Being a good maintenance technician often asks for a specific set of technical skills, as well as having the ability to work well within a team.
Defining a complete list of duties and responsibilities maintenance techs hold is not an easy task as those factors vary depending on the industry and the organization they operate in.
Nonetheless, we will do our best to provide a comprehensive overview of all things you need to know if you want to become a maintenance technician – or look to hire one to expand your maintenance department.
What does a maintenance technician do?
A maintenance technician’s job is to repair and maintain the facility they work in, as well as most of the assets found there.
In theory, maintenance technicians are responsible for general maintenance tasks that do not require specialized training. Part of their job is to recognize when the task is above their skill level and should be handled by an electrician/plumber/refrigeration mechanic, etc.
In practice, many maintenance departments will look to hire people that have some background in those areas so they can handle most of the issues in-house (as outsourcing can be very expensive).
Here are some general tasks and responsibilities maintenance technicians have, no matter where they work:
handling assigned work orders and PMs (inspections, oil changes, meter readings…)
evaluating, repairing and maintaining plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems in the building
receiving and responding to tenant reports of mechanical or maintenance issues on their premises
maintaining the fire, carbon monoxide, smoke, and other safety systems within the structure
3) Fleet maintenance technician
Fleet maintenance technicians, as the name suggests, have a more specialized list of responsibilities:
servicing, diagnosing, and repairing all fleet vehicles
performing preventive maintenance on all fleet vehicles
general maintenance of their transit facility (repair shop and all stored equipment like pumps and vehicle lifts) and its surroundings
These are not exhaustive lists, but they do show the similarities and differences between different types of maintenance technicians.
If you’re looking for a job in the maintenance space, you will find that there are many similar positions advertised that have a lot of overlap in terms of required skills and responsibilities. Some of these positions are maintenance mechanics and industrial electricians. Depending on how much specialized work there is for them at any given day, mechanics and electricians can often be seen performing general maintenance work.
Skills you need to be a good maintenance technician
To be able to fulfill all of the responsibilities mentioned above, maintenance technicians need to possess a wide variety of skills and traits. Let’s briefly touch upon the most common ones.
#1) Problem-solving skills
To reach predefined production numbers, maintenance technicians are often required to finish their assignments as soon as possible. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about unplanned breakdowns or scheduled downtimes.
While maintenance checklists can help to streamline some maintenance processes and repairs, there will be plenty of situations that don’t match any template. A technician will have to be able to inspect the breakdown, check maintenance history, talk with machine operators, and take all of this information into account to correctly diagnose the cause of failure and perform needed corrective actions.
#2) Broad technical knowledge
Maintenance technicians are often expected to be the jack-of-all-trades as their tasks require them to know a little bit of everything. One day they need to replace faulty electrical switches and another day they get a task that requires basic welding skills.
On top of that, and this is something that industrial maintenance technicians are familiar with, any technician that wants to become a strong addition to their maintenance team needs to put in extra effort to learn insides and outs of all of the machines on the plant floor.
A maintenance tech that has a broad technical knowledge will pick things up faster and won’t have to be watched over that much in their early days.
#3) Attention to detail
When you’re dealing with technical issues on a daily basis, having a methodical approach and the ability to focus on minor details is extremely beneficial. Wires connected in reversed position, a small piece of production material dislodged in the wrong place, a part connected in a wrong orientation, a few screws that were not tightened properly – those are all small issues that can lead to big problems.
A technician with great attention to detail does not only benefit the company’s bottom line but also creates a safer working environment for themselves and all of their coworkers.
#4) Physical ability
A maintenance technician can’t be someone who is hesitant to get their hands dirty. This job position requires someone that is able to work in awkward positions (being bent over for example), that can carry heavy things from time to time, spend the whole shift standing, repeatedly climb and walk down the stairs, and so on.
Being able to stay concentrated during night shifts and overtime work is also not easy when someone is in poor physical shape.
It goes without saying that being good with your hands and having steady hands is a big plus (they won’t be defusing bombs, but will definitely feel like that a few times throughout their career).
What this means is that maintenance technicians need to know how to use a mobile phone to read work orders, track work notifications, log performed maintenance work, etc. That being said, the responsibility of the CMMS provider is to ensure that their software is easy to use in the first place.
Patience and people skills are not something you will often find on the list for technical job positions, but that doesn’t make them any less important.
Finding the root cause of a certain breakdown is not always going to be easy. Dealing with constant interruptions in a reactive environment can be very annoying. Improvised solutions that are the result of not having the proper tools or parts often won’t work on the first try.
It is much easier to deal with these kinds of problems if patience is one’s strong suit.
Additionally, patience is a characteristic that will also help in dealing with machine operators and people from other departments that send in a work request and have unrealistic expectations.
How much money does a maintenance technician make?
A maintenance technician salary depends on:
the industry they work for
the size of the organization they work for
years of experience under their belt
We did a little bit of research and it seems that entry-level positions at smaller organizations start at around $30k/year, while experienced technicians at top companies can earn upwards of $70k/year. Translated into hourly pay, the range is roughly between $15 and $22 per hour.
You’re probably more interested in the average yearly salary. Here is what the aggregated values from big job platforms say for the US market:
Payscale says that the yearly average maintenance technician salary is $45k with an additional $2.5k paid in bonuses and commissions.
Salary.com suggests that the average Installation and maintenance technician salary is just over $53k/year.
Indeed says that the average salary is around $42k/year with an additional $7k earned by working overtime.
Glassdoor puts the average base pay at $40k/year plus $1.5k earned as additional compensation.
How the current pandemic will impact this corner of the job market remains to be seen. Employers should definitely be on the lookout for new ways of attracting qualified workforce to combat the aging workforce and prevent labor shortage.
Maintenance technicians are the foundation of every maintenance department
An organization can have expensive machines, perfect inventory control, and superb maintenance plans and schedules, but if maintenance technicians are doing a consistently poor job, none of that is going to matter.
Proper training and onboarding practices supported with an easy-to-use CMMS will go a long way to ensure that the maintenance work is finished on time and follows the industry’s best practices.