Companies today operate a lot of tech equipment and machinery. This is especially true in 2020 when automation and tech-first operations are commonplace. However, all those machines come with a ton of routine maintenance responsibilities. That’s where a maintenance engineer comes in.
The modern maintenance engineer is an important part of a company's technical maintenance structure. However, job descriptions are becoming more diverse and multifaceted. If you're looking to apply for this position, it pays to know the full set of maintenance engineer responsibilities.
In this article, I'll explain in detail what a maintenance engineer does in 2020, what the requirements of the job title are, and the perks that come with it.
Let's jump right in.
What is a Maintenance Engineer? [Job Overview]
Simply put, a maintenance engineer is responsible for installing, monitoring, and maintaining industrial and on-premises equipment.
They perform daily, weekly, and monthly problem-solving and maintenance work while also working on and contributing to maintenance strategies.
Also called a reliability engineer, maintenance engineering experts directly oversee the consistent upkeep of all mechanical hardware to ensure smooth running.
The 'maintenance' aspect of the job applies to several engineering disciplines, such as electrical engineering, industrial engineering, building maintenance, and project management.
Here is a brief overview of their responsibilities:
- Perform maintenance procedures on equipment and machinery
- Troubleshoot hardware on an on-call basis
- Create preventive maintenance schedules
- Assist maintenance managers in upkeep planning
- Bring down equipment maintenance costs
- Allocate tasks to various maintenance technicians
Furthermore, a maintenance engineer may have their responsibilities differ, according to their qualifications, area of expertise, and the sort of equipment they maintain.
Most maintenance engineers also function as project managers and technical staff leads.
The shift is due to the current trend of skill diversification and operation streamlining, which has allowed a single engineer to work in multiple capacities and automate certain repetitive tasks.
Primary Responsibilities of a Maintenance Engineer in 2020
Technology has diversified maintenance engineer jobs in the United States and abroad.
Today, both full-time and part-time engineers are involved in a variety of technical areas and related jobs. This adds a lot more responsibility to the standard set of tasks that an engineer is expected to perform.
However, before they get into the finer tasks, maintenance engineers of today have to implement a few essential types of maintenance.
Here are the four prime responsibilities of today's maintenance engineers.
Preventive or preventative maintenance is any monitoring and/or repair that's regularly performed to prevent malfunction and increase the overall life of the equipment.
This sort of maintenance is performed on a scheduled basis, with the schedule being set as per the requisite demands of the equipment.
To perform preventive maintenance, an engineer has to:
- Work with maintenance mechanics to develop repair schedules for equipment.
- Perform time-based maintenance according to timely repair schedules.
- Perform usage-based maintenance after a number of operation cycles.
- Create effective maintenance strategies to save company resources.
- Collaborate with various maintenance stakeholders to keep equipment functioning at a hundred percent.
Preventive maintenance falls between predictive and reactive maintenance in terms of its complexity.
As the name suggests, predictive maintenance is performed in anticipation of machine failure due to over/improper use, among other factors.
It's a common form of maintenance for modern machinery.
To perform predictive maintenance, an engineer has to:
- Implement performance tracking software and tools to discover potential areas or causes of equipment failure.
- Perform real-time monitoring to determine asset health and functioning capacity.
- Perform multiple types of observation measures such as oil/fluid analysis, vibration (haptic) analysis, and thermal imaging.
- Work with senior maintenance staff to develop more cost-effective methods of predictive maintenance.
Predictive maintenance is generally done to minimize the costs of later repairs and prevent instances of reactive maintenance.
This form of maintenance is done in response to equipment failure or at the exact end of a production cycle.
Also called run-to-failure or in some cases, emergency maintenance, reactive maintenance is often avoided as it can take a lot of resources to perform. However, some form of equipment is better suited to run until it breaks down before it is repaired.
To perform reactive maintenance, an engineer has to:
- Perform repair as and when needed to get the broken piece of equipment back into production.
- Maintain an inventory of spare parts or replacement units for all assets.
- Develop contingencies to prevent downtime in company operations due to equipment failure.
- Develop efficient maintenance procedures to improve the overall production cycle.
Reactive maintenance is considered a wasteful practice, especially with modern performance tracking tools in place. However, some applications such as domestic maintenance (home appliance, room fixture, carpentry, etc.) are better when performed reactively.
General Mechanical Maintenance
General maintenance is not performed as part of a schedule and is the least common form of maintenance in companies.
Plumbers, electricians, mechanics are prime examples of general maintenance engineers.
The more unscheduled nature of general maintenance makes it ideal for freelance engineers.
However, tech-specific IT professionals can also fall under the general maintenance umbrella, which makes them a vital part of any company's technical staff.
Soft Skills for Maintenance Engineers in 2020
Being an engineer in charge of a team of technicians requires more than just qualifications and broadly applicable skills.
Here are some of the most important soft skills for modern maintenance engineers:
- Up-To-Date Technical Knowledge: Basic technical knowledge is an obvious requirement for any engineer. However, a maintenance expert in 2020 needs to be up-to-speed on the latest tech trends and tools in the industry. In addition to that, they should adopt continued learning and skill development.
- Attention to Detail: Being responsible for expensive and vital equipment requires impeccable attention to even the smallest details of the job. This is to avoid any and all missteps or process points that may result in asset failure.
- Diverse Skill Set: A maintenance engineer who knows how to maintain relationships with vendors, as well as use enterprise asset management and work order software will be even more useful to their host company.
- Collaboration and Communication Expertise: Most field engineers are required to be in constant communication with other technical staff. Today's maintenance engineer though needs to collaborate effectively with other departments to streamline the production cycle and eliminate repair downtime.
- High-Level Problem Solving Skills: Any engineer employed by a company will be given certain types of tools to work with. They then have to utilize those tools to tackle all sorts of problems, no matter how strange or technically challenging.
In addition to these skills, an engineer in 2020 should be as software-savvy as possible within their work environment.
If they are able to implement a software system that enables the entire department to work smarter, they might move up the career ladder quicker.
Typical Qualifications of a Maintenance Engineer
Any form of engineering staff usually requires an engineering degree or vocational diploma in a specific engineering field.
The same is true for maintenance engineers.
Generally, a maintenance engineer should have the following qualifications:
- Bachelor's degree in a valid engineering field (computer, electronics, and mechanical engineering, among others)
- Advanced diploma with requisite on-site training
- A combination of an undergraduate degree and an advanced diploma
- Intra-graduate work experience with a valid certificate
Furthermore, a modern engineer should have sufficient knowledge of high-tech maintenance software and streamlined project management.
There are hundreds of online courses that detail how to function in an engineering capacity, while also acting as the point of collaboration for the entire team.
Taking a few of these courses will not just upskill a maintenance engineer, but also prepare them for new and more challenging maintenance-related tasks.
Maintenance Engineer Salary and Perks
According to Glassdoor, the average salary of a current maintenance engineer in the US is $65,480 per year.
This number can vary based on a candidate's individual qualifications and work experience, as well as the company's salary offer.
Additionally, different companies offer slightly different perks and benefits, with the basics being life, health, dental, and injury insurance proportionate with how physically demanding their job is.
How to Become an Ideal Maintenance Engineer
Technology is causing a massive shift in how technical staff operates.
Managers are trusting software to create and maintain work orders, instead of junior team members. In turn, those team members are managing tasks such as performance and lifecycle monitoring.
All of that is made possible by software systems that allow staff to focus on improving the bottom line and overall asset quality.
Needless to say, any working maintenance engineer or prospect has to consider tech-awareness as a major job requirement.
Hard skills are easy to come by, but the majority of companies are looking for skills that are only available through courses or firsthand experience in a tech-first environment.
In light of this, it pays to possess all the basic maintenance engineer skills while also having advanced knowledge of industry tech and a keen eye for new developments.