What you need to know about preventive maintenance vs breakdown repair.


You know what they say: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. For decades, many manufacturers have relied on a “fail and fix” approach for packaging equipment, waiting until the very moment it breaks down before fixing the problem. However, there’s a growing school of thought that an alternative “predict and prevent” approach is the best — and perhaps only? — Way to run a production line.

So which should you choose?

Here we look at the pros and cons of each approach:

What is preventative maintenance?

Preventative maintenance, or planned maintenance, is the process of making sure that all packaging equipment is operating at peak efficiency at all times. Depending on the equipment, it may comprise quick daily inspections, cleaning, lubricating and minor adjustments. In the short term, this means minor problems can be detected and solved before they become a major problem. And in the long term, preventative maintenance helps you get the most from your equipment for longer.

Think about your car. Most people don’t wait until it breaks down before getting it serviced. Instead, you book it in for a service every 5,000 miles or so. The same approach should apply to labelling, coding and packaging equipment in your plant. And yet, some manufacturers wait until their equipment fails before doing anything about it.

What is breakdown repair?

Breakdown repair, or “fail and fix”, simply means that you wait for equipment to fail before fixing it. This approach goes back decades, founded on the belief that maintenance is unnecessary and costly. In the past, maintenance has simply not been recognized as a task that contributes to the bottom line. Instead, workers are focused on those activities that are seen to directly impact productivity.

The cost factor

Let’s face it; everything comes down to the bottom line. So the biggest question manufacturers want answered is what is the cost of preventative maintenance versus breakdown repair?
On the surface, you might think that breakdown repair has the edge. After all, you only need to budget for the one-time expense of repair and parts, right? Wrong. The cost of breakdown repair extends far beyond the repair labor and materials. Because a breakdown is never planned, it causes production to stop for an undetermined period. For every minute that production stops, the company is losing money. It may miss deadlines, which impacts the rest of the supply chain and can increase the risk of losing customers. It’s no surprise then that the true cost of a machine breakdown has been estimated as between four to 15 times the maintenance costs.

It’s not only the downtime that costs the business; if equipment starts to wear without detection, a 
plant may be producing items with unacceptable quality without realizing it. We’re talking about labels with unscannable barcodes and illegible product codes, inspection equipment that lets contaminants slip through undetected, checkweighers that let containers pass through with too much or too little inside, and so on. Before long, this will erode customer and consumer trust in your products and brand.

By maintaining your equipment on a regular basis, you are also ensuring you get the most out of it. Because it’s working more efficiently, you ultimately benefit from a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) and a stronger return on investment (ROI) in the long run.
The time factor

One factor that deters some manufacturers from preventative maintenance is the time involved in checking and inspecting equipment. It’s that there’s some investment required in setting up a preventative maintenance program (PMP). A good maintenance program demands company-wide support from the top executive right down to the machine operators. However, once established, the process of checking equipment is minimal compared with the time that could be lost if a piece of equipment breaks down without warning (not to mention the hassle and stress of getting the machine up and running again).

While you can take a self-maintenance approach, most manufacturers choose to take advantage of a dedicated service by their equipment providers. This is often available for a monthly fee, depending on the provider, but comes with the invaluable benefit of access to highly qualified service technicians. For example, Quick Pak Inc provides a preventative maintenance program whereby skilled technicians conduct thorough routine service procedures and inspect your coding, labelling and inspection equipment. Where required, the technicians replace consumable parts, clean equipment and advice on any areas of concern.

The verdict

The time for breakdown repair is long gone, and any company that wants to continue growing and generating profits needs to invest in preventative maintenance.

The good news is that there are smart technologies designed to make preventative maintenance easier and more cost-effective than ever. The current labelling and coding machines, for example, are fitted with sensors that can check the output quality and warn of potential issues long before the machinery breaks down and brings production to a grinding halt.


Get more tips here on building a successful planned maintenance program. You can also read about why scheduled maintenance is the “ounce of prevention that’s worth a pound of cure”, how planned maintenance is one of the 12 most important metrics to measure in manufacturing and how important TPM (total productive maintenance) is to manufacturers. 

And then, why choosing Quick Pak Inc a local service provider, with 24-hour support, puts you in front.