Proactive maintenance concentrates on the causes of machine breakdown, instead of the symptoms of wear. It focuses on pinpointing and eliminating the root causes of equipment failure. This is done by emphasizing contamination control – the number one cause of machinery breakdown.

Laboratory and field tests have shown that more than any other factor, fluid contamination is the main culprit of equipment failure. Even the most microscopic particles, when left unregulated, will eventually grind a machine to a halt. Thus, most proactive maintenance programmes start with a strict contamination control programme for lubrication fluids, hydraulic fluids, gear oils, and transmission fluids.

Proactive maintenance is designed to extend the life of mechanical machinery without resorting to wasteful practices used in conventional maintenance practices. Conventional practices include servicing components which are still in good condition, and accommodating machinery failure as a normal and routine phenomenon. By observing contamination control practices, common causes of machinery breakdown (like heat, moisture, air, and foreign particulates) can be removed. This keeps the machine running at the highest level of efficiency.

Proactive maintenance is best paired with predictive maintenance as part of a holistic maintenance strategy. Proactive maintenance would be the first line of defence for machine reliability, while predictive maintenance monitors for contamination, and offers an early warning system for potentially serious problems.

Maintenance Approach

Maintenance actions

Parallels with the Human Body


Monitoring and correction of the root causes of machinery breakdown

Cholesterol and blood pressure monitoring with diet control

Predictive Maintenance

Monitoring of vibrations, heat, wear debris, lubricant condition

Blood tests and ECG for early detection of health problems

Preventive Maintenance

Periodically replace important components

Organ transplants

Breakdown Maintenance

Fix machinery only after it has broken down

Clone the person after the person has died of a heart attack/stroke