Risk-Based Maintenance Definition and Uses

Risk-based maintenance or RBM is maintenance that focuses on the most risk-sensitive systems and machinery. Risk-based maintenance isn’t the most familiar subset of maintenance, nor is it widely known outside of the maintenance field. Unlike preventative or scheduled maintenance, it’s not necessarily defined at first glance. It’s not talked about like deferred or emergency-based maintenance.

What is this type of maintenance, how does it work, and why do companies need it?

What is risk-based maintenance?

Risk-based maintenance, or RBM, is maintenance that addresses risk-sensitive systems and machinery. This type of maintenance determines the most economical way to distribute resources, in order to repair a system or minimize risk. And the results of risk-based maintenance protect employees, assets, and the company as a whole.

It can be difficult to see how exactly risk-based maintenance works, particularly for people who do not work in this specialized field. Let’s look at how RBM actually works and how that impacts the company as a whole.

How risk-based maintenance management works

Risk-based maintenance works on the principle that maintenance resources should go to the assets that carry the most risk if they fail. For example, if the company only has one full-size semi that must make weekly trips, that truck carries a lot of risk in the case of it failing.

How can a company evaluate this?

1. Collect data on machines and systems

The first step is by collecting sufficient data on your machines and systems that are currently in use. This enables you to see what precisely is being used and is going on. You can easily do this within UpKeep’s computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), which will be explored in further detail below.

2. Evaluate risks of a failure

What’s the likelihood this machine or system will break down? How often could it break down? What would make this system or asset fail? These questions all evaluate the actual risk present and lead directly into the third step of this process.

3. Evaluate the consequences of a failure

If this machine breaks down, are we set back 1 day or 2 months? Can we afford to be set back? What is the cost of breakdown time if this system fails? These are some of the questions that should be answered during the evaluation of what exactly happens if a particular system fails.

4. Rank evaluated risks and consequences

The next step in this process is ranking your evaluated risks and their consequences in some order. Which machine or system is the biggest danger when failed? Which one would have the least impact?

5. Create plans

Now you have the information you need to create a risk-based maintenance plan. The first part of this process is to create a time-based plan for inspection. Then, create a plan on how you can mitigate these risks and implement it.

6. Repeat the cycle regularly

When implementing risk-based maintenance, you need to make sure you check back in on the company’s assets every so often. Depending on your particular needs, this could be monthly, quarterly, or yearly.

The important thing to do is to make sure this cycle repeats on a regular basis.

Who needs risk-based maintenance?

Who exactly needs this process outlined above? Which companies and departments of larger companies should consider investing in risk-based maintenance? While everyone can in theory benefit from it, there are some cases that will benefit more from risk-based maintenance than others. These can be broken down into four different groups.

Those with limited (but high use) machinery

These companies generally have, as the title states, high use machinery that’s very limited. For example, if you’re an oil company that uses one machine to process oil, you need that machine at 100% uptime. Risk-based maintenance goes a long way in preventing unexpected breakdowns in your limited machinery or systems.

Those with highly expensive machinery

Does your company use a $500,000 or more machine? How about other expensive assets? You need risk-based maintenance. No matter the state of the company, highly expensive machinery requires risk-based maintenance, in order to keep it at high levels of performance. When this is not in place, it can end up costing the company thousands of dollars.

Those who have no maintenance plan in place

With no maintenance plan in place, you have very little to refer to when something goes wrong. Risk-based maintenance is one of the easier maintenance strategies to implement and requires few additional outside resources. Depending on your existing structure, it may be very simple to add a risk-based maintenance plan to your current processes.

Those who have limited resources for repair

Risk-based maintenance was meant for those with few resources to repair. Most of these systems are designed to take the least amount of time needed for the maximum amount of results. This is very helpful when companies have limited resources for maintenance and repairs.

How to set up RBM with a CMMS

Most maintenance software enable you to set up risk-based maintenance systems. A CMMS is particularly good at setting up this type of maintenance. Here are the five major steps that need to take place when you set up at RBM system with a CMMS solution.

Step 1: Collecting Data

This becomes much easier when you use a CMMS as much of the potential human error is taken out of the equation. It also simplifies the routines that your company may have had in place before as manual tasks.

Step 2: Evaluating Risk

Much less manual or semi-manual number-crunching is now needed to evaluate risk. It’s all contained in the same ecosphere where the data is gathered.

Step 3: Evaluating Systems

This step can now work in tandem with risk evaluations. Computerized systems do this very well and may even combine these two steps.

Step 4: Ranking the Risk

Step four flows right out of the first steps of a CMMS that is running a risk-based maintenance system. It may even be as simple as pulling a particular report at stated intervals.

Step 5: Creating a Plan

With much of the other steps automated either partially or fully, this process is much less time-consuming overall. That frees more time for you to focus on creating your plan for the future.

These are very similar to the steps for creating an overall RBM. That’s not a coincidence. The major differences are that a quality CMMS frees up employee time, increases accuracy, and decreases the chance of human error. This is different from many other maintenance management systems, which may focus on other aspects.

UpKeep’s CMMS puts ease of use and mobility at the start of your employees' experiences. This both reduces the learning curve and makes it easy to use long-term. Because UpKeep’s CMMS is designed with employees in mind, it makes the transition between systems much easier for all concerned.


The need for general maintenance is well understood across most industries. The need for specific subsets of maintenance is less understood. However, every single form of maintenance focuses on the same goal: protecting the company’s employees and assets.

Risk-based maintenance is no different. It offers a well-tested and low-cost process to protect the most vulnerable areas of your equipment and systems. If your company falls into one of the four areas that benefit most from risk-based maintenance, it’s worth looking into for you and your company’s future maintenance plans.

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