Run to failure maintenance is a maintenance strategy that is sometimes more appropriately called “Fit and Forget” because there is no maintenance plan beyond complete replacement upon failure.
It is an essential technique in certain aspects of industry. In essence, RTF tells you that no amount of maintenance will refill a toothpaste tube. When it’s empty, it’s at the end of its useful life. Buy a new one so it is ready to go when the other fails.
Run to failure maintenance should not be misconstrued as unintended failure replacement (UFR) which is failure from neglect or ignorance without a plan to cope. RTF is a very deliberate strategy where the item is intended to run until it fails and owners are prepared to take remedial action instantly upon failure.
In some industries, much equipment is RTF such as the space program where satellites are beyond human reach and simply cannot be serviced.
A dishwasher that is completely functional but makes squealing noises might be deemed to have failed if it were in the kitchen of an expensive restaurant and was disturbing diners. A failed part might be replaced, but in a commercial situation it could signal a string of upcoming repairs so the entire unit might simply be swapped out to expedite operations and save money.
Knowing when to declare wholesale failure as opposed to initiating repair is part of the skill set.
There are two beneficial outcomes while using RTF. One economizes on costs while the other enhances productivity. Ideally it is a mixture of both.
RTF can save money by eliminating the impact of regular maintenance. Inspecting and cleaning all of the sprinkler heads on a farm or golf course would have a huge time impact, driving up costs. It’s much simpler to note the occasional failure and replace the whole unit. The same could be said about drop ceiling tiles; any experiencing water or other damage are simply replaced since it is impractical to repair them.
To streamline and enhance operations to improve productivity, a facility with dozens of people assembling electronics will probably have replacement parts in bulk. Soldering irons, magnifying glasses, multimeters, and so on, are too inexpensive to maintain, and too labor intensive to service.
At its worst, RTF is referred to as crisis maintenance because the status of equipment is unknown and the company faces unpredictable downtime when something breaks. Once implemented on appropriate assets, with intelligent planning for dealing with the inevitable failures, it saves time, saves money, and contributes to enhanced productivity.