Maintenance engineers are responsible for maintaining and repairing the heavy machinery, plant equipment, tools and systems used in manufacturing, engineering and other industrial production processes.
Although your day-to-day activities and responsibilities will differ from industry to industry, your core activities will include: conducting periodic maintenance checks, planning equipment upgrades and machinery modifications, identifying faults, investigating equipment breakdowns and monitoring the performance of equipment after repairs have been carried out.
You may also be responsible for the procurement of new components for existing equipment, or replacing the entire set of machines after a prescribed period of usage is complete.
Maintenance engineers work in multi-disciplinary teams, which include plant and production personnel, manufacturing engineers, design engineers and other technical professionals, to ensure uninterrupted, efficient and quality-driven production or plant operations. In smaller organisations, the role of the maintenance engineer may be combined with that of the manufacturing engineer.
Salary & benefits
Salaries for maintenance engineers in the early stages of their career generally range between £20,000 and £30,000 per annum, while salaries for engineers with more than ten years’ experience can earn around £35,000 to £48,000.
Work schedules are planned around structured shifts in factory-based environments, though weekend and holiday period work is rare. This is because lower-level maintenance technicians are usually the ones on-call in the event of breakdowns. Indeed, senior maintenance engineers may only be called upon when serious breakdowns occur.
Maintenance engineers are primarily based on site, i.e. manufacturing plants or production facilities.
A degree in any engineering field (2:2 minimum) is the basic requirement for entry into this profession, though it should be noted that a degree in mechanical engineering, production engineering or electrical engineering may be preferred by many employers.
Alternatively, you can enter this line of work as a lower-level maintenance technician via an apprenticeship programme, or with a relevant vocational qualification.
Gaining prior work experience through vacation schemes or industrial training programmes will also be vital for improving your chances of finding employment.
Training & progression
The majority of major employers in this industry now offer graduate development schemes to help develop new talent. An important component of these programmes is helping entry-level employees to complete the necessary requirements for becoming a chartered engineer, including obtaining membership of relevant professional organisations, such as the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).
Achieving incorporated or chartered engineer status is also important for gaining recognition and initiating upward career progression.
Maintenance engineers choose to move laterally into different engineering functions such as design or technical sales. However, some may choose to take on managerial responsibilities, which may involve managing a large team of technicians and trainee engineers.