What Do Maintenance Engineers Do?
Maintenance engineers oversee the installation and maintenance of heavy machinery, plant equipment, complex systems, and tools. They play an important role in ensuring critical industrial assets remain in good working order at all times. Maintenance engineers primarily work in the manufacturing, aviation, and medical industries.
Besides performing routine upkeep, the engineers are also responsible for troubleshooting onsite equipment issues when necessary. The day-to-day activities and responsibilities of the role differ by industry, but their routine maintenance tasks include:
- Performing periodic maintenance checks.
- Investigating equipment breakdowns.
- Planning plant equipment upgrades.
- Recommending machinery modifications.
- Performing electrical and mechanical repairs.
While larger organizations usually employ a designated maintenance engineer, smaller manufacturing companies are likely to combine the job responsibilities with that of a manufacturing engineer into one role.
Maintenance Engineer Skills
Maintenance engineers should possess the following skills and knowledge:
- Ability to operate heavy tools, assets, and machinery.
- Familiarity reading system schematics.
- Understanding standard operating procedures (SOPs).
- Advanced mechanical knowledge for specialized equipment.
- Understanding plumbing, heating, and electrical systems.
- Comfortable prioritizing diverse workloads.
- Proper understanding of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards.
- Knowledge of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines.
Additionally, the engineers must rely on solid interpersonal and communication skills for long-term success. Depending on the industry, these workers are likely to interact with coworkers from diverse backgrounds, disciplines, and work experiences.
Finally, individuals seeking a career in maintenance engineering should be comfortable working on-call. Unfortunately, emergency maintenance requests sometimes happen on nights and weekends.
Organizations That Need Maintenance Engineers
Large facilities with assets require complex and technical maintenance and can’t run smoothly without maintenance engineers on staff. Industrial plants, aviation organizations, and medical facilities must have these specialized workers on-call to quickly eliminate costly downtime.
The financial ramifications of unexpected equipment breakdowns can be astronomical. According to Information Technology Intelligence Consulting, every hour of downtime costs 98 percent of companies more than $100,000. Depending on the incidence, downtime can also be a safety hazard for employees, vendors, or customers.
For these reasons, the workers focus on performing proactive maintenance on an organization’s most critical pieces of equipment. These preventive maintenance tasks include conducting routine inspections and advising on lubrication, repairs, and parts replacement.
Most maintenance engineers are employed full-time, in-house. However, companies sometimes rely on specialized contractors for additional support when needed.
According to salary.com, the average annual salary in 2020 for a maintenance engineer is $71,531. However, salaries range from $63,618 to $82,763 depending on education, years of experience, certifications, and proven skills.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the demand for maintenance engineers to grow 4 percent by 2029. It also predicts that workers experienced with 3D printing in the Computer-Aided Technology sector will have superior prospects for employment. Over the coming decade, technicians are most likely to find work in the aviation industry.
Certifications and Training
Most job descriptions require a degree in an engineering discipline such as production, electrical, or mechanical engineering. However, some workers pursue an entry-level career as a maintenance technician before enrolling in an apprenticeship program or receiving a technical certification.
Unlike other types of maintenance roles, these individuals must be licensed to legally work. Precise licensing requirements vary depending on the type of work, locality, and state. A number of training and certification programs help engineers advance professionally and pursue managerial roles if desired. These include:
- Certified Reliability Engineer (CRE): Offered by the American Society for Quality (ASQ), the CRE program targets maintenance engineers who work with large complex equipment such as in manufacturing plants. This exam-based program tests applicants on their knowledge of performance evaluation principles and predictive maintenance to improve asset reliability.
- EPA 608 Certification: Maintenance workers who work with assets such as HVAC systems that can release refrigerants into the atmosphere are required by EPA to have a Section 608 Technician Certification. Individuals with this certification can look for employment in residential and commercial properties to oversee in-house maintenance teams.
Additionally, institutions such as IFP Training have training programs targeted at maintenance engineers.
How Much Money Does a Maintenance Engineer Make?
According to ZipRecruiter, a maintenance engineer earned an average of $36.38 per hour in 2020. But cities such as San Mateo, Juneau, and Boston pay higher than the national average.
How Many Hours a Week Does a Maintenance Engineer Work?
These individuals generally work between 37 to 40 hours per week. This depends on the facility where they work. But engineers who work at 24/7 facilities can be called in at any time to handle an emergency. The job may also require frequent travel to remote client locations.
What’s the Difference between a Maintenance Engineer and Maintenance Technician?
Similar to maintenance technicians, the engineers ensure that an organization’s assets remain functional. However, they also hold in-depth technical knowledge on how to optimize complex machinery. Maintenance engineers play a vital role in organizational leadership and are responsible for improving the overall reliability of company assets. While maintenance technicians perform routine maintenance on all kinds of equipment, engineers only work on pieces when installations, diagnostics, or major repairs are required.
Furthermore, as part of organizational leadership, maintenance engineers sometimes collaborate with maintenance planners, manufacturing engineers, design engineers, and other technical professionals to ensure equipment efficiency. In short, a maintenance technician rarely has the expertise needed to perform complex repairs and maintain specific equipment. Consequently, an engineer could “fill in” for a technician, but the latter could rarely do the work of the former.