Have you ever seen a plant operating without a maintenance team? Even though upper management may complain about the costs, they will never “shut down” the maintenance department. That’s because industrial maintenance is an essential service.
With this in mind, we want to hit on all the important basics in this post:
What is industrial maintenance?
Who does the work, and what does it take to get a job in the field?
How can your team improve processes to be more efficient?
There isn’t a lot of mysticism here. Industrial maintenance ensures that every asset is in a peak operating condition. This is why industrial maintenance is often used interchangeably with the term plant maintenance.
In addition to making sure that your equipment is performing well, there is another component to industrial maintenance – controlling costs.
Maintaining your assets well is important when it comes to hitting production quotas and ensuring that your products are high quality. However, it’s important that it doesn’t cost more to maintain your equipment than you would make by selling those products.
The best way to keep maintenance costs in check while still providing quality maintenance services is to set maintenance KPIs and implement the right (mix of) maintenance strategies supported by mobile maintenance software. (More on this later).
Behind all of that, of course, is talented workers filling these essential roles.
Most common industrial maintenance jobs
If you google full-time industrial maintenance jobs, you can find dozens of different job positions. Some basic qualifications you might find with any career in the industrial maintenance field are:
Being good with your hands
Able to follow instructions and safety procedures
Willingness to occasionally work overtime
Basic computer skills to work with a work order system or CMMS
Beyond these basic skills, industrial maintenance professionals have a wide range of skills to develop. It’s a whole profession in itself. Here’s a list of typical industrial maintenance jobs.
Industrial maintenance mechanic
Industrial maintenance mechanics work on installing, repairing, and maintaining industrial equipment. This entry-level role usually only requires a high school education. You can work as an apprentice or work with skilled mechanics as an assistant as you begin your career.
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
Are you looking for a boost in your job title? It may require some additional training. Check your local colleges for programs and financial aid opportunities to grow your skills and your career.
Industrial maintenance technician
Maintenance technicians usually have more training for specific applications than maintenance mechanics. Technicians are highly specialized in certain areas. Their work is typically focused on one type of industry/equipment, making them the “expert” in solving complex issues in one particular area.
A maintenance technician’s job can include:
Performing preventative maintenance on all facility equipment
Completing work orders on time 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, and service manuals
Troubleshooting mechanical breakdowns
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 the size of the maintenance department, a maintenance manager’s job 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 following 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
Managerial positions are usually offered to those with a few years of experience under the belt. Their range of responsibilities is more consistent across all industries.
How intensive is industrial maintenance training?
Although it varies from industry to industry, industrial facilities are home to many different assets. This is why an excellent industrial maintenance worker needs to have a relatively broad range of skills, from servicing hydraulics to welding and precision machining.
That being said, you can’t be an expert in everything. Every large industrial facility will have some highly specialized assets, where you’ll hire outside contractors to perform specific repairs. Their services are in high demand but are also often quite expensive. This incentivizes businesses to send their technicians to receive additional maintenance 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:
At some point, all mechanics and technicians are bound to go through an apprenticeship program to get hands-on training. Apprenticeships are not hard to find as industrial maintenance jobs are constantly in demand. Apprenticeships help trainees get familiar with the industry they are likely to operate in and give invaluable practical experience.
Industries that heavily rely on industrial maintenance
Industrial equipment is a broad term that includes various things from ball bearings and air tools, compressors, and valves, to bulldozers and cement mixers.
Knowing this, you can notice a little bit of industrial maintenance just about 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:
Maintenance costs make a large chunk of their operational budget. In simpler terms, they spend a lot of money on asset maintenance.
Maintenance strategies used in industrial maintenance
Generally, the best approach is to apply a mix of maintenance strategies. You’ll decide which is best depending on your:
Assets (their failure modes and maintenance requirements)
Internal resources (budget, skills, access to tools and technology)
Maintenance strategies (how they work, their pros and cons, implementation costs and requirements)
Below is a quick breakdown.
1) Preventive maintenance
Preventive maintenance is the best way to avoid problems before they happen. After all, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
It’s almost always the most cost-effective approach to invest in regular maintenance than to wait for your equipment to break down. Imagine how much downtime (and money!) you could save your company by beating breakdowns to the punch.
2) Run-to-failure maintenance
Though usually not ideal, this can be OK, depending on what you’re working on. Since repairs are not planned with a run-to-failure strategy, it’s a good method to use on equipment that is not essential for operations or has a low cost.
For example, think of a $1000 belt feeder, whose lifetime value can be extended 10% by servicing it every three months. How hard are you willing to work to save $100? For a non-critical piece of machinery, the answer should be “not hard.”
Instead of following a fixed schedule, maintenance managers can rely on condition monitoring data and the P-F intervals to schedule work based on the asset’s current condition.
4) Predictive maintenance (PdM)
Predictive maintenance is one step ahead of CBM. It uses condition monitoring data and combines it with historical data on asset maintenance and performance to create predictive algorithms.
These data models are able to pinpoint when an asset is likely to fail. With that info on your disposal, optimizing your internal resources (from labor to inventory) and schedule work right when it is actually needed become WAY simpler.
Here you are relying on machine learning and artificial intelligence to build prescriptive algorithms. These algorithms not only predict failure – they offer potential solutions for the potential problems they identified.
Four best practices for improving industrial 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
As we mentioned, there’s a time and a place for most any maintenance strategy in the industrial maintenance field, but proactive maintenance is where you’ll get the most bang for your buck.
You can’t improve your results if most of your maintenance activities revolve around fixing things that are already broken. The best place to start is to choose one (or a combination) of the aforementioned proactive maintenance strategies.
2) Employ mobile maintenance software
It is nearly impossible to run an efficient maintenance department without the support of mobile CMMS like Limble.
Manage work. Remotely schedule and track all the work your technicians do without having to check on them constantly. It all lives in Limble, which you can easily access from your phone.
Manage spare parts inventory. Know when parts are removed, replaced, or running low with customized alerts.
Log asset history. Store accurate information on everything, including maintenance and repairs, user manuals, checklists and images, asset health metrics, and task and time management. Use this information to keep your industrial machinery in tip-top shape.
Collect accurate data for work requests and work orders. Instead of writing down or remembering what needs to be done, technicians can use a mobile app to see the information in real-time, document everything, and get the job done right while on location.
Generate powerful custom maintenance reports. Inform your maintenance decisions by collecting accurate, powerful data. Track how much things cost to maintain, how much time is spent in repair, and when your asset can be expected to be back online through documentation and data collection.
Customize everything. From alerts on tasks, spending, and inventory to uploading photos and step-by-step instructions for your technicians, Limble is flexible and can be customized to fit your unique use case.
Keep in mind that, while these procedures can help, they can’t compensate for lack of industrial maintenance training and experience. They should be paired together.
4) Set, measure, improve
Feeling things are going better is not the same as knowing that things are better. Setting goals is the only way to ensure continuous improvement. But if you aren’t tracking your progress on those goals, the goals won’t do much good for you.
To fine-tune your industrial maintenance activities, you need to define maintenance KPIs, use a CMMS to track metrics, generate reports, and make changes if the numbers show that you will not hit your maintenance goals.
Limble automatically tracks many maintenance KPIs like MTTR, MTBF, planned vs unplanned maintenance, maintenance costs, and asset downtime. /span>
Limble CMMS helps you track various metrics and KPIs
Simply by completing thorough work orders, Limble is putting data into easy-to-read automatic reports that you can use to improve efficiency (or brag to the people upstairs about how effective you and your team are).
Industrial maintenance news & resources
As your organization grows, you want to always keep up with best practices and the most innovative processes.
Check out these links and stay in the loop with how the game is changing; new technology, regulations, statistics, and business development strategies:
Plant Services: Customize your reading library with up-to-date industrial news, special reports, and case studies.
Manufacturing.net: Educational content focuses on aerospace, energy, automotive, and industrial operations.
Reliability FM: Professional development podcasts that feature the leading experts and innovators of the maintenance world. These podcasts offer learning from the combined knowledge of your peers and masters in the field. Find solutions to the many daily and career challenges you face as a maintenance professional.
Limble CMMS blog: We feature many great pieces on industrial maintenance and facility management at our blog. Our content team is hard at work every month and we’re not going to be humble about it.
The future of industrial maintenance
Industrial maintenance professionals have the luck (or misfortune) of working in a dynamic field that is changing quickly 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 technology and automation. Your 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. Even as systems become more automated, we’ll always need talented professionals as an integral part of the maintenance process.
Thanks for explaining that industrial electricians are in charge of installing new electrical systems and repairing and maintaining existing systems. I think that it would be smart for people working in industrial jobs to know a good electrician that could help them out if something happened. That would probably help make sure that everyone could be safer and that things could get fixed faster so you could be more efficient.
This is a very informative blog, thanks for sharing about industrial maintenance. It will help a lot; these types of content should get appreciated. I will bookmark your site; I hope to read more such informative contents in future.
"Love the fact that the product can be used on my phone, tablet, and laptop. It also has made several updates to make an even better product."
— Dave Stern
Great for smaller or larger facilities
"We haven't fully integrated Limble yet but we are already seeing improvements in our efficiency. As we fully integrate Limble we expect to see more benefits and increase our response and completion times. The customer support has been outstanding. The Limble team is very quick to respond to any questions and they are very open to suggestions."
— Mike Hill
Children's Home of Lubbock
Limble is the best thing to happen to this company
"Limble does such a good job at keeping track of what's been done and letting me know when and what I need to do next."
— Tom Jones
Little Giant Ladder Systems
A very simple and elegant CMMS system
"If you've had prior experience with CMMS systems, Limble is very intuitive. The ability to view and use the software on multiple platforms is very advantageous. I was able to become proficient and launched the system after only 2 weeks. Support from Limble is fantastic - very prompt and they work well with you to truly understand your questions."
— Robert Toth
Wow. You guys are amazing...
"Wow. You guys are amazing... your software really one-up's the competition. I've found several with some of the functionality, but much clunkier designs. I reviewed 16 CMMS packages, and yours was an easy choice. Thank you again. Well done."
— Loren Overby
I'm amazed with the functionality & customer service
"Executive summary software produces to give me a snapshot of where each contact center is at in preventative maintenance on critical building assets."
— Kris Anderson
Download our Preventative Maintenance Checklist
Take the management stress away from preventative maintenance.
Cheat-sheet to better productivity and reliability
Steps we've learned over years working with thousands of customers
Important tips to help you avoid common costly pitfalls when creating your PM plan