The pandemic that is currently pressuring the world economy has clearly shown us the essential services we can’t live without.
You might find this a strange introduction to the topic of industrial maintenance but bear with me for a second.
Have you ever seen a plant operating without a maintenance team? Even though upper management tends to undervalue maintenance work and often complains about the associated costs, they will never “shut down” the maintenance department.
This is because maintenance is an essential service. Just as society needs an operational food industry to survive, many businesses need industrial maintenance to stay operational.
With that in mind, today we will take a closer look at:
what industrial maintenance entails
what are the most common industrial maintenance jobs
what does the industrial maintenance training covers
which industries rely the most on industrial maintenance
best practices for improving industrial maintenance
Exactly what is industrial maintenance?
There isn’t a lot of mysticism here. Industrial maintenance is here to ensure that every plant asset is in a peak operating condition. This is why industrial maintenance is often used interchangeably with the term plant maintenance.
There is another component to industrial maintenance – controlling costs.
Having well-maintained assets is a crucial factor in reaching production quotas and ensuring consistent product quality. However, an organization can’t allow that maintenance costs exceed the value of the produced output alongside all other operating costs.
If you googlefull-time industrial maintenance jobs, you can find offers for dozens of different job positions. However, you should take that number with a grain of salt because many of those job positions have a lot of overlap and list similar requirements.
These positions require people who are good with their hands to follow instructions and safety procedures and are fine with occasionally working overtime. Lately, many job posts also list “basic computer skills” as a requirement since more and more businesses are adopting software solutions like CMMS.
Here’s a list of the more common industrial maintenance jobs (which in itself have a decent amount of overlap):
Industrial maintenance technician
Industrial maintenance technicians mostly focus on repairing and maintaining industrial machinery.
Their range of responsibilities or job titles can include:
Ensuring operation of machinery and mechanical equipment by completing maintenance requirements (both planned and unplanned) for mechanical, electrical, and hydraulic issues on various production and facility equipment.
Performing preventative maintenance on all facility equipment.
Completing work orders in a timely manner while maintaining high-quality standards.
Being readily available for emergency repairs in breakdown situations and potential on-call situations.
Blueprint Reading, analyzing, and interpreting technical procedures, electrical schematics, service manuals and work orders to perform required maintenance and service.
Troubleshooting mechanical breakdowns.
Industrial maintenance mechanic
Industrial maintenance mechanics work on installing, repairing, and maintaining industrial equipment which makes this position really similar to the one of a maintenance technician.
The usual duties of an industrial maintenance mechanic are:
Performing preventative maintenance on all equipment.
Performing mechanical and electrical troubleshooting and repairs.
Performing hydraulic and pneumatic troubleshooting and repairs.
Installation of new equipment.
Welding and metal fabrication of parts in need of repair.
Machine disassembly and adjustment of machine parts in control instruments.
Industrial electricians oversee the installation, repair, and maintenance of electrical systems in the industrial setting. They do the same thing as the previous two jobs we outlined, but they are focused mostly on electrical systems.
They are usually responsible for:
Installing new electrical systems.
Updating, verifying, and maintaining electrical schematics.
Troubleshooting problems with electrical equipment.
Performing repairs and maintenance on existing equipment.
Maintenance managers focus more on managing people and maintenance operations than on the equipment itself. Depending on how large is the maintenance department, the job of a maintenance manager can be split into three different job positions, with the other two being a maintenance planner and a maintenance supervisor. In smaller facilities, however, a maintenance manager will cover all of those roles.
Scheduling all maintenance-related work by coordinating their maintenance team.
Ensuring that all maintenance operations are done in accordance with company policy and OSHA guidelines.
Ensuring the facility satisfies all industry regulations.
Managing maintenance budgets.
Forecasting, ordering, and price negotiation for spare parts inventory.
Developing and implementing a (proactive) maintenance program.
Hiring subcontractors for specialized maintenance work.
Looking for new ways/tools/assets to improve productivity and cut costs.
How intensive is industrial maintenance training?
Even though this varies from industry to industry, industrial facilities are a home for many different assets. This is why a strong industrial maintenance worker needs to have a fairly broad range of skills that can include everything from electricity and hydraulics to welding and precision machining.
That being said, nobody expects them to be intimately familiar with every asset. Every bigger industrial facility will have some assets where specific repairs are performed by outside contractors whose only job is to go around the country, repairing a few specific assets in high demand. They are often quite expensive, incentivizing businesses to send their technicians to receive additional training to perform those repairs in-house.
To give you a better idea of what industrial maintenance training usually covers, here’s a short video from Madison college that showcases their industrial maintenance program:
All mechanics and technicians are bound to go through some form of an apprenticeship program. Apprenticeships are not hard to find as industrial maintenance jobs are constantly in demand. Apprenticeship programs are very important as they help trainees get familiar with the industry they are likely to operate in and give invaluable practical experience.
More managerial positions such as the one of a maintenance manager are reserved for those with a few years of experience under the belt, and their range of responsibilities is more consistent across all industries.
Industries that heavily rely on industrial maintenance
As we already described, industrial maintenance is maintenance performed on industrial equipment. Industrial equipment is a very broad term that can include everything from ball bearings and air tools, through compressors and valves, to bulldozers and cement mixers.
Going by that definition, there is a little bit of industrial maintenance everywhere. However, we can still identify industries that rely on it much more than others like:
energy industry (oil, gas, mining, electric power industry)
It is interesting to note two things these industries have in common: they all work with heavy equipment that incur big capital expenditures; maintenance costs make a large chunk of their operational budget. In simpler terms, they spend a lot of money on asset maintenance.
Industrial maintenance has to deal with a lot of moving parts, both literally and figuratively. Below you can find four actionable tips you should concentrate on to maximize the positive effects of industrial maintenance.
1) Run a proactive maintenance program
You can’t talk about effective maintenance if most of your maintenance activities revolve around fixing things that are already broken.
You need to have a proactive approach to maintenance. The best place to start is to choose one (or a combination) of the following maintenance strategies:
OSHA guidelines (Lockout-Tagout procedures, PPE, process safety management…)
Keep in mind that, while these procedures can help, they can’t compensate for a severe lack of industrial maintenance training and experience.
4) Set, measure, improve
Feeling things are going better is not the same as knowing that things are actually better. Having goals you are trying to reach is the only way to ensure continuous improvement.
To fine-tune your industrial maintenance activities, you will need to define maintenance KPIs, use CMMS to track metrics, generate reports, and make changes if the numbers show that you will not hit your maintenance goals.
Industrial maintenance professionals have the luck (or misfortune) to work in a dynamic field that is already changing due to the impacts of predictive analytics, automation, Industry 4.0, 5G, and other related technology.
That being said, industrial maintenance workers should not yet fear automation as their jobs are here to stay. While the tools they use to monitor and repair assets might change, while the assets themselves might change, we are still far from assets taking care of themselves.
For those that are looking to jump-start their maintenance efforts with a CMMS, you can use our contact form to find out how we can help you.
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