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Reactive Maintenance Costs vs. Planned Costs for Electric Motors


2020-05-planned or predictive maintenance for electric motorsLocal "turn and burn" repair shops specialize in getting your motor in for repairs and getting them back to you ASAP. While that might be good for emergencies, is it a good way to handle all your motor repairs?. Let's discuss the difference between reactive maintenance costs vs. planned costs for electric motors

"Turn and Burn" Repair Shops

You have to strike a balance between keeping your production lines running and staying within your M&O budget. When a motor fails, you need things running ASAP and you don't have a ton of money to invest in your motors. That local "turn and burn" repair shop can get your motor back to you in 48 hours, doing a bearing swap and rewind in their own shop. It's fast and convenient and seems to do a good job of minimizing downtime while staying in budget.

The problem with such shops is that they don't have the time to perform extensive analysis on your motor. And this kind of analysis is necessary to find the root cause of the problem. If you don't find that root cause, then you keep paying over and over for the same repair.

If you continue using a "turn and burn" shop, you'll realize that you are sending the very same motors in for the same issues. Hasty repairs caused by their time constraints starts an expensive cycle for your facility. This cycle eats up money and increases downtime over the long haul.

Why do facilities keep using "turn and burn" electric motor repair services?

Most of the time, it has to do with the maintenance mindset or paradigm in use.

Reactive Maintenance

There are many different approaches to maintaining an electric motor. The simplest is to run a motor until it fails, then send it in for repairs and maintenance. A slightly more elegant way of expressing this approach is reactive maintenance.

In reactive maintenance, you perform all your maintenance tasks and repairs in reaction to events. The most common events involve a loss of performance or outright catastrophic failure of your motor.

On the surface, reactive maintenance seems smart. Why waste time and supplies performing maintenance on a motor that doesn't need it? You only need to pay when there is a problem, so it should keep M&O costs down. You also don't have to plan for anything, so there are no time-consuming maintenance schedules to follow.

Drawbacks of Reactive Maintenance

While reactive maintenance is convenient and seems economical, it's actually an antiquated, unreliable approach to keeping your motors running. Here are some of the drawbacks of reactive maintenance:

  • It is costly
  • It reduces the life of your electric motors
  • It makes your motors, and the drive systems they power, unreliable
  • It results in increased energy consumption

You pay a price for running motors until they fail. While you may be able to find a cheap repair shop, you will be paying more over time when they keep fixing the same problems or don't perform the repairs right. And when they keep failing, you have downtime while you wait to get the motor back. Then there are costs associated with missed production deadlines, too.

Your motors are going to wear out faster because you aren't maintaining them. Never keep forcing a motor to run when it's low on grease, has damage to the winding insulation, or has a bearing that's about to go out. The life span of your motors is based on the assumption that you maintain them regularly. That includes adding grease when it runs low, cleaning out the vents when they become dusty, and replacing bearings when they wear out.

Motors that keeping running when they need maintenance or are damaged lead to unreliability. This affects not just the motor but the drive train it powers, which in turn can lead to serious problems with meeting production schedules. As a result, the reputation of the company (and of you as a manager) can also be damaged beyond repair.

Finally, reactive maintenance will impact motor performance. An electric motor can't be expected to operate efficiently when you don't take care of it -- and it won't be reliable, either. Over time, the energy costs to keep the motor will keep going up, and you can't expect a "turn and burn" shop to restore it to its original performance levels.

Other Options

When you consider the drawbacks of reactive maintenance combined with the regular use of "turn and burn" shops, then it's good to know that there are other options available.

One of these alternatives is planned maintenance for electric motors, where maintenance and inspection take place at scheduled intervals. This approach minimizes breakdowns and allows you to schedule downtime. Because the downtime is now in your control, you can make sure it has minimal impact on production. Many managers point out that reactive maintenance and run to failure approaches have no upfront costs, but keep in mind that schedule maintenance doesn't, either.

You can also use a subscription-based remote monitoring service to implement planned maintenance. That way, you have a team of skilled motor technicians supervising the maintenance of your motors. And that includes both the motors in service and the spares you have on hand.

Consider the costs of planned maintenance and remote condition monitoring. Then look at the cost of repeated repairs, catastrophic failures, and the revenue loss that goes along with unexpected downtime. You'll find that maintenance costs amount to a small investment. And with remote monitoring services, you don't have to limit your choices to shops local to you -- you can get better quality repairs and rebuilds! In fact, there are vendors that can help you set up scheduled condition-based maintenance procedures from anywhere.


It's time to disrupt the costly cycles associated with reactive maintenance. You can start by investing your M&O budget in a maintenance solution that increases reliability, reduces downtime, and keep your motor fleet operating at peak performance.

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Dr. Sara McCaslin

HECO - All Systems Go


Dr. McCaslin has join HECO as a consulting partner. Sara has a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from The University of Texas at Arlington. In addition to her knowledge of engineering systems, she has also taught materials science, manufacturing, and mechanical system design for UT Tyler. Sara also contributes to our blog, All Systems Go.

Sara can be reached at



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