Both preventive and predictive maintenance drive uptime across industries, but how much you need of each strategy depends on your unique situation.

Predictive and preventive maintenance both seek to address equipment breakdowns before they happen, but what are the difference between the two? And what’s the perfect mix for you?

Differences between predictive and preventive maintenance

Both predictive and preventive maintenance look ahead to maintenance needs rather than reacting to failures after they happen. But they’re different in how they work and which one works best for each asset type.

Preventive maintenance runs on “insight” while predictive maintenance requires “foresight.”

Maintenance teams complete preventive maintenance tasks according to a schedule, and the asset manager chooses the tasks and schedule by looking for patterns in historical maintenance and repairs data. The department gains insights by looking at the past.

Predictive maintenance, though, relies on real-time condition information, such as temperature, vibration, noise, or lubricant levels. The data is fed into an algorithm that forecasts when a failure will likely occur based on the asset’s current condition. The department is able to predict the future by looking at the present.

Enterprise asset management software (EAM Software) captures the data you need for both strategies. With preventive schedules and analysis from predictive data, the right work order software generates work orders to keep the maintenance teams on track.

Because some equipment is better suited to a preventive strategy and some to predictive, it’s important to become familiar with the pros and cons of each.

Preventive maintenance advantages

Preventive maintenance is planned maintenance. And the goal is to extend equipment lifespans, improve efficiency, and minimize repair expenses. Checkups and tasks are often carried out while an asset is operating normally, to avoid unexpected breakdowns later.

Here are some advantages of preventive maintenance:

  • Nearly every asset experiences wear and tear so replacing parts before they break reduces downtime, keeps equipment performing at its best, and supports efficiency.
  • Compared to a reactive, run-to-failure model, preventive maintenance can save time and money. And with a forward-looking schedule, resources aren’t stretched thin as the team responds to endless emergencies.

By tracking preventive work order tasks with EAM software, you can analyze work order histories. The custom reports that ManagerPlus Lightning generates help asset managers examine their preventive maintenance program and refine it over time.

Preventive maintenance disadvantages

Because preventive schedules are based on historical failure rates, you might be addressing a problem earlier than is necessary.

Here are some possible disadvantages of preventive strategies:

  • Machine parts might be repaired or replaced while they still have workable life in them, creating an inventory turnover that’s higher than necessary and possible added costs.
  • Shutting down a machine for maintenance can cause disruptions and downtime that may not be required.

It’s also possible for preventive maintenance to trigger additional repairs. For example, a machine that’s been taken apart for cleaning may be damaged or reassembled incorrectly and require emergency attention once it’s back online.

Tips for applying preventive maintenance

A preventive strategy is a balancing act with equipment lifespan on the one hand and the disruption caused by maintenance tasks on the other. In some cases, run-to-failure is actually a better option than spending time and money on preventing the failure. The classic example is light bulbs. They’re cheap to buy and carry in inventory: they don’t require a special environment and don’t spoil over time. When a light bulb dies, it almost never slows down the line. To get the most out of them, it makes sense to let them go until they burn out; if you replace them on a set schedule, you’re always throwing out some of their useful life.   

Use your preventive maintenance software to track asset history, condition data, maintenance plans, and timelines. EAM platforms also simplify compliance efforts because information lives in one place. Reports demonstrating good maintenance practices that align with regulatory standards can be made available to inspectors and across the enterprise as needed.

Predictive maintenance advantages

The best alternative to a working crystal ball is predictive maintenance. However, fixing problems in near real-time requires a precise effort. When done right, predictive servicing drastically reduces unplanned downtime.

Here are some advantages of predictive maintenance:

  • Algorithms do all the heavy math lifting for you, anticipating failures based on complex variables, so you’re aware of imminent issues.
  • Equipment servicing focuses on the priority maintenance tasks that need to be completed, rather than following a regimented schedule that could impose premature servicing.
  • Sensors continuously monitor equipment and can be placed in otherwise difficult-to-reach areas.

The costs associated with predictive maintenance are comparably low when it comes to labor and resources. According to McKinsey & Company, advanced predictive maintenance in heavy industries could reduce maintenance costs by 18% to 25%.

Predictive maintenance disadvantages

Although being able to predict repairs and address them just in time saves money, there are drawbacks:

  • Predictive maintenance involves upfront costs, such as buying and installing sensors and training staff on procedures.
  • Algorithms can be complex to create and must be tested to ensure they correctly reflect the real world of asset-intensive businesses.
  • With a predictive strategy, long-term scheduling is difficult as tasks depend on the status of the equipment.

Tips for applying predictive maintenance

To decide if predictive maintenance is for you, weigh the cost of unplanned downtime against the cost of implementing a predictive program. It starts with knowing what equipment failures currently cost—that’s where EAM software comes in handy with a wealth of accessible, asset-specific information.

Employing predictive tactics on every piece of equipment may not make sense. A mixed program, including run-to-failure, predictive, and preventive offers the most cost-effective results.

Which type should I choose?

Deciding whether to apply predictive or preventive maintenance is an ongoing effort, and by analyzing your asset data, you’ll be able to make the best choice.

Be sure to consider all the costs associated with asset failure and maintenance. Direct costs are straightforward to determine. You can typically pull them from work orders. For example, consider parts, labor, or the potential cost of sensors if you opt for predictive maintenance.

Indirect costs, however, are tougher to nail down. Consider the cost of equipment downtime, training, strategy development, and refinement.

Your most cost-effective approach includes a mix of both preventive and predictive maintenance. The challenge then is to choose how to apply each strategy and when.

If you can reliably estimate a particular asset’s time-to-failure, that asset might be a good candidate for predictive, rather than preventive, maintenance. According to research by Gartner, a predictive strategy should be used “when equipment has a progressive degradation that can be observed and measured.”

Asset criticality is another factor worth considering. A predictive strategy delivers the most value when applied to a critical asset— one that brings production to a screeching halt when it breaks down. For equipment in a non-critical role, planned maintenance is typically the right choice.

How to balance preventive and predictive maintenance

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to maintenance—every industry, organization, and asset poses unique challenges.

For example, when it comes to fleet management, some vehicle parts require only reactive maintenance, while others clearly need a preventive or predictive approach. Tire pressure is an example of an issue that might call for reactive maintenance. When the pressure gets low, the operator reports the issue for attention. However, oil is a candidate for preventive maintenance. Because oil is critical to the engine, it simply can’t wait for a failure.  Consider the bearings of a heavy hauler. They’re highly critical but can be maintained via preventive or predictive maintenance.

It’s clear that both predictive and preventive strategies have value.

When a global transportation company needed a maintenance system that could accommodate their large fleet, they looked for one that would deliver cost savings while increasing vehicle uptime. They used ManagerPlus EAM software to create a combination of routine and preventive tasks.

Within a year of implementation, the company saved more than $600,000 in direct maintenance and other costs, including $250,000 just from oil changes.

A well-thought-out program drives savings for more than just vehicles. Construction equipment, facilities, and manufacturing machines all benefit from a tailored combination of predictive and preventive strategies.

For growing businesses, it makes sense to start with preventive tasks and consider a predictive program as operations evolve. Gathering asset information with EAM software and analyzing it for trends can help point the way to improvements down the road.

EAM software is a key component of any successful maintenance program. Schedule a free demo to see how ManagerPlus leverages advanced analytics to support your preventive and predictive maintenance strategies.

About the author


ManagerPlus is the preferred solution across the most asset-intensive industries, including Fortune 500 companies, to improve reliability and minimize downtime.
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