Maintenance is an important aspect of every manufacturing and production plant. To ensure that plants work smoothly for a longer duration, maintenance must be performed periodically. Maintenance requirements and frequency are usually mentioned in each equipment operating manual. In this article, we will learn about the concept of maintenance engineering and what maintenance engineers do in a plant.
What is Maintenance Engineering?
Maintenance Engineering is the discipline and profession that applies engineering concepts to optimize equipment, processes, and departmental budgets to improve equipment serviceability, reliability, and availability. This must be done in conjunction with optimizing operational procedures and budgets to achieve and maintain the highest levels of reliability and profitability. The onslaught of high-tech machinery, diverse infrastructures, and systems, and complex computer-aided manufacturing and production systems in recent decades have elevated these jobs to new levels of responsibility and skill demands. Maintenance technicians often require knowledge of many types of equipment and machines.
Due to the increasing number of devices, systems, machines, and infrastructure, maintenance and maintenance techniques are also becoming more and more important. Since the Industrial Revolution, devices, equipment, machines, and structures have become increasingly complex, requiring a wide variety of people, professions, and associated systems to maintain them. The purpose of maintenance is to ensure that the unit functions reliably with minimum cost and maximum uptime. A person who practices maintenance techniques is called a maintenance engineer.
Maintenance Engineers oversee the installation and maintenance of heavy equipment, equipment, complex systems, and tools. They play a vital role in ensuring that critical industrial assets are in good working order at all times. Maintenance engineers work primarily in the manufacturing, aerospace, and medical industries.
Roles and Responsibilities of a Maintenance Engineer
Persons working in this field must have a working knowledge or experience in basic equipment operation, logistics, probability, and statistics. Experience in operating and maintaining company-specific machinery is often also required. Excellent interpersonal communication and participatory management skills are also required as this position typically requires verbal and written communication with staff at various levels.
In addition to routine maintenance, maintenance engineers will also troubleshoot equipment issues on-site as needed. The day-to-day activities and responsibilities vary by industry, but the major maintenance duties include:
- Perform Periodic Maintenance Checks
- Equipment failure investigation
- Plant upgradation plan
- Recommend machine modification
- Carrying out electrical and mechanical repairs
- Ensuring the optimization of maintenance organizational structure
- Analyzing Repeated Device Failures
- Estimating maintenance costs and evaluating alternatives
- Spare parts forecast
- Evaluate the need for equipment replacement and create a replacement program when the time comes
- Applying planning and project management principles to alternative programs
- Evaluate the maintenance tools and skills needed to effectively maintain equipment
- Evaluation of skills required for maintenance personnel
- Verification of personnel transfers to maintenance agencies
- Assessing and Reporting Safety Risks Associated with Service Equipment
Larger organizations have their dedicated maintenance engineers but smaller companies combine the job responsibilities of a maintenance engineer with that of a manufacturing or operation engineer.
Types of Maintenance Engineering
Depending on the route taken and specific job responsibilities of plant maintenance, there are three types of maintenance engineering. They are
- Mechanical Maintenance
- Electrical Maintenance, and
- Facilities Maintenance
Mechanical maintenance mainly maintains and repairs the mechanical equipment. This usually includes belts, pulleys, chains, bearings, motors and gears, valves, pumps, fans, tanks and vessels, pneumatic cylinders/pistons, machine tools, lead screws, shafts, linear rails, etc. Mechanical maintenance also includes welding and manufacturing work, depending on the type of repair work and the industry in which it is performed.
Common responsibilities of a mechanical maintenance engineer include activities such as cleaning and lubricating linear rails/ lead screws, applying oils/ greases/ lubricants to bearings and moving machine parts, condition monitoring of moving parts and linkages, vibration monitoring, checking the correct operation of valves and switches, inspecting belts, pulleys, and seals for leaks.
Electrically biased maintenance engineering encompasses fault diagnosis, repair, and servicing of the electrical components of the equipment/ machine. This can include contactors, relays, PLCs, solenoids, motors, fans, encoders, PCBs, I/O cards, power supplies, varying types of sensors, switches, transformers, DC brakes, and thermocouples.
Usual works of an electrical maintenance engineer involve checking for loose connections, signs of arcing or overheating, checking signs of moisture or corrosion, checking insulation values, testing inputs and outputs, comparing current draw with the expected values, testing insulation resistance, and checking the functionality of switches/ breakers/ contactors.
Facilities maintenance deals with building structures and related facilities. This includes fixed electrical installations, data networks, and all HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) equipment, as well as general building repairs such as floor/wall/door repairs, plumbing systems such as drains, fitting shelves, tiling, timber work, plasterboard fixing, decorating maintenance of fire alarms and security alarm systems.
Even though the above maintenance engineering types are specific and have designated roles, in most organizations the roles overlap.
Maintenance Engineer Skills
In general, maintenance engineers should possess the following skills and knowledge.
- Ability to operate heavy tools, assets, and machinery
- Familiarity with reading system schematics
- Understand standard operating procedures (SOPs)
- Advanced mechanical knowledge for special equipment
- Understanding plumbing, heating, and electrical installations
- Convenient prioritization of different workloads
- Understand Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards
- Knowledge of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines.
- Additionally, engineers must have solid interpersonal and communication skills to be successful in the long term. Depending on the industry, these employees may interact with colleagues from different backgrounds, areas of expertise, and work experience.
- Finally, individuals pursuing a career in maintenance engineering should be able to work on-call. Unfortunately, urgent maintenance requests can occur at night or on weekends.
Maintenance Engineering Salary
The salary of maintenance engineers varies depending on their experience and work location. On average, a maintenance engineer earns between $15 to $40 per hour. The maintenance engineering salary for countries in Asia is in the range of $10 to $25 per hour, whereas the maintenance engineers in the USA or Europe earn $25 to $40 per hour. In general, maintenance engineers work around 40 hours a week.
Based on proven skills, education, and certifications the average salary of a maintenance engineer with 10 years of experience ranges from $30,000 to $70,000 per year.
Jobs in Maintenance Engineering
There is a huge demand for jobs in maintenance engineering worldwide. Maintenance engineers are required for a variety of sectors. Jobs for maintenance engineers are mostly full-time. However, this could be on a part-time basis during the peak requirements of any plant. The major contributors to maintenance engineering jobs are:
- Oil and Gas Industries
- Chemical and Petrochemical plant
- Manufacturing plants
- Power generation plants
- Fertilizer plants
- Food Industries
- Aviation Industry
- Mining Industry
Maintenance Engineering Courses
Attending maintenance engineering courses is one of the best options to acquire the knowledge required for becoming a maintenance engineer. Various maintenance engineering courses are available worldwide to help engineers turn into maintenance engineers. Some of the most popular courses that usually students undertake are listed below:
- Certified Reliability Engineer (CRE) by the American Society for Quality (ASQ).
- IFP Training
- EPA 608 certification
- Certified Maintenance Engineer (CME)
Listed below are some of the online courses available to learn the basics of maintenance engineering.
- Reliability and Maintenance Engineering – FMEA
- Maintenance engineering optimization – Build the foundations
- An Introduction to Reliability Engineering