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Maintenance engineers ensure that equipment and machinery operate effectively and work to support the daily operations of their facilities. They work in a variety of settings such as hospitals, hotels, aircraft hangers, chemical companies, production plants, or food companies. Some work strictly indoors while others work mostly outdoors or in a mixture of both. It is not uncommon for maintenance engineers to be exposed to loud noises, electrical circuits, moving parts, or hazardous chemicals.
Opportunities exist for maintenance engineers in public works for local or state government. These positions often require an understanding of state and federal regulations. A public works maintenance engineer often repairs bridges, roads, and transportation management systems such as traffic lights. They may also work with outside vendors and installation contractors or with emergency response systems, such as fire, police, or ambulance services.
Regardless of their location, maintenance engineers provide both preventative and emergency maintenance. The typical duties of a maintenance engineer can include scheduling routine service, distributing work orders to a team of technicians, calibrating instruments, performing quality control inspections, and responding to equipment failures. They must also communicate with managers or supervisors and their team members about work progress, delays in project completion, and other issues that might arise. Their job duties require them to be responsible for their own safety as well as the safety of others.
Maintenance engineers often have advanced technical skills and enjoy working with their hands. They are also likely to be good with mathematics and science—especially the physical sciences and, possibly, chemistry—depending on their location and work environment. Maintenance engineers tend to be able to work quickly under pressure and possess above-average problem solving skills.
The maintenance engineer career path is similar in most industrialized countries. Differing terminology exists in the United States and the United Kingdom but the requirements are very similar. Individuals who wish to become a maintenance engineer often enter an apprenticeship where they work as a technician under a more experienced, senior-level maintenance engineer.
Vocational training is offered and encouraged in most countries and can often be completed during the apprenticeship. Certificate and diploma programs are available in a variety of areas such as service and maintenance, computer applications, food technology, and air conditioning and refrigeration. Individuals who wish to enter management or become a senior level maintenance engineer might consider an advanced degree. Concentrations include chemical engineering, which often focuses on polymer technology; computer science and engineering; electronics and communications; food technology; and principles of manufacturing.
I used to work as a maintenance engineer at a factory that made tires. Mostly I just kept the place clean and carried out any routine maintenance that needed done. I would do some light painting, repair windows, fix areas of the pavement, watch out for the furnace, that kind of stuff.
I never worked on any of the factory machinery or even had much to do with that side of the business at all. Eventually the factory closed and I was out of a job. But I liked it while it lasted. Its good work if you can find it.
The term maintenance engineer really covers a lot of ground. In some cases these guys will do little more than mop floors and change light bulbs. In other cases they will repair complicated machinery and supervise sprawling facilities.
Every job is different. Anyone thinking of getting into this line of work should honestly assess their skills before they start seeking out work. If you say you can fix something that you really can't you're just causing trouble for yourself and your employer.
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