Reliability Insights

What are Maintenance Strategies?

When you read about maintenance strategies on the web, there seems to be a belief or confusion that maintenance strategies and maintenance types are the same thing.

Search for the term “maintenance strategies” or “maintenance types”, and you’ll probably see the same results—you’ll find articles talking about preventive maintenance, predictive maintenance, corrective maintenance, condition-based maintenance, reactive maintenance, and even reliability-centered maintenance.

The way I see it, maintenance strategies and maintenance types are different terminologies. And that’s what we’ll discuss in this article. We’ll talk about maintenance philosophy, maintenance strategies, and maintenance types. And we’ll talk about why you need to learn to differentiate them from one another.

Difference in Terminology

Terminology is always up for debate, right?

What some people might call “strategy” is what I call in this article a “philosophy”. But what’s important is that we differentiate between the three different levels of your maintenance. You need to have a high level document that describes how you run your maintenance organisation. You then need to have a suite of documents that describe how you develop what is contained in the maintenance strategies for your specific groups of equipment. And those maintenance strategies or whatever you want to call them, they will be made up of a suite of maintenance types.

What is a Maintenance Philosophy?

Before we talk about the difference between maintenance strategies and maintenance types, we first need to talk about what a maintenance philosophy is.

A maintenance philosophy is a high-level document that describes how you run maintenance in your organisation. Think of it as your maintenance bible. It details everything from how you maintain your asset and how you’re going to function as a structured maintenance organisation… all the way to the processes that you will use and how you execute them.

maintenance strategies

It should contain your maintenance strategies for your different pieces of equipment. And it should also document your work processes, the way the work gets done, the team, the organisation, how you contract things in, and everything else.

As you can see from this diagram, your maintenance philosophy encompasses your maintenance strategy and the different maintenance types. If that’s the case, then what is a maintenance strategy?

What is a Maintenance Strategy?

One step below your maintenance philosophy are your different maintenance strategies. Your maintenance strategy is how you group different tasks together to look after a piece of equipment. For your whole organisation, you need multiple maintenance strategies because you have different types of equipment.

For example, the maintenance strategy for a centrifugal pump will consist of several tasks and a number of different maintenance types. You mix those together to get an efficient and effective maintenance strategy for maintaining your pump. But you can’t use the same strategy for a different piece of equipment, say a turbine or a heat exchanger. You’d need a different maintenance strategy that consists of a new set of tasks.

What are the 9 Types of Maintenance?

Now, I talk about the 9 types of maintenance in great detail in our article, “The 9 Types of Maintenance: How to Choose the Right Maintenance Strategy”. You can go ahead and visit this article if you want to learn more about the different maintenance types.

But for this article, I want to quickly discuss the types of maintenance so that you can clearly grasp the difference between maintenance strategies and maintenance types.

Maintenance Types

Maintenance types are what you see in this diagram. They are broadly categorised as Preventive Maintenance and Corrective Maintenance. Preventive Maintenance are all maintenance tasks done BEFORE a failure occurs. Whereas Corrective Maintenance are all tasks performed AFTER a failure has occurred.

Why is it Important to Differentiate Maintenance Types and Maintenance Strategies?

Without understanding the difference between maintenance types and maintenance strategies, you will be prone to focusing on a single type of maintenance. But you simply can’t get the right results by doing a single maintenance type.

To have an effective PM program, you need to mix your maintenance types. You can’t only do time based maintenance (which a lot of organisations are doing). For your maintenance strategy, you need to have a mix of the different types of maintenance such as time based maintenance, condition based maintenance, failure finding maintenance, risk based maintenance, and deferred corrective maintenance.

For example, you can’t manage random failure modes with time based maintenance. In the same way, doing condition based maintenance on age related failure modes is a waste of time. There’s no point in doing all those intermediate checks if you know that a piece of equipment is going to last two years.


Understanding the difference between maintenance philosophy, strategies, and types is important for creating an effective preventive maintenance program. A maintenance philosophy provides the overarching framework that guides your maintenance decisions and procedures within your organisation. Under this philosophy, specific maintenance strategies are developed for your different equipment, ensuring the right maintenance tasks are implemented.

The execution of these strategies involves understanding and applying the different types of maintenance—preventive or corrective—depending on your operational context. By clearly differentiating between maintenance philosophy, maintenance strategies, and maintenance types, you can understand that an effective preventive maintenance program must use different equipment maintenance strategies, each containing a mix of different types of maintenance.

Leave a comment below telling us what types of maintenance you use and why. Have you had great results with one specific type of maintenance let us know: