MRO Magazine

The Role of the Maintenance Manager 

Any plant has the potential to have a successful maintenance department, the payoff is an engaged maintenance team providing focused equipment care and customer service to the production department with a result of sustainable equipment reliability.

October 11, 2022 | By Peter Phillips

Photo: X-reflexnaja/Getty

Photo: X-reflexnaja/Getty

Over the past few MRO issues, I’ve written about the role and responsibilities of each member of the maintenance team. This installment focuses on the maintenance manager and how they influence the success of the maintenance department, their improvement goals, and the performance of maintenance staff.

The maintenance manager has many responsibilities; however, they have two primary responsibilities to their maintenance team:
-Lead their team to achieve and sustain maintenance initiatives that will improve equipment reliability.
-High quality service to the production department.

A major problem many maintenance managers face is explaining the added value of maintenance activities to upper management. According to conducted research, more than 60 per cent of top managers still look at maintenance strictly as a cost centre and necessary evil.

This is a problem since it is the direct cause of why many maintenance managers work with a tight budget and compromise on the overall quality of the work their department can deliver. A strong maintenance management team that doesn’t have to compromise can bring competitive advantages to the company by ensuring high asset uptime and utilization, keeping a good brand image, and preventing and eliminating technical difficulties that can have a negative impact on the productivity of their facility.


When looking at equipment uptime and reliability, many factors play a role for the maintenance manager to consider including basic maintenance fundamentals and new technical advances for the maintenance team
and equipment.

Many maintenance departments lack the basic maintenance fundamentals that are the core of maintaining equipment. Without these fundamentals, maintenance technicians will struggle to complete their maintenance activities successfully and with a high degree of quality.

There are two elements that make up the basic maintenance fundamentals; the quality of maintenance being performed, and the experience and knowledge of the maintenance staff.

To address these two elements the maintenance manager needs to evaluate the maintenance activities their team performs and assess the skills, knowledge, and attitudes (SK&A) of the team members. Very often these two factors need to be improved, which will help the team deliver better maintenance and build the confidence of the technician.
The maintenance team delivers an array of services. One of the key deliverables of the basic fundamentals is the preventive maintenance (PM) program. Very often the PM program has not been reviewed and evaluated on a regular basis and PM routines are outdated, and maintenance documents are poorly written and inaccurate.

The structure of preventive maintenance has changed over the past few years, now the historical time-based PM program has been split into other categories. Time based inspections, time-based replacement (TBR), condition-based monitoring (CBM) and run-to-failure have replaced traditional maintenance programs. To implement these new systems, it may be necessary for the maintenance manager to get an internal or external specialist to help setup the new categories and train maintenance planners how the build a new PM program.

Secondly, when it comes to the technician’s knowledge and experience, the maintenance manager needs to assess everyone’s SK&A and provide them with a roadmap to improve their performance. Providing training and hands-on experience builds the skills of each team member and their overall contribution to the team. It is the responsibility of the maintenance manager to help assess each member and to build a training plan for them. The manager may find it beneficial to seek external services, so assessments are fair and unbiased. Even the most seasoned maintenance person can benefit from training, especially with new technology and advanced methods of inspection and repair.

The maintenance manager also needs to look at the new technical advances for the maintenance program, such as TBR and CBM.

TBR of equipment parts sounds somewhat simple, “change out the part at a set time before it fails.” However, determining when the part was changed last and why it failed can be difficult. Often historical equipment records are not available, therefore the normal procedure to start this TBR program is to refurbish the equipment and restore it to as close to new condition as possible. Then maintenance teams need to determine when the part will fail and calculate when it needs to be replaced to prevent a failure. Lastly, a schedule for replacement needs to be setup in the maintenance program (CMMS).

Along with TBR, the equipment will also need new schedules for time-based inspection and intermittent CBM. Depending on the size of the facility and number of pieces of equipment it will take a significant investment of time to setup the new PM program. The cost of equipment refurbishment will be substantial, and the maintenance manager will need to include the added cost in their maintenance budget.

CBM has been in use since the 1930s. Advancements in technology now provide continuous monitoring with real-time feedback and analysis of equipment health. The price of CBM components and software have fallen sharply the last few years, making the cost more palatable to the maintenance budget. Statistics indicate that continuous equipment monitoring that provides advanced warning of equipment component failure out weights the cost of sensor hardware, implementation, and yearly service contracts. Yet another activity the manager needs to facilitate and budget.

On top of their other responsibilities, maintenance staff expect to see the manager in the maintenance shop and out on the production floor during maintenance. They want the maintenance managers guiding leadership and helping when navigating through occasional rough waters. They want regular updates on the team’s performance, and want the manager to set team goals and keep them focused.

Any plant has the potential to have a successful maintenance department. Leadership and maintenance commitment from the top down provides the direction the maintenance staff expect. Maintenance managers and every person on the team needs to be held accountable to their roles and responsibilities. The payoff is an engaged maintenance team providing focused equipment care and customer service to the production department with a result of sustainable equipment reliability.
Peter Phillips is the owner of Trailwalk Holdings Ltd., a Nova Scotia-based maintenance consulting and training company. Peter has over 40 years of industrial maintenance experience. He travels throughout North America working with maintenance departments and speaking at conferences. Reach him at 902-798-3601 or


Stories continue below

Print this page