and the risk of sudden failures is acceptable.

In the articles dedicated to maintenance types, we have seen how this is among the most critical phases of the entire lifecycle of an asset, and despite various types of maintenance being applicable and combinable depending on the asset and its characteristics, it is essential to use specific maintenance and management support software.

For this reason, I recommend trying a facility management software that helps in planning, managing, and tracking maintenance activities to achieve a reduction in both time and maintenance costs.