MRO Magazine

PEM’s 2009 Salary Survey: Follow the Dollars


October 16, 2009
By PEM Magazine

Welcome to PEM’s sixth annual salary survey. Once again this year, we received strong support from respondents who completed the comprehensive online questionnaire form. We continue to compare results against previous surveys. Some tables reflect multiple answers and total more than 100 percent. In other tables, categories with a low response were left out and not factored in the overall average to reinforce accuracy. PEM wants to thank the industry stakeholders who took the time to participate in this year’s survey. Your help enabled us to further build out a detailed benchmark of important industry trends, which maintenance professionals, engineers and plant operations can benefit from.

Given the economic turmoil and uncertainty since last fall, it should come as no surprise to learn that maintenance professionals and other plant workers reported lower average earnings than in 2008. This was evident in the PEM 2009 salary survey. The overall average annual pay is $80,113 compared to last year’s average of $85,776. While the overall average pay of $80,113 remains a solid income considering the economy, it’s still a loss of 6.6 percent (or $5,663 less compared to the overall average pay of $85,776 reported in 2008).
This report marks PEM’s sixth annual salary survey. From our vantage point and looking back in time, we can see a steady rise in overall average pay until our current survey results. The spike in 2008 (tapping into a different group of respondents – consisting of bigger wage earners working in larger facilities and managing more people) was the exception rather than the rule. The economy also wasn’t in recession (particularly Alberta’s oil and gas industry) for much of last year. Even with the drop off, however, the 2009 overall average pay figure still beats the 2007 salary survey by $5,182 and the first year of the survey (2004) by $15,656. This is a total of more than 24 percent.
By sifting out the hourly-rated employees, we see this year’s salaried respondents followed the pattern of the overall average pay ($80,113). Salaried employees reported average earnings of $81,628 this year. This is nearly nine percent less than in 2008, but well above salaried earnings that were reported in surveys from 2004 through 2007.
Respondents are also faced with shrinking raises. If pay raises are a useful measure of stability (or otherwise) in the workforce, note that the current survey shows the lowest-yet percentage of maintenance professionals and other plant workers who received a raise in 2008. Further, those respondents who did obtain a raise reported a lower average increase in pay than reported in any of the past surveys.
Raises were reported by 61 percent of respondents. This is down from 73 percent of respondents who received a raise in 2008, and lower than the 72 percent of reporting respondents in the first year of the survey, starting in 2004. Of those respondents who received a raise, the average amount was 2.62 percent. This compares with 3.39 percent reported in 2008 and the 2.93 percent increase noted in 2004. Again, the current survey reveals the lowest raise-percentage increase in six years.
Oddly, those respondents who didn’t receive a raise last year earned 2.2 percent more than those respondents who did enjoy an increase in pay. This is an average of $81,902 versus $80,143. If we could extrapolate a few years out, the two groups (those respondents with bigger wages, but smaller raises and those respondents with smaller wages and bigger raises), would break even.
Based on the impact of the recession (in which respondents kindly filed their survey reports), it would be no great stretch to imagine lower numbers among those respondents who expect to receive a raise in 2009. In fact, only 24.5 percent of respondents expect a raise this year. This is in contrast to 58 percent of respondents who said they anticipated raises in 2008. Those respondents who don’t expect a raise this year total 38.7 percent. Respondents unsure about a raise in 2009 made up 25.5 percent of the total group (Table 1).
Table 1: Do respondents expect a raise this year?  
Answer% of RespondentsAvg. Annual Pay
Not sure25.5%$74,961
And the more money respondents make, it seems the more they anticipate a raise. For example, those respondents who said they expect a raise this year reported average earnings of $86,983. Those respondents who don’t expect a raise in 2009 reported average earnings of $78,618. Respondents unsure about a raise this year reported average earnings of $74,961.
The aspect of earning a promotion within companies has also slid sideways for many survey respondents. This is especially true since we completed the 2008 survey. Those respondents who rated their prospects for promotion as "good" came in at a mere 17 percent. This compared with 23.8 percent of respondents last year. Respondents who rated their prospects for promotion as "fair" stood at 28.6 percent compared with 35.6 percent in 2008. Lastly, respondents who rated their prospects for promotion as "poor" made up 43.1 percent of the total group compared with 40.4 percent last year.
In an unsettled economy, are respondents concerned about being laid off? This year’s survey numbers point to that possibility. A total of 19.2 percent of respondents ($82,323) said they’re concerned about being laid off. This is up from 12.1 percent in 2008. A total of 54.7 percent of respondents ($79,087) aren’t concerned about layoffs. Last year’s figure, however, was a considerably more emphatic 69.1 percent. Those respondents ($79,660) who said they’re unsure about their continued employment made up 14.8 percent of the total group. This is down from 18.6 percent reported in the same category last year (Table 2).
Table 2: Are respondents concerned about layoffs? 
Answer% of RespondentsAvg Annual Pay
Not Sure14.8%$79,660
Now it’s time for the good news, as a positive can always be found and the latest survey is a prime example. In a big way, hourly-rated maintenance professionals and other plant workers broke the pattern of the 2009 survey. Hourly unionized and non-unionized respondents reported earnings greater than last year, or in any preceding year dating back to 2004 (the inaugural survey). All of this despite increased job losses, especially in Ontario’s manufacturing sector, and different concessions that employees have had to make due to faltering companies.
Non-unionized hourly respondents averaged $79,062 (10.2 percent greater than last year). Union-hourly respondents averaged $77,426 (one percent more than in 2008). In terms of this year’s survey, salaried employees constituted 77.7 percent of respondents. Non-union hourly employees came in at 12.9 percent, while union-hourly employees comprised 9.4 percent of the total group.
The proportion of men to women who responded to this year’s survey is practically identical to last year’s report (94.2 percent men to 5.8 percent women). Once again, men were paid on average more than women ($80,302 versus $73,829). In favour of men, this is a difference of $6,473 or eight percent. Compared with the overall average pay ($80,113), men earned 0.2 percent more and women made 7.8 percent less.
Perhaps another sign of the economic times, the number of respondents who reported earnings of $100,000 or more dropped to 20.4 percent in 2009 from 23.4 percent last year. Moving ahead, we see mixed messages from survey results when the question was asked point blank: How do you rate your overall job satisfaction? Table 3 shows those respondents who scored a satisfied 10 represented exactly the same percentage of the workforce as we saw in last year’s top ranking.In contrast, however, these respondents made substantially less money in 2009 ($76,375). This year, the 4.6 percent of respondents who earned the highest pay ($94,819) rated their job satisfaction at four out of 10. The lowest-paid ($66,750) segment of the workforce in 2009 (7.4 percent of respondents) scored their job satisfaction at six out of 10.
Table 3: Overall job satisfaction 
Level of Satisfaction% of RespondentsAvg. Annual Pay
10 – Very Satisfied6.7%$76,375
1 – Not Satisfied1.8%$78,500
The average age of respondents was 49 years, which is three years older than last year’s average. Table 4 reveals that in the age categories with the largest numbers of respondents, nobody beats the overall average pay of $80,113. Highest earnings are shown in the range of 35 to 40 years with an average pay of $85,737. The few respondents working past the conventional age of retirement (age 65) also beat the overall average pay ($80,113), though not by much at $80,600. These findings should interest companies dealing with corporate succession planning.

Table 4: Average age of maintenance workers

Age Range% of RespondentsAvg. Annual Pay
Older than 651.4%$80,600

On average, respondents said they have worked in the maintenance industry for 24.8 years. The average length of experience has risen over the six-year run of survey reports, beginning with 18.9 years of experience calculated in 2004 on up to 23.3 years in the 2008 survey. Table 5 shows that nobody with less than 20 years of job experience beat the overall average pay of $80,113. Respondents with 20 to 25 years of experience beat the overall average pay ($80,113) by $5,576. Respondents with 25 to 30 years of experience beat the overall average pay by $2,184. And those respondents with 35 to 40 years of experience made $10,396 more than average.


Table 5: Rewards for experience 
Years in the Trade% of RespondentsAvg. Annual Pay
0-5 2.8%$68,118
5-1013.5% $74,221
40 or more4.7%$64,872

Depending on the current wisdom among career specialists, it’s either progressive or stagnating to stay in the same job for the long haul. Unless you’re prepared to sign on for your entire working life, Table 6 does little toward resolving the debate. Only a small percentage of respondents (6.9 percent as shown in the table) have worked at the same job for more than 30 years. Interestingly, this group of respondents also earned $112,517 or 40 percent more than the overall average pay of $80,113.

Table 6: How long in the same job?

Years in Same Job% of RespondentsAvg. Annual Pay
30 or more years6.9%$112,517
Even if you do remain in the same job, it likely won’t resemble the one you started with all those years ago. Only a small percentage of respondents said their jobs haven’t changed in the relatively short span of the past three years (11.9 percent of all respondents). Table 7 shows the direction of change, as respondents checked off from a list of seven possibilities. Demands for higher productivity was ranked number one by 44.5 percent of respondents.
Table 7: How has the job changed? 
Change in job function over past 3 years% of Respondents
Demands for higher productivity44.5%
Technology advancements44.2%
Economic restraints40.8%
Downsizing or re-engineering of department27.3%
Increased difficulty to obtain funding22.8%
More emphasis on predictive maintenance22.3%
Job has not changed in past 3 years11.9%
Table 8 shows that the majority of respondents (35.3 percent) graduated from community college, such as the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) in Edmonton, AB. This group also earned the highest pay at $79,061. Respondents with university degrees (30 percent) had an income of $78,816. Next up were respondents  (21.4 percent) who obtained an industry certificate, such as the MMP program offered by the Plant Engineering and Maintenance Association of Canada (PEMAC). This group of respondents earned $78,598. Respondents with an engineering degree (22.3 percent) were paid $76,686.

Table 8: How the maintenance workforce is educated

Education Level% of RespondentsAvg. Annual Pay
Community college35.3%$79,061
University degree30.0%$78,816
Industry certificate, i.e. MMP prog. 21.4%$78,598
Engineering degree22.3%$76,686
Nearly half of this year’s respondents (49.2 percent) took training to upgrade their skills and it paid off. These respondents were paid $82,112 or a bit above the overall average pay ($80,113).
Respondents who didn’t take skills training (48.6 percent) were paid an average of $76,946, or 6.7 percent less than those respondents who took training. And respondents who said their employers paid for skills training (68.9 percent) received very close to the overall average pay ($80,113). This is only marginally more than respondents whose employers didn’t pay for skills upgrade courses.
Lets look specifically at maintenance professionals who are charged with maintaining both production equipment and the plant itself. A total of 78.5 percent of all respondents earned $82,227, which was slightly more than the overall average pay ($80,113). As shown in Table 9, respondents who only maintain production equipment (11.2 percent) were paid $77,439. And those respondents who only maintain the facility (10.3 percent) earned $69,892. The 2008 survey also revealed a substantial pay advantage to respondents who maintain both production equipment and facilities.

Table 9: Average annual pay by type of operation 

Type of Maintenance Operation% of RespondentsAvg. Annual Pay
Maintains production equipment & facility78.5%$82,227
Maintains production equipment only11.2%$77,439
Maintains facility only10.3%$69,892
Asked to score their maintenance efforts on a scale of one to 10, with one being the poorest outcome and 10 being outstanding results, Table 10 shows that the largest percentage of respondents (28.9 percent) scored their current efforts an eight out of 10. Likewise, this same group checked off a similar eight out of 10 future score. Furthermore, the second largest group of respondents (21.8 percent) scored current and future maintenance quality at seven out of 10. These scores (both present and expected outcomes) are an improvement over last year’s survey findings.

Table 10: How do respondents score maintenance efforts? 

% of Respondents TodayScale% of Respondents in 5 years
0.8%1 – Poor2.1%
2.5%10 – Outstanding2.9%
As another measure of performance, average equipment downtime was 2.7 days per month, which is slightly better than last year’s average, but not quite as good as in 2007. Over our six years of survey scorekeeping, equipment downtime has stuck in the range of 2.2 to 3.0 days per month. You’re not alone thinking that maintenance budgets are getting tight. As a proportion of the total plant-operating budget, maintenance fell to 16 percent in 2009. This is 4.2 percent less than last year and 4.8 percent less than was indicated in the first year of the survey (back in 2004). Asked directly how maintenance budgets have changed since last year, respondents indicated the following: decreased (27.0 percent); increased (16.2 percent); and remained the same (31.0 percent).
This year, the average plant is 336,813 square feet in size (in keeping with the majority of past survey findings) and employs 311 people. Again, the 2008 survey showed a spike in plant size. Also this year, the average maintenance department size is 37 people, which is very close to the numbers reported from 2004 to 2007. Looking back, the large size of maintenance departments further proved to be an anomaly in last year’s survey.
On the question of accountability for product quality, respondents (62.4 percent) who share accountability with maintenance and production earned the most pay at $83,835. Interestingly, respondents (18.1 percent) with no accountability for product quality reported a pay of $80,543. Lastly, respondents with full accountability for product quality (19.4 percent) earned $75,747.
This year’s survey offered a list of eight possibilities for respondents to broadly describe how they foresee the future (in five years) for their maintenance departments. Table 11 shows 21.6 percent of respondents said their maintenance department would be more influential in five years time (ranking number one). The 2008 survey indicated the same results. The bottom half of the table ranked the choices in the same order as last year, with more or less the same percentage figures, as well. Reporting on pay by job title, Table 12 looks like a squeezed-down version of last year’s table, with little change in ranking, but generally lower average pay in each category.

Table 11: The future of maintenance 

Where you will be in 5 yearsRank% of Respondents
More influential121.6%
More autonomous317.6%
More centralized416.3%
Less autonomous68.5%
Less influential77.2%
Less centralized82.2%
Table 12: Average annual pay by job title
Job Title% of RespondentsAvg. Annual Pay
Executive / administrator9.3%$96,813
Consulting engineer4.1%$92,376
Maint. manager / supervisor16.5%$90,332
Maintenance engineer4.1%$83,775
Plant manager / supervisor6.4%$82,998
Facility manager6.2%$82,277
Plant engineer6.1%$81,387
Materials handling manager1.3% $75,209 
Other 14.0% $74,792 
Maint. planner / scheduler 1.3% $73,833 
Safety manager / trainer 2.9% $73,323 
Purchasing manager 3.9% $72,095 
Electrician 3.6% $71,981 
Design engineer 5.9% $71,930 
Lead hand 1.4% $61,890 
Industrial millwright 1.8% $61,355 
Industrial mechanic 0.5% $51,791 
Assembly technician 1.1% $45,028 

Looking at geographic factors and up from fifth spot last year, Manitoba respondents hurtled into first place among the provinces, with an average pay of $97,129. Ontario, with by far the majority of respondents, dropped from second to third place. Respondents from Ontario also earned just a bit above the overall average pay ($80,113). Table 13 shows a repeat of the 2008 survey, wherein respondents from New Brunswick are behind the other provinces. They earned $66,708 (16.7 percent below the overall average pay of $80,113).

Table 13: Average annual pay by province
Province% of RespondentsAvg. Annual Pay
Nova Scotia2.8%$76,422
British Columbia9.7%$74,768
Newfoundland and Labrador1.3%$71,188
New Brunswick1.9%$66,708

This year’s survey re-grouped some industries and added others. As a result, direct comparisons with last year’s by-industry findings don’t provide new information. They pave the way, however, for next year’s survey. Of the 15 industries tracked in Table 14, only the top six beat this year’s overall average pay of $80,113. Respondents in the printing and related-support industry (2.2 percent) reported earnings, which were 15.4 percent greater than the overall average pay ($80,113). Respondents, (who make paper products that printers rely on) were paid 20 percent less than average.
Table 14: Average annual pay by industry  
Industry% of RespondentsAvg. Annual Pay
Printing and related support2.2%$92,429
Food manufacturing3.8%$88,417
Chemical manufacturing2.8%$86,744
Plastic and rubber product mfg9.4%$84,806
Wood product manufacturing6.3%$84,658
Transportation equipment5.7%$84,269
Fabrication and metal manufacturing16.7%$79,939
Furniture and related manufacturing1.3%$79,500
Miscellaneous manufacturing18.2%$75,824
Electrical equipment appliance and component mfg5.0%$75,206
Primary metal manufacturing4.7%$74,567
Computer and electronic manufacturing1.6%$69,720
Machinery manufacturing4.4%$65,214
Petroleum and coal3.1%$64,900
Paper manufacturing3.8%$64,291
The survey questionnaire presented a list of 20 job challenges, inviting respondents to check off those challenges that most affect their ability to get the job done (within bounds and venting in public). Adding up the number of votes cast for each possible challenge gave us the means to rank responses, and indicate what percent of total responses each challenge received. Because the questionnaire allowed respondents to check off any number of challenges, the "percentage of respondents" column adds up to far more than 100 percent.
This year’s top three challenges were not only ranked the same last year, but were also the same in 2007. Budget restrictions (ranked number one), however, won the top spot by a more decisive vote than it did last year: 45.8 percent compared to 39.2 percent of responses in 2008. Ranked fifth last year, management responsibilities stayed in the same spot, as shown in Table 15.
Table 15: Main job challenges 
Job ChallengesRank% of Respondents
Budget restrictions145.8%
Health and safety232.9%
Equipment downtime327.0%
Inventory management420.7%
Management responsibilities519.1%
Skills training618.2%
Energy management716.3%
Quality management815.0%
Sourcing new products and technology915.0%
Facilities management1014.7%
Labour relations1114.1%
Promoting maintenance to management1212.2%
Waste management1311.9%
Plant automation1411.3%
Inadequate plant facilities1510.3%
Engineering trends169.7%
Materials handling177.8%
Maintaining air quality187.2%
Implementing software CMMS / EAM195.3%
Promoting maintenance projects to staff204.7%
Over the next two to three years, respondents rated a list of nine facility initiatives they expect to undertake. Table 16 shows the number one initiative (implementation of new maintenance/engineering or operations strategies) retains its status as noted in last year’s survey. In a surprise jump, 27 percent of respondents made buying products and services on the Internet their second initiative of choice (up from the number seven spot last year). This year, the selection of the installation of computer-controlled plant management systems (i.e. CMMS/EAM) also dropped to number seven. In 2008, this choice placed fourth in the ranking. Budget cost-cutting measures could possibly explain the lower position.
Table 16: Facility initiatives 
Activity in the next two or three yearsRank% of Respondents
Implementation of new maintenance / engineering or operations strategies130.4%
Buying products / services on the internet227.0%
Implementation of materials handling equipment and systems322.9%
Physical plant expansion – interior or exterior419.1%
Implementation of automated robotic mfg processes and equipment517.9%
Use vendor-managed inventory at the facility614.4%
Installation of computer-controlled plant management systems – CMMS / EAM711.3%
Implementation of web-enabled operation / engineering / maintenance practices89.7%
Purchasing of a new source of energy / power97.2%
This concludes the summary of the current survey report. Watch for the final results of our 2010 survey findings next year!
Robert Robertson is PEM editor. Allen Jones is a Cambridge, ON-based freelance writer specializing in industrial surveys and trend analysis.