The Duties and Roles of a Modern Plant Engineer or Maintenance Engineer in World Class Industrial Operations

The role of a modern Plant Engineer and Maintenance Engineer needs professional engineering knowledge and skills to do the job really well. To do the maintenance engineering role brilliantly you need to be part scientist, part mathematician, part detective, part leader and always positive.


Hi Mike,

I will be gratefully to know about the duties of a maintenance engineer in industry. Especially for electrical and instrumentation.



Hello Friend,

First I will discuss the role and job coverage of a Maintenance Engineer, then I will look at specifics for an Electrical and Instrumentation Maintenance Engineer.

The role of Maintenance Engineer, also called a Plant Engineer, covers everything from equipment and component maintenance strategy selection, equipment maintenance cost modelling, life cycle analysis, operational risk management—right through to re-engineering equipment for reliability improvement.

A Maintenance Engineer is the second person called-in when equipment is not operating properly. The first person called to address problem plant and equipment is the appropriate Maintenance Technician. When the technician cannot solve the problem the maintenance engineer is called in to help resolve the issue correctly. Since the job involves solving difficult engineering problems a Maintenance Engineer needs to understand the engineering design of their equipment and the science of their processes. It requires a person with the scientific knowledge to analyse the physics of a situation and the mathematically capability to model and calculate the engineering and process dynamics occurring.

I would not expect anyone who does not have a strong university degree in an engineering discipline, or one of the physical sciences, to be able to do the total role of the Maintenance Engineer. There would be exceptions, such as people who have learnt much engineering from experience and through ongoing training and education during their career. But without the ability to apply engineering maths you fall back to guess work when analysing and solving uncommon problems.

To be a great Maintenance Engineer you must be expert in how your plant and equipment work, how they are designed and constructed, and how they are correctly used. There is no better way to be successful as a Maintenance Engineer than to know why problems arise in your plant and know how to properly solve them. This is especially the case when it becomes necessary to improve the reliability of plant and equipment. To make plant highly reliable you must extend their life between outages by twice and three times; hopefully many times more. To make that much difference to your operation you must know and understand the causes of failure and then find excellent answers that greatly extend lifetimes. To do that you must understand the applicable engineering, process science, process control and materials-of-construction properties so well that you confidently make good choices.

Similarly when you need to select maintenance strategy, choose maintenance activities and set maintenance frequencies for plant and equipment, you will make far better decisions when you know the engineering and the operating properties and parameters of your process and equipment.

The above also applies to Electrical and Instrumentation Maintenance Engineers. But for them their engineering discipline is specifically focused on electrical and electronic plant and equipment. I am including instrumentation under electronics. It is their role to solve electrical and electronic problems that the technician cannot address. An Electrical and Instrumentation Maintenance Engineer will be highly competent in process control and power supply system design. They would have the mathematical capacity to analyse process control and power systems, and to model the various states and conditions that occur during plant operation. I would also expect them to comfortably and correctly program any of the process computers that run their operations.

With regards the Mechanical Maintenance Engineer. By implication they look after the plant and equipment mechanical performance. They need a thorough knowledge of the sciences and mathematics in their discipline. When it comes to problem solving they will need to venture beyond the mechanical discipline and look at a wider range of factors (other than mechanical issues) that may be impacting the problem. They need to understand the proper operation of the equipment, the design of its parts, how it works as a system, how it is run and used in their operation, and the production process effects on its materials of construction during its service life.

To do the Plant Maintenance Engineer function well you need sound engineering knowledge in a broad range of disciplines—mechanical, chemical, process, control, metallurgy, including an understanding of electrical engineering as it applies to your operation’s power supply and distribution.

With so much to understand the Maintenance Engineering role is demanding. You can never gain all the knowledge of the disciplines you need, so it becomes necessary to get specialist help when you have reached your limit of ability. Cultivate networks of specialists within your company and without (such as Suppliers) so that you can team up with them when you need expert assistance.

Plant Engineering and Maintenance Engineering are genuine professional engineering roles. The incumbent needs to understand physics, metallurgy, process control, process chemistry and many other sciences that affect their plant and equipment. A specialist maintenance engineer like a Mechanical, Electrical and Instrumentation Maintenance Engineer needs to know their primary disciplines, and the application of them, exceptionally well.

Let me know if you have any questions.


My best regards to you,

Mike Sondalini
Managing Director
Lifetime Reliability Solutions HQ


PS. If you require advice on industrial asset management, industrial equipment maintenance strategy, defect elimination and failure prevention or plant and equipment maintenance and reliability, please feel free to contact me by email at

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