Heating Equipment Maintenance Strategies: Proactive vs. Reactive Management of Industrial Heater Maintenance, Replacement & More

service engineer worker at industrial facility repairing and adjusting equipment

When it comes to managing a facility and all of the equipment that keeps it up and running efficiently, plant managers typically fall into one of two camps: those who are proactive about equipment upkeep and those who are reactive.

While there is not necessarily one right way to go about this specific aspect of running a facility, there are a handful of pros and cons to each of these two strategies. 

Here, we explore these two heating equipment maintenance mentalities so you can determine which will work best for you and your facility and decide whether you should switch from one to the other.

Proactive Plant Maintenance

What is Proactive Plant Maintenance? 

Proactive facility maintenance is essentially thinking ahead and taking care of potential issues before they become a problem. It’s anticipating issues that could slow productivity or shut down your facility and addressing them before they become catastrophic. 

Pros of Proactive Plant Maintenance:

Proactive equipment maintenance is typically regarded as the better of the two maintenance strategies. This is largely due to the fact that implementing a proactive strategy can result in a number of benefits, including: 

  • Financial Benefits

Heating equipment repairs and replacements still need to happen in plants that are proactive when it comes to equipment maintenance. However, these repairs and replacements can be planned for and saved for. They won’t need to be expedited or require overtime hours or expensive repair costs. This can save the facility money in the long run.

  • Fewer Equipment Failures

Equipment issues are often caught early when a proactive plant maintenance plan has been implemented. As a result, facilities that implement proactive strategies typically have fewer catastrophic equipment failures. 

  • Reduced Downtime

Because issues are typically caught and addressed early, before they become problems that can result in a plant shutdown, facilities that are proactive about maintenance experience reduced downtime. Even if a piece of equipment does ultimately fail, these facilities are at somewhat of an advantage given that the downtime to replace or repair it can typically be planned for rather than completely unexpected.

  • Less Intensive Regular Maintenance Work 

Once a proactive maintenance program has been implemented, the regular maintenance work that needs to be done is typically less intensive. Addressing issues and general maintenance tasks on a regular schedule – rather than waiting until they become big issues that need major attention – can keep machinery upkeep and repair manageable.

Cons of Proactive Plant Maintenance: 

Though there are many pros to adopting a proactive plant maintenance plan, there are a couple of cons that should be considered, including: 

  • Can be Challenging to Implement

A proactive plant maintenance culture can be difficult to adopt, especially when coming from a reactive strategy. It takes a well-defined proactive strategy and a team willing to get on board with adopting a new regular process for it to be successful. It also requires training, which can be time consuming even though it’s ultimately beneficial.

  • Can be Challenging to Execute

Reactive maintenance work is often more straightforward to perform. After all, the work that needs to be done is determined by the problem that has arisen. With proactive maintenance, a strategy will need to be developed and followed to prevent problems before they arise. As a result, determining how you’d like to manage preventative maintenance can be a bit more difficult. 

Reactive Plant Maintenance

What is Reactive Plant Maintenance? 

Reactive facility maintenance is basically performing maintenance on an as-needed basis, addressing problems and equipment failures or malfunctions as they come up. 

Pros of Reactive Plant Maintenance:

Reactive plant maintenance is typically regarded as less favorable than a proactive strategy, but it does have a few advantages, including: 

  • Ease of Determining What Needs to be Addressed

When it comes to a reactive maintenance strategy, it’s very easy to determine what will need to be worked on or prioritized. The items your team is working on and addressing will be clear cut based on the problems that have arisen. 

  • Less Intensive on a Regular Basis

A reactive maintenance culture means that you’re not thinking about equipment upkeep as intensively on a regular basis. This means you can use all of your time to focus on and prioritize other tasks and elements that can help keep your company ahead of the game. That being said, you should be prepared to pause your efforts when an unexpected catastrophic equipment failure of some kind does occur.

  • Often the More Comfortable Maintenance Culture Initially

Reactive maintenance is the culture that most plants and facilities typically fall into as a default. As a result, it’s often the more comfortable of the two strategies initially.

Cons of Reactive Plant Maintenance:

Many facilities prefer a proactive maintenance culture because there are a handful of notable disadvantages to a reactive maintenance strategy, including:

  • More Equipment Failures 

Because maintenance is not a priority, facilities with reactive maintenance strategies may run into more equipment failures. This means more costly repairs or even replacements when a less expensive and extensive solution could have been utilized  had the problem been caught earlier.

  • Increased Facility Shutdowns and Downtime

Unpredictable malfunctions can cause shutdowns, which can slow down production and negatively impact profitability. 

  • Increased Stress 

Because a reactive maintenance strategy can be unpredictable, with repairs and maintenance cropping up at inconvenient times, implementing this type of strategy can add a significant amount of stress and frustration for a facility manager and their staff members. It can also strain client relationships and derail important projects, since facility downtime for repairs and equipment upgrades often won’t be planned for in advance.

  • Increased Expense 

Costs for extensive repairs, overtime labor, and expedited delivery for replacement parts or new machinery can be hefty – not to mention the cost of losing profits due to unexpected or extended facility downtime. As a result, a reactive facility maintenance strategy is often more costlier than a proactive one. 

Weighing Your Options: Proactive vs. Reactive Heating Equipment Maintenance

With heating equipment maintenance and upkeep, facility managers have a choice. They can be proactive, or they can react to issues and equipment failures as they arise. 

While these two overarching strategies for managing your facility’s heating equipment each have pros and cons and there’s truly no one right way to handle this aspect of plant management, it’s worth noting that we’ve generally seen most facilities thrive with a proactive maintenance plan in place. 

And while some facility circumstances may dictate which of these two strategies is most feasible, the option to shift the maintenance culture to one that works better almost always exists. It’s important to be aware of and explore the pros and cons of both options so you can develop and adapt a system that works best for your specific facility.

Interested in changing your facility’s maintenance culture? Here, we review how to establish a healthy, proactive maintenance culture.

Looking to improve how your facility handles planned and unplanned shutdowns? We offer a handful of tips and suggestions for plant shutdown management here.

Have further questions about facility maintenance? Looking for help with replacing a piece of heating equipment on a tight timeline? We’re happy to assist. Just give us a call at (973) 777-0100 or contact us online to get the conversation started and learn more about how our industrial heating experts can help you keep your plant up and running smoothly.