What does a maintenance technician do?

A maintenance technician performs general maintenance on assets and is responsible for the upkeep of a facility.

Depending on the size of the organization and maintenance budget, maintenance technicians have varying degrees of responsibility. For instance, a maintenance technician for a small apartment community is a “jack of all trades,” while a maintenance technician within a world-class manufacturing plant specializes in preventive, predictive, and emergency maintenance on specific types of equipment.

Maintenance technicians have different skill levels that are specified with Roman numerals, usually I through IV. A lower numeral indicates less experience; a higher numeral indicates more experience. Each skill level has the same amount of responsibilities but, depending on the skill level, responsibilities require more or less technical aptitude and leadership.

In large organizations, a maintenance technician reports to a maintenance supervisor or manager. In smaller organizations, a maintenance technician reports to a facility or property manager.

Responsibilities

  • Performs different types of reactive and proactive maintenance
  • Disseminates site-specific knowledge to contractors
  • Performs QA on components manufactured in-house or purchased from vendors
  • Updates PMs and work orders in a CMMS
  • Works with other departments such as production support and manufacturing engineering to keep a facility and related equipment in good working order

Traits

  • Demonstrates the ability to follow a manufacturer’s specifications and schematics
  • Demonstrates effective problem solving under limited supervision
  • Understands general mechanical and electrical principles
  • Comprehends OSHA standards in regards to performing work duties
  • Prioritizes safety by demonstrating safe work practices and promoting a safe work environment

Who should hire a maintenance technician?

Any organization that manages physical capital assets—equipment, machinery, vehicles, buildings, etc—should hire a maintenance technician to ensure assets remain in good working order during the entirety of their useful life.

Without a maintenance technician, an organization must spend money on outside contractors. For simple repairs, the hourly rate of these contractors is often 10 times more than that of an in-house technician. Therefore, if an organization requires numerous repairs per day, it makes financial sense to hire a maintenance technician.

Large organizations that must avoid the side-effects of reactive maintenance (i.e. unscheduled downtime) hire multiple in-house technicians. In addition to performing emergency maintenance, each technician is responsible for performing various types of proactive maintenance on assigned assets. Contractors are only called in for specialized repairs. This can save hundreds of thousands of dollars in a given year.

What are the different types of maintenance technicians?

Plant Maintenance Technician

Monitors and maintains the operation of plant systems and equipment including balers, conveyor belts, gearboxes, electrical motors, pulleys, shafts and bearings.

Building Maintenance Technician

Inspects buildings on a daily basis and performs routine maintenance. Maintains a detailed understanding of the property and tenants. Orders and maintains an inventory of building materials and supplies.

Facilities Maintenance Technician 

Solves problems and performs basic maintenance and engineering tasks. Carries out service and small projects related to mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire systems. Performs periodic inspections of building infrastructure and equipment.

Public Works Maintenance Technician

Updates inspection log for fleet vehicle safety, efficiency, and appearance. Performs construction, maintenance, and repair activities of city streets and sidewalks. Clears city right-of-ways of trees and shrubs.

You can see examples of other types of maintenance technicians by reviewing job postings for maintenance technicians on Indeed.

What certifications are available for maintenance technicians?

Hiring a technician with a recent certification, and requiring existing employees to get certified, helps you hire strong talent and strengthens your existing maintenance team. Today, there are different certifications available for different types of technicians and organizations.

Certified Maintenance & Reliability Technician (CMRT)

This certification is offered by The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals. It assesses the knowledge and skills of those responsible for preventive, predictive, and corrective maintenance.

Certificate for Apartment Maintenance Technicians

This certification is offered by the National Apartment Association and accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). It assesses a technician’s ability to perform electrical and mechanical maintenance while delighting tenants.

The International Maintenance Institute (IMI) also offers a variety of training and certifications for maintenance technicians.

How can a maintenance technician improve reliability?

A maintenance technician can play a big role in helping a company improve reliability. In small organizations, a maintenance technician may have some managerial responsibilities to help implement reliability practices. In large organizations, maintenance technicians can contribute to reliability by ensuring that they provide accurate and complete data and use the CMMS appropriately and effectively.

Understand the root cause of equipment failures

Since maintenance technicians are on the front lines, they can often have a better understanding of the root causes of failures, as well as valuable insights on the time and effort required for repair and maintenance. By providing this data in a usable format that can be analyzed, maintenance technicians can help the management team make smarter business decisions.

Guide selection of precision tools

Maintenance technicians are also an excellent position to help justify the use of precision tools. In many organizations, the role that these tools play in minimizing the amount of maintenance required is often underestimated. Maintenance technicians who can accurately use these tools and illustrate how they contribute to fewer repairs or breakdowns will be able to justify the company’s investment in them.

Consistent preventive maintenance

Other key areas that can improve overall reliability include recognizing and relieving pipe stress and closing in securing electrical and instrument panels, which can often accumulate dust and moisture. Electrical motors should be routinely cleaned to improve their overall reliability. Improper lubrication also contributes to a significant number of failures within an organization. It’s important that maintenance technicians are properly trained and educated about the lubrication process.

Update and organize drawings for critical equipment

Maintenance technicians should also look for opportunities to organize and update drawings and schematics on critical equipment. If you see that an update is not made, it’s important to make the suggestion and send it back through your organization’s channels for approval. An updated drawing will always help future restoration and repair projects on that piece of critical equipment be executed more smoothly.

Update records of maintenance histories

The ability to record maintenance history including all the pertinent details is critical to improving reliability. Maintenance technicians should not only understand how to perform all the hands-on tasks, but they should also understand how to record them in a way that’s helpful to the organization long-term. This may include information such as the location and asset identification, the potential causes of failure, the length of the repair, and the necessary parts and their availability.

Secure foundations for major equipment

Finally, a technician can significantly improve reliability if rotating equipment has solid and secure foundations. Equipment such as fans, pumps, and blowers should be securely attached to a foundation that’s 3 to 6 times the mass of the equipment. It’s also important to repair or replace severely cracked or damaged foundations as well as repair equipment that is out of alignment.

What does a maintenance technician do each day? 

Although maintenance technicians may do different things on a daily basis depending on their company, market, or industry, some things may remain constant during an average day.

Reviewing daily work orders

Most maintenance technicians probably start the day by reviewing scheduled or planned work orders. Ideally, a daily schedule was created by the CMMS and a competent maintenance supervisor earlier in the week. The work orders for the day should be clear, prioritized, and scheduled in an efficient manner to minimize travel and planning time.

Prioritize workload

When maintenance technicians arrive at their first job, the equipment or asset should be available, cooled down, and ready for maintenance or repair. Ideally, parts, tools, and clear instructions were gathered and reviewed prior to arrival.

Technicians should carefully follow the detailed specifications and procedures as well as complete any maintenance checklists. If they notice additional work is required or problems with a particular asset, they should note those items in the work order and take any needed pictures.

Document any work performed

Once the work is completed, technicians should document what was completed, note any additional work required, mention questions or concerns, and order new parts as needed. Before closing the work order, technicians should document failure codes and causes as well as the time required to finish the work.

Maintain constant awareness

As maintenance technicians move from one job to the next, it’s important that they are proactive and aware. Since technicians are on the front line, they can be the first ones to notice problems or other required maintenance that has not yet been requested. If technicians have a method to communicate that information as well as those concerns to the scheduler or manager, the entire maintenance department will work more efficiently and effectively in the long run.

Make updates as changes occur

At the end of the day, it’s important for the maintenance technician to update the scheduled work for the day and note any discrepancies. For example, if an emergency project was scheduled in the middle of the day, perhaps other preventive maintenance tasks were not completed. Uncompleted jobs should be reported back to the planners so they can be rescheduled. In addition, if the schedule is available for the next day, technicians should look over at planned work and repair as well as gather any needed tools, instructions, or parts in anticipation.

What are common interview questions for a maintenance technician position?

Whether you are applying for a maintenance technician position or are hiring for one, it’s a good idea to think through interview questions prior to the conversation.

Practice your answers in advance

Start with basic getting-to-know-you questions such as background, experience, education, and interest. Ideally, by the time an interview occurs, a resume and initial conversation should show a reasonably good fit.

Show your enthusiasm for the role

If you’re looking for a new maintenance technician position, it’s important to show your interest and enthusiasm as well as your ability to perform the job. Even if you cannot initially manage all aspects of the job description, make it clear that you want to learn and grow in your position and are excited about the opportunity to do so.

Align your experiences with words in the job description

If you’re hiring a maintenance technician, be sure you have your basic requirements met. However, it can be more important in the long term to find an enthusiastic, responsible individual who’s interested in investing in continuous improvement and education. Basic skills such as clear thinking, a desire to learn, and good communication can go a long way in developing job-specific or technical skills.

Common interview questions

Here are some interview questions you may want to consider asking or preparing for:

Describe a difficult maintenance task and how you completed it.

If you’re hiring for a position, you’ll want to listen for the applicant’s attitude about the difficult job, the thought process in completing it, and the openness to seeking help for additional information. If you’re applying for a job, you want to focus on the same areas. For example, be humble enough to admit that some tasks are difficult and require assistance or additional research, but also show how you problem-solve and think outside the box.

Tell me about the time when you faced conflict with a colleague or supervisor.

If you are interviewing the candidate, you’ll be looking again for clues regarding attitude. Conflicts are bound to happen, and you want to hire individuals who are willing to work through them calmly and in a reasonable manner. If you’re the job seeker, be sure to explain the role you played in the conflict and minimize any blaming or accusatory language. Remember it always takes two to have conflict, and you only have control over your own actions and attitude.

What is your favorite part about being a maintenance technician?

As the employer, you’d like to find individuals who are enthusiastic about their career choice and those who enjoy their work. With a question such as this, you should be able to gauge whether the applicant is simply looking for a job or whether there is a true interest in the work. If you’re an applicant, describe how you got into the field and what you enjoy most about the work. Be genuine and enthusiastic.

Overall, it’s important that your core values align with the mission of the company you are applying to work. With mutual agreement around roles and expectations, both you and the business will grow alongside one another as you launch your career as a maintenance technician.