Where there’s machinery there’s maintenance. Much as we’d all like machines to carry on running forever with no problems we all know that never happens.It’s highly irritating when your washing machine breaks down or your radio packs up but if you’re the type of person who will pick up a screwdriver and give fixing it a go, you’ll probably enjoy the work of a maintenance engineer.
The role of a maintenance engineer.
In most cases, a maintenance engineer is responsible for ensuring that equipment and machinery are kept in good working order. This may involve the testing and repair of what can be quite heavy industrial equipment. Maintenance engineers are frequently to be found employed in manufacturing industries or in transportation, where work on equipment such as aircraft or heavy duty transport machinery can be a continuous process.
In most cases, the role of a maintenance engineer tends to fall either into the category of preventative maintenance or emergency repair.
Day to day activities.
Your day to day role will largely depend on the organisation you work for. You might work in a factory taking care of big plant machinery or you might work for a local authority dealing with maintenance issues in schools or council buildings.The role of a maintenance engineer covers two major areas – regular maintenance to prevent breakdowns, and repair following breakdowns.
You may also be required to create a schedule for routine maintenance, as well as communicate with managers about progress on maintenance work; the maintenance engineer may also be required to work as part of a team with other professionals on more complex jobs and projects. The day-to-day engineering tasks are likely to include:
- Fixing machinery
- Fitting new parts to machinery
- Carrying out quality inspections
- Calibrating instrumentation to ensure that it is reporting accurate figures
- Carrying out routine maintenance (cleaning, oiling, replacing worn parts)
- Organising fitters
- Diagnosing faults
- Ensuring health and safety requirements are met
Qualifications and experience.
The profession is open to both school leavers and university graduates. If you’re coming from university you’ll need a degree in a relevant engineering subject such as manufacturing, electrical, computer or mechanical. If you’re a school leaver you can study for a Higher National Diploma or join an apprenticeship scheme in engineering. Any experience you have, or work experience you can undertake, will greatly increase your chances of getting a job though this varies from employer to employer.
Graduates will likely undertake experience as part of a degree. School leavers should apply to local firms for work experience. Fact: the average maintenance engineer earns between £20,000 and £24,000 though this can increase to £40,000 with experience.
- You’ll need strong technical skills to be able to understand all the engineering requirements of the job but equally you’ll need great people, communication and business skills too.
- You’ll be responsible for managing teams, liaising with suppliers and working to budgets.
Methodical, logical and the ability to problem solve are key requirements for the role. But you also need to be able to remain calm under pressure.It helps if you’re friendly and get on well with others because you will be dealing with not only other engineers and technicians, but management and outside contractors, negotiating and persuading them.
Where you progress to ultimately depends on the industry you work in but you could specialise in one particular area, especially if the industry is highly technical.You could become a maintenance manager, enjoying a less hands on role but leading teams of maintenance engineers and overseeing the work. Gaining chartered engineer status could also help you to progress or you could move laterally into technical sales or design. Alternatively, you might prefer a role as an engineering maintenance consultant.
The types of projects that maintenance engineers work on.
Projects can vary quite widely in the field of maintenance engineering, although it is likely that a maintenance engineer will specialise in a particular area of work to some extent.
Generally speaking, most maintenance engineering work will fall into one of two categories: preventative maintenance and repair work. In preventative maintenance engineering, projects are likely to include planned equipment testing; one example of this would be the routine checking and testing of aircraft parts at an airport, while another would be the monitoring of production systems in a manufacturing plant.
On the other hand, repair work will need to be done on a short-notice basis depending on where an engineering fault or equipment breakdown has occurred. Emergency repair work may involve being on call for faults and breakdowns at a manufacturing facility, for example, or in any other location where heavy machinery is in continuous operation.
How to become a maintenance engineer.
A maintenance engineer needs to be skilled and qualified to deal with a number of different types of systems. Work may be needed on electrical, hydraulic, mechanical, pneumatic, or computerised systems, either with individual responsibility or as part of a team involving experts from other fields.
While there are still a small number of occasions when an entry level maintenance engineer might start as an apprentice and work their way up, more frequently the first step on the career ladder is a qualification such as a BTEC certificate or diploma, or a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering – known as a BEng.
During the acquisition of such qualifications it is important to gain as much practical experience as possible, because after graduation or certification employers tend to look very closely at the experience that an individual maintenance engineer has had in the field when reviewing candidates for open positions.
The salary of a maintenance engineer.
There is no single typical salary for a maintenance engineer, as this will vary according to experience, qualifications, and the field of operation of the employer. However, a starting salary for a maintenance engineer would typically be in the region of £20,000 per year – less if entering the profession as a fitter.
Maintenance engineers in senior positions can expect to earn up to £45,000 per year, or possibly higher. The average salary of a maintenance engineer is between £22,000 and £30,000 per year.