The 80/20 Rule for Preventative and Reactive Maintenance

In the world of maintenance management, finding the balance between proactive and reactive strategies is crucial for optimising operational efficiency and minimising downtime.
The 80/20 Rule for Preventative and Reactive Maintenance
Written by
Darren Stewart
Published on
April 12, 2023

In the world of maintenance management, finding the balance between proactive and reactive strategies is crucial for optimising operational efficiency and minimising downtime. The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, provides valuable insights into achieving this equilibrium. This rule suggests that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. By applying this principle to maintenance practices, businesses can strategically allocate resources, reduce costs, and ensure smooth operations.

Understanding the 80/20 Rule

The 80/20 rule is a fundamental concept that originated from Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto's observations in the late 19th century. He noticed that approximately 80% of Italy's land was owned by 20% of the population. This principle has since been widely adopted and adapted to various fields, including believe it or not, maintenance management.

In the context of maintenance, the 80/20 rule implies that a significant portion of maintenance needs arise from a relatively small number of underlying causes. This principle can be applied to both preventative and reactive maintenance strategies, offering a valuable framework for optimising maintenance efforts.

Preventative Maintenance and the 80/20 Rule

Preventative maintenance involves conducting routine inspections, repairs, and replacements to prevent equipment breakdowns and failures. The 80/20 rule is highly relevant here, as it helps prioritise the most critical assets and tasks.

1. Asset Prioritisation: Not all assets are equally vital to your operations. By identifying the 20% of assets that contribute to 80% of your operational success, you can allocate resources and time to maintaining these high-impact assets effectively.

2. Root Cause Analysis: Applying the 80/20 rule to the analysis of maintenance data can reveal recurring issues. By addressing the underlying causes responsible for a significant portion of failures, you can reduce the overall maintenance workload and improve equipment reliability.

3. Risk Management: Focusing on the critical 20% of assets ensures that you're proactively managing risks associated with downtime and disruptions. This approach can lead to increased operational uptime and customer satisfaction.

Reactive Maintenance and the 80/20 Rule

While preventative maintenance aims to minimise the need for reactive actions, the 80/20 rule can also guide the reactive maintenance approach when emergencies occur.

1. Rapid Response: Applying the 80/20 principle to reactive maintenance means swiftly addressing issues with high impact. Prioritise urgent repairs for assets that significantly impact production, safety, or customer service.

2. Spare Parts Management: When it comes to reactive maintenance, maintaining an inventory of spare parts can be costly. By focusing on the critical 20% of parts that are responsible for 80% of breakdowns, you can optimise inventory management and reduce costs.

3. Learning from Patterns: Analysing the 80% of breakdowns caused by the critical 20% of issues can help you learn from past incidents. This information can guide future preventative efforts and help develop more effective maintenance strategies.


The 80/20 rule serves as a powerful guiding principle in maintenance management, whether you're prioritising preventative actions or responding to emergencies reactively. By focusing resources on the most critical assets and causes, businesses can optimise operational efficiency, minimise downtime, and reduce maintenance costs. Remember that the goal is not to eliminate all maintenance needs but rather to strategically manage them to achieve the best possible outcomes for your organisation.

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