Bye Bye, Bubba: Shattering the Grease Monkey Maintenance Stereotype

GraphJoel Joel Leonard, self-proclaimed maintenance evangelist, asks this question of high school (and some college) students: Are you smarter than a Maintenance Technician? He elaborates, below: Looking for a job? Have you decided on your career path? Want to pursue a career that:
  • Has large growth potential?
  • Is vital to the economy?
  • Has significant compensation potential?
  • Is challenging and satisfying?
  • Will be experiencing high demand?
Have you considered becoming a maintenance technician? Future generations will be learning quickly that the over abundant supply of accountants, computer programmers, and the legal profession are driving down the wages of these functions, meanwhile skilled labor compensation continues to rise. Although more US jobs are moving offshore, maintenance technicians have numerous options available in the US. In fact many employers complain of a severe shortage of skilled talent. Mechanics, technicians hardest to find According to a 2007 Manpower survey, mechanics and technicians rank # 3 and #4 on the hardest to fill jobs list. That demand is driving up maintenance salaries. Nationwide, the average maintenance technician's salary has grown to over $56,000 per year. With overtime, many technicians earn close to six-figure salaries. Pharmaceutical companies who would love to expand are very frustrated by the educational system that does not produce the necessary number of students with appropriate skill sets or attitudes adequate to attain needed skill sets. Many complain that our society's view of the maintenance of yesterday has not caught up with realities of today, and business growth is stalled as a result. With the pending retirement of so many baby boomers, that is particularly troubling. Despite negative perceptions, maintenance technicians are no longer just "grease monkeys" performing menial tasks.  Pharmaceutical companies now need technicians to not only perform maintenance on mechanical systems, but also electrical and electronic systems, program PLCs, and manage their activities using a computerized maintenance management systemin order to adhere to FDA compliance requirements. Companies need technicians who are savvy with predictive maintenance technologies like vibration analysis, ultrasonic leak detection, and infrared thermography. These technicians need extensive communication skills to be able to convey complex technical information to other departments and create new maintenance practices to support the high technical initiatives in bio and nano technology, companies are developing to gain a competitive advantage. As companies have cut back on operators by purchasing highly sophisticated automation, these systems require more care and attention. Even if they have a net reduction of labor, they need to grow their maintenance staff to keep equipment operating at optimal levels. Poor maintenance contributed to many of the nation's biggest recent disasters including the BP Pipeline leaks in Prudhoe Bay, the loss of 15 BP workers lives at a Texas Refinery, the mass power-outage of the Northeast, the Walter Reed Hospital black mold and most recently, the salmonella outbreak in peanut butter was determined to be caused by a leaky roof and faulty water sprinkler system. The ConAgra production facility will be closed until August to perform maintenance repairs. With the importance of proper maintenance now hitting the headlines, to avoid bad publicity and potential lawsuits, more companies are beginning to work down chronic deferred maintenance backlogs and invest more into maintenance development. Therefore, these jobs will only continue to grow in importance, wages, and volume. Business and government leaders need to remember as they strive to fund bleeding edge ideas to get cutting edge results and competitive advantages in a global marketplace, that we also must polish the rusty edge of business. In other words, we can't forget to perform proper maintenance of hydraulics, electronics, electrical systems that sustain us today as we strive to develop bio and nano tech solutions for tomorrow. Today, just to keep up with all of the technological advances and changes in the economy, you have to be pretty smart to be smarter than a professional maintenance technician.
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  • <p> ISMP independently reviews and analyzes all reports, performs additional investigation when required on a confidential basis, seeks outside expert review, and informs industry and regulatory authorities as necessary, before preparing material for publication and dissemination.-<a href="">Guy Riordan</a></p>


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