Before you can have the best maintenance policies and practices, you need the right people. So, what is a maintenance worker, what do they do, and why are they the most important part of any maintenance department?
And what are the connections between collar color and roles and responsibilities inside the maintenance department?
As always, the best place to start is with definitions.
What is a maintenance worker?
On the most basic level, and speaking as broadly as possible to cover everyone, a maintenance worker is someone who works in the maintenance department and whose work is related to keeping assets and equipment up and running. From there, we can drill down into the specifics.
Although it’s not a perfect system, and it would vary between departments, it often helps to divide the people in maintenance by what they wear to work. If they’re wearing a tie, it’s more likely they spend the day at a desk, behind a computer. If they don’t, it’s likely because they’re out on the floor, working near or directly on assets, where ties are risky safety hazards.
Keep in mind, too, though, that smaller departments might not have all these positions, and in some cases, there might even be one person filling all the roles. Also, with some people, when it comes to fashion, there’s no accounting for taste.
White collar and a tie
Here at the top, there’s a maintenance direction, who’s likely in charge of setting up and tracking everything related to the budget. Closely related to how the department spends its money is why it spends it that way, and the maintenance director is in charge of that, too.
Basically, they’re setting the overall goals for the department, and then setting up the budget to make sure the team can meet them.
White collar but no tie
Next in line are the managerial positions, including:
- Maintenance manager
- Facility manager
- Maintenance supervisor
- Maintenance planner
- Maintenance scheduler
Again, not every department has every one of these positions, and a lot of the time it simply comes down to the size of the operations. In cases where a department doesn’t have, for example, a maintenance scheduler, the associated work becomes part of the maintenance planner’s responsibilities.
While the director is setting goals, the managers are creating the specific policies and practices, the workflows and tracking, that help the department achieve them. They map out what the team does, how it does it, and when.
So, they decide which maintenance strategy to use for each asset. They then develop all the standard operating procedures and best practices for proactive and reactive maintenance, and they help ensure the team does the work the right way by writing out templates for everything from instructions to checklists. They ensure the team has the parts and materials it needs by controlling inventory.
Managers are also in charge of setting up and tracking maintenance metrics and KPIs. Here, they’re looking for ways to improve existing process so the team can do more, faster, and better.
Blue collar and no tie
The maintenance technicians, maintenance mechanics, and general maintenance workers, wrench in hand and sleeves rolled up, are the ones working directly on the assets and equipment. They do close out on-demand and preventive maintenance inspections and tasks.
There are many different types of work, some requiring brute strength and perseverance, others patience and finesse.
A quick analogy helps make sense of the relationship between the three broad categories. So, the director decides what to cook and how many people they need to feed. The managers make a list of ingredients and write out the recipes, while the maintenance technicians are the ones who go into the heat of the kitchen to do all the actual cooking.
How does getting a CMMS help with maintenance workers?
The obvious advantage is that modern computerized maintenance management software makes maintenance workers much more efficient. At the top levels, maintenance managers can use the software to keep all their polices, practices, and schedules safe, secure, and accessible. Instead of trying to keep a ton of loose pieces of paper organized, they have everything in the same spot, a central database. From there, they can generate, assign, and track work orders, making sure everyone on the team has access to all the information they need.
For the maintenance technicians, a good CMMS means never having to run back to the office to grab more paperwork, allowing them to move quickly between assignments. It also means arriving at assets with all the data they need to work efficiently, including:
- Asset maintenance and repairs histories
- Step-by-step instructions
- Customizable checklists
- Associated parts and materials
- Digital images, schematics, and OEM manuals
A good CMMS even comes with interactive site maps and floor plans, so maintenance techs can stop running around in circles and get exactly where they need to be.
Those are the obvious advantages. There are some that are less obvious but, for many departments, just as important.
Attract and keep top talent
Although the pandemic has made it worse, the maintenance technician shortage has been going on for years. There are many different reasons for it, including everything from changes in demographics to shifts in cultural attitudes, but the result is that organizations have a hard time staffing their maintenance departments.
And because there are many different causes, there needs to be many different solutions. One simple solution for your department is embracing the latest developments in maintenance technologies, and that includes a CMMS. When new technicians are deciding where to work, places with less paperwork, less running around in circles, are going to be more attractive.
Safeguard tribal knowledge
Another big advantage of having a CMMS is how it makes sharing information so much easier, especially when it comes to helping new technicians pick up policies and procedures. Because work orders come packed with information, new techs don’t have to spend tons of time shadowing the more experienced members of the team. And if a question comes up when they’re working alone, they can use the app to add questions and comments directly to the work order without having to run back to the office, trying to track down help.
From the managers’ perspective, having everything inside the CMMS means they can stop worrying about their senior techs retiring and taking all their specific maintenance know-how with them.
It varies depending on the size of the department, but as a general rule, there are three main categories of maintenance workers: directors, managers, and technicians. A director establishes the overall goals for the department and sets the budget. The managers put in place the policies and practices. They also set up schedules, control inventory, and track progress using specific metrics and KPIs. Technicians are the ones who roll up their sleeves and work on the assets directly. Modern CMMS solutions make everyone’s job in the department easier. Managers get a single, dependable place for all their data, as well as a system for efficiently communicating with the techs. For the techs, a good CMMS means never having to run back to the office for more paperwork and always having the data they need to work efficiently and close out quickly.