Industrial Equipment Maintenance

The industrial equipment maintenance field involves installing, troubleshooting and maintaining machinery, fixing problems manually and using computerized diagnostic equipment. Read on to learn about the apprenticeship, degree and training options that can lead to employment. Get the career outlook for jobs in this field and see what they pay.

Is Industrial Equipment Maintenance Right for Me?

Career Overview

The manufacturing and processing industries use complex machinery to creates a wide range of products. Production work, such as assembling, stamping and welding, utilizes heavy equipment for specific tasks along an assembly line. Consequently, factories and processing plants have low tolerance for long periods of downtime, which affects profit margins and requires a solid maintenance plan. Maintaining heavy equipment requires highly skilled specialists trained in the maintenance, reinstallation and repair of heavy machinery. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that most people in the industry work in manufacturing (www.bls.gov).

Industrial equipment maintenance personnel apply their distinct skills to managing the inner and outer workings of heavy equipment. They attempt to prevent small problems from becoming larger concerns. The work requires knowledge of specific equipment, the ability to read technical manuals and keen observation skills to diagnose, troubleshoot and detect potential problems. You can find work in a range of industries, including automobile and plastics manufacturing, commercial production or animal processing. You can become a heavy equipment mechanic, heavy equipment repair technician, a millwright or an agricultural mechanic.

If you become an industrial equipment maintenance employee, you can expect to perform an inspection using your senses. For example, you may listen to or feel mechanical vibrations to determine the source and diagnose the problem. You would then disassemble the machinery, possibly with the assistance of a millwright, and replace the worn or broken parts. Following replacement, you would test the machine to ensure proper, safe and efficient functioning.

Career Information

The BLS reports that employment of industrial machinery mechanics is expected to grow 19% from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). The agency also projects that jobs will increase 18% for millwrights and 11% for machinery maintenance workers during that same decade. Workers with comprehensive skills in machine repair can expect the best employment prospects. Median pay also varied by career type in this field. Millwrights earned median pay of $50,030 in 2013, according to the BLS. Industrial machinery mechanics earned $47,910, and machinery maintenance workers earned $41,600. Heavy equipment mechanics, such as those who specialize in construction machinery, can expect job growth of 9% from 2012-2022, per the BLS; this occupation paid a median salary of $46,870 in 2013.

How Can I Work in Industrial Equipment Maintenance?

Education and Training

You can obtain work in the industry with a high school diploma or by completing an industrial maintenance technician education and training program. Most employers prefer candidates with a postsecondary education, such as an associate's degree in industrial maintenance technology, according to the BLS. Some candidates complete an apprenticeship program, which combines paid on-the-job training with classroom instruction.

Associate's degree programs offer coursework in mathematics, electricity and electronics, hydraulics and power transmission. You can expect to learn the operation techniques for modern production equipment. Some colleges offer areas of specialization depending on the sector you choose.

Apprenticeship programs are offered by unions, employers, through many states' departments of labor or state-sponsored employment programs. For example, the Washington State Department of Labor approves an apprenticeship program for heavy duty equipment mechanics (www.lni.wa.gov). Classroom coursework typically includes gasoline and diesel engine repair, lubrication, brake systems and welding. Apprenticeship programs usually require a specific number of hours in the classroom and on the job, which varies depending on your selected occupation and program regulations.

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