Industrial Maintenance School: Is Industrial Machinery Mechanic A Good Career Path?
Do you like repairing machinery? Love the mystery of figuring out a problem and the best way to solve it? Enjoy picking through technical manuals for fun?
Are you known for your steady hands, dexterity, and coordination?
If so, a career in industrial maintenance may be for you.
What Is Industrial Maintenance?
Industrial maintenance (sometimes called industrial mechanical maintenance or industrial machinery maintenance) is just what it sounds like: the maintenance and repair of industrial machinery.
The machinery in question can be anything from conveying systems to production machinery to packaging equipment.
There are a few jobs that fall under the industrial maintenance umbrella. Machinery maintenance workers do basic, routine work on the equipment. Industrial machinery mechanics perform more serious repairs.
Finally, millwrights install, dismantle, reassemble, and move machinery. Millwrights have a longer training or career entry process, so we're going to focus on the first two job profiles. However, it's also the highest paid, so it's worth seeking more information if you're willing to spend 3 to 5 years preparing for the job.
Foundation Series Package
Covers fundamental industrial concepts like safety, math, and applied science.
Mechanical Series Package
Covers bearings, hydraulics, pneumatics, pipefitting, pumps, welding, and more.
Electrical Series Package
Covers motors, motor control, VFDs, circuit protection, transformers, and more.
Combined Cycle Series Package
Covers combined cycle power plant topics like gas turbines, HRSGs, and more.
Instrumentation and Control Series Package
Covers process measurement, PLCs, process analyzers, DCS, SCADA, and more.
Industrial Electricity and Electronics Series Package
Covers AC, DC, motors, servos, semiconductors, work practices, and more.
Building Maintenance and Management Series Package
Covers electrical, utilities, boilers, repairs, and more.
Water Treatment Series Package
Covers sedimentation, ultrafiltration, softening, reverse osmosis, EDI, and more.
What Do Machinery Maintenance Workers Do?
Industrial maintenance technicians, as they're also sometimes called, handle routine maintenance and repairs.
- Perform preventative maintenance according to the manufacturer's schedule
- Clean and lubricate machinery
- Perform basic diagnostic tests
- Troubleshoot mechanical malfunctions and breakdowns
- Complete minor repairs
- Assess whether major repairs are needed
What Do Industrial Machinery Mechanics Do?
Industrial mechanics (also called maintenance machinists) more serious diagnostics and repairs.
- Installing and programming new machinery or equipment
- Adjust and calibrate machinery to optimal specs
- Detect and correct errors before the machine or its products are damaged
- Use basic troubleshooting and/or computerized diagnostics to pinpoint the source of a problem
- Disassemble equipment for repair or parts replacement
- Test machines and run initial batches to ensure restored operation
- Perform welding or metal fabrication
What Are Industrial Mechanical Maintenance Jobs Like?
Most industrial machinery mechanics and machinery maintenance workers have a full-time schedule with regular business hours.
But since one of the upsides of automated equipment is that it can run all the time, industrial mechanics commonly work overtime and may need to be "on call" for repairs or emergencies. You may need to work night or weekend shifts.
What Skills Do You Need in Industrial Maintenance?
First of all, industrial maintenance is a physically demanding field – not only do you need physical stamina and high energy, but you also need high levels of dexterity, coordination, and hand-arm steadiness.
Another must: an interest in and talent for mechanical and technical skills. You'll learn to read blueprints and understand technical manuals, but a knack for machinery (and, increasingly, computers) will make you much better at the job.
Part of that is the ability to troubleshoot problems. Industrial machinery is enormously expensive, as are potential mistakes by machinery mechanics. At the same time, machinery downtime is also costly. Employers want mechanics and maintenance workers who can troubleshoot efficiently but accurately. Mechanical troubleshooting is a type of thinking that some are just better at than others.
One final big one: attention to detail. Of course, it's critical that you mind the details when inspecting, calibrating, or repairing equipment. But employers want industrial mechanics who can spot problems before they start costing big bucks.
Careful observation of dials, gauges, sound, vibration, movement, and product quality can be key to catching a malfunction or misalignment before it requires scrapped product or extended downtime. An industrial mechanic with excellent observational skills can catch a potential issue before anyone else knows something is wrong.
What Industries Need Industrial Mechanical Maintenance?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the top two industries for the employment of industrial mechanics and maintenance workers are manufacturing (54%) and wholesale trade (11%).
The construction sector accounts for 7% of industrial mechanical maintenance.
Any industry will need industrial mechanical maintenance if it requires heavy equipment with large capital investment and heavy maintenance costs. That includes the oil, gas, mining, electric, aviation, and automotive industries, as well.
Is Industrial Machinery A Good Career Path?
There are a lot of reasons a career path may be good or bad for you, but in general, "good" jobs need to pay well and have a future.
Industrial mechanical maintenance gets a big check for both.
Job growth, in particular, looks promising due to growing automation in manufacturing and other industries. Someone needs to keep those machines in optimal working order and make repairs as needed. This type of equipment is expensive, so economists believe there will be a continued demand for skilled mechanics and maintenance workers to protect the investment.
What is the Average Salary in Industrial Maintenance?
According to the BLS, the median annual wage is $55,490 for industrial machinery mechanics and $50,100 for machinery maintenance workers.
What is the Job Outlook for Industrial Mechanical Maintenance?
Overall, the BLS projects 19% growth between 2020 and 2030 for mechanical maintenance positions, which is much faster than average (8%).
Specifically, industrial machinery mechanics jobs will increase 21% in the next decade. Machinery maintenance jobs will have a more modest but still above-average growth of 11%.
How Many Jobs Are Available In Industrial Mechanical Maintenance?
In 2020, there were over 450,000 jobs in industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance. Over the next decade, the BLS thinks there will be 90,000 additional job openings.
How to Become an Industrial Machinery Mechanic or Maintenance Worker
The good news is that industrial maintenance jobs have a fairly rapid entry for a skilled labor career.
Do You Need a Degree for Industrial Machinery Maintenance?
Generally speaking, you only need a high school diploma or the equivalent.
Some industrial machinery mechanics complete a 2-year associate degree, which may provide a hiring advantage early on.
Industrial Maintenance Schools and Training
More often than an entire degree program, industrial mechanical maintenance professionals have a post-secondary certificate that proves their competency in essential job skills.
On-the-job training is common for industrial maintenance, provided by employers or by equipment manufacturers. Machinery maintenance workers typically receive a few months of training – a year at most. Industrial machinery mechanics require more.
These jobs need both hands-on training and theory. Topics like applied mathematics, blueprint reading, hand tool use, welding, and electronics have been staples, but computer programming and related skills are becoming increasingly necessary.
Online courses can be a great way to introduce or reinforce the "book learning" parts of industrial maintenance training. Online industrial maintenance schools offer a convenient and cost-effective option and often have packages covering core competencies in different areas.
In addition to theory and skills, industrial mechanics and maintenance personnel need to keep up with safety training requirements as well. OSHA requires regular refreshers for certain topics, and online courses can help there, as well. Most industrial mechanical maintenance workers will fall under OSHA's General Industry, but some may need Construction training instead.