I read a document and quoted one sentence.

Yet even in the auto industry, the bulk of the work lies not in manufacturing but in maintenance —or its avoidance. In software, 80% or more of what we do is quaintly called “maintenance”: the act of repair. Rather than embracing the typical Western focus on producing good software, we should be thinking more like home repairmen in the building industry, or auto mechanics in the automotive field. What does Japanese management have to say about that?

Is this properly using the words "maintenance" and "repair" in the sentence?

  • 1
    Simple answer - no, “maintenance”: the act of repair is not correct as they are different things. Maintenance is something you do to avoid breakdowns or faults, and repair is something you do after the breakdown or fault has occurred. For example, if you see that the alternator drive belt on your car is getting old and worn, and replace it that is maintenance. If you wait until it breaks and then fit a new one, that is repair. Nov 28, 2014 at 6:44

2 Answers 2


I think it's a stretch to use repair here for maintenance.

Repair is fixing or mending something broken.

To restore to sound condition after damage or injury; fix.

Maintenance is the process of maintaining or preserving something in working condition.

The work of keeping something in proper condition; upkeep.

The use of avoidance, quaintly and quotes around "repair" indicate that the author knows the meaning is not in the usual context, though.


It is alluding to the use of 'maintenance' in the sofware industry as a EUPHEMISM for repair. Many years ago, fixes to buggy software were sent out titled as "patches", a fairly accurate term for fixing something that didn't hold up under actual use. Then they started calling them "maintenance releases", or sometimes "interim updates" or "security updates" or such; these are fixes sent out to tide the users over until the next official (numbered version) release. Whatever they call these interim releases, they wouldn't be sending them out if the software hadn't already failed at something it was supposed to be able to do.

The article seems to suggest that software makers should quit pretending their software as released is perfect, and rather to better capitalize on the repair end of the business, as auto dealers do. The analogy is less than perfect, as auto parts do wear out and have to be replaced. However, when software fails, nothing "wore out" or "broke"; the bug was there from the beginning, but perhaps not discovered for years, until some unforeseen scenario tripped it up ("crashed" the program, as we used to say). So software as such should never actually require "maintenance", although ancillary data such as tables might need to be "updated" to reflect new realities (tax rates, for example). However, most subsequent "versions" (aka "upgrades") of software combine adding new features with fixing (or, euphemistically, "enhancing") existing ones.

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