Five ways maintenance engineers can improve maintenance management

Maintenance engineers play a key role in ensuring a machine remains functional and coordinates with the management team. Five tips are highlighted.

By Bryan Christiansen January 30, 2023
Courtesy: Cincinnati Incorporated/Steve Rourke, CFE Media and Technology

Maintenance management highlights

  • Maintenance management helps ensure maintenance tasks are implemented and the maintenance engineer plays a key role in maintaining functionality.
  • Maintenance engineers are responsible for performing maintenance planning and understanding the context of equipment.
  • They also perform resource management, support to lifecycle engineer and help reduce carbon footprints where they can.

Maintenance is the lifeblood of any industrial plant, and maintenance engineers perform a key role in managing it. The purpose of maintenance is to maintain the upkeep of the equipment to ensure the delivery of its intended function. To ensure successful and efficient maintenance, it is vital to have a management system to plan, execute and continuously improve maintenance tasks.

Maintenance management’s acts ensure implementing maintenance tasks as they’re designed – and the maintenance engineer plays a vital role in that process. Though the trend of maintenance automation has been on a rise, the role of maintenance engineer is still important and plays a key role in maintaining the overall functionality of any machine.

The role of the maintenance engineer in maintenance management

Maintenance engineers are responsible for machine performance as much as operators are responsible for machine output. Often organizations are not clear about the true responsibility of a maintenance engineer. As a result, they set up an expectation of implementing maintenance tasks from operations staff. Though that may work in certain circumstances of emergency or breakdown maintenance, any non-maintenance staff lack a deeper understanding of the maintenance planning practices, and end up either over- or under-maintaining the equipment. Mature maintenance management would keep maintenance engineering roles separate as they entail a unique set of responsibilities and accountabilities.

Maintenance engineers perform varied functions based on the nature of the organization and the nature of the equipment they maintain. The nature of maintenance management strategies also varies from breakdown or corrective maintenance to preventive or predictive maintenance. The engineers also are responsible for planning the maintenance shutdowns with operations, arranging the necessary spare parts and tools, expertise, and putting the machine back to operation in safe working conditions. Five ways they help maintenance teams are highlighted.

1. Performs maintenance planning

Maintenance planning is a major function of maintenance management and one of the key responsibilities of maintenance engineers. This involves close coordination with reliability engineers, original equipment manufacturers (OEM), system engineers, and operations to collect relevant data sufficient to shape a maintenance strategy.

Using the data-driven approach involves leveraging computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS), analyzing asset condition assessment, performing root cause analysis (RCA) of equipment breakdowns, and using the lessons learned from industry practices. Maintenance engineers leverage these information sources as part of maintenance planning that eventually increases equipment reliability, decreases downtimes, increases equipment efficiency, and reduces the possibility of critical failure.

2. Understands context of equipment

The maintenance management regime varies according to the context in which the equipment operates. For example, the frequency of an aircraft’s routine maintenance will be drastically different from a packaging machine, as the nature of operations, regulations, and safety implications are different.

Performing a failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) study and an equipment criticality analysis is an effective way to bring context as part of maintenance planning. Another role of the maintenance engineer is to implement maintenance planning initiatives with full accountability and give the necessary feedback to improve and identify shortcomings in the recommended maintenance regime of that equipment.

3. Performs resource management

An important aspect is the use of in-house maintenance engineers and the outsourcing of maintenance to third-party companies. While both have their benefits and shortcomings, the focus should be on improving maintenance management, while being cost-effective and ultimately running safe and financially viable operations.  Experienced maintenance leadership makes such resource management decisions – as well as coming up with solutions that guarantee the effectiveness of maintenance management systems.

4. Provides support to lifecycle engineering

In addition to conducting routine tasks of corrective and preventive maintenance, maintenance engineers also provide support in managing the equipment life cycle – by providing key data for the assessment of equipment reliability, procurement, and management of replacement parts. Other ways they contribute to the optimization of life cycle value is by managing critical parts inventory and providing subject matter expertise to capital project engineers and utility engineers.

Maintenance engineers are often called upon to advise on equipment reliability and provide feedback in the development of user requirement specifications (URS) for new equipment and condition assessment of existing systems. These value-added functions ultimately help in better maintenance planning, better capital planning, and cost-effective maintenance.

They also provide an expert opinion in saving operational expenditure (OPEX), reducing man-hours, and automating operations to increase safety and decrease ergonomic related issues. Such opinions also contribute to better operational performance by reducing human interventions, reducing the need for added safety inclusions, and leading to a reduction in breakdowns. Maintenance engineers contribute towards setting optimum and cost-efficient maintenance regimes which reduce machine turn-around times and increase the availability of equipment for more output.

5. Reduces carbon footprints of assets

The environmental impact of good maintenance management cannot be ignored. Maintenance engineers provide a key service towards the green ecosystem of the community. Better maintenance leads to the reduction in equipment disposal, reduction in waste, decrease in the use of consumables, fewer rejections, and reduction in flue gases. Proper maintenance, therefore, reduces the carbon footprint of the company, and new ideas generated by maintenance engineers enable the organization to better serve its customers in a sustainable and ecologically responsible manner.

Maintenance engineers give insight, expertise

In a nutshell, maintenance engineers’ expert insight leads to better maintenance management and improved equipment performance – they have a key role in the success of maintenance management functions. The organizations that employ maintenance engineers can expect better outputs and increased safety in the operations.

Author Bio: Founder and CEO at Limble CMMS.