10 Pieces of Advice to Start a Brilliant New Plant Engineer or Plant Maintenance Engineer Career

The new Plant Engineer and Plant Maintenance Engineer have a lot to learn, and they must do so correctly and very quickly.

Below is ten pieces of advice that every new Plant Engineer and Plant Maintenance Engineer can use to start their career brilliantly.



Dear Mike,

I just read your article about being a maintenance engineer. I liked it. (The role and duties of a Maintenance Engineer in a modern industrial operation)

I am just fresh in the field and I am working as a plant engineer for a starting company.

I am a bit scared because I don’t have experience in handling breakdowns. Where can I start from?

What should I do?

Kind regards,




Dear Atholere,

Beginners in maintenance engineering and plant engineering positions are on a steep learning curve for the first two or three years.

  1. First, get out of the office and walk your plant three times a day. Do your first inspection walk immediately at the start of your shift, before you get any phone calls or have any meetings. Again, do a full inspection walk at the middle of your shift, and the last walk before you go home. Stay back after-hours if you must. Start work before-hours if you must.

  3. To educate yourself on how the business uses their assets, go to the operations control room(s) and learn from the operators what are the critical equipment that each process needs in order to deliver correct quality product, on time, at full service rate. Ask them what problems they suffer, and what they do about them.

  5. Learn from the operations people all you can about the processes, and how they run and use each plant and its equipment. Know the process engineering and chemistry, i.e. the chemicals and constituents used in the processes; the process conversions that happen; all the degradation mechanisms that each process causes to its plant and equipment.

  7. Get to know the maintenance supervisor(s) as a person so the two of you work well together. You don’t need to become close friends, but you must become friendly and supportive to each other. Get to know the maintenance crew by their individual names, and be able to chat easily with each of them. Same with the operations, and the engineering staff.

  9. Develop a mental map, accurate to the meter, of the site and where every equipment item is in your operation. Know all the technical names of your equipment, and also know them by the various names used within the business.

  11. On your daily walks look, listen, touch (safely), smell what is happening to your plant and equipment. Do not wait for the condition monitoring technician to tell you something terribly wrong is happening to your plant. You need to tune-in to your equipment at a “sixth-sense” level so you can tell when assets and processes are not operating rightly.

  13. On your daily walks read all the latest entries in the operating log book, and read all the latest entries in the maintenance log book. Keep abreast of problems—as soon as you “smell” trouble go and see the right people to learn what is being done about it.

  15. As a Maintenance Engineer or Plant Engineer you must know the engineering construction of each equipment item you are responsible for. In a breakdown situation you can call-up your engineering design understanding of what should be happening under controlled process conditions and operation. You will then spot the problem(s) more easily and know what to do to return the equipment back to its operating health. An important part of this point is to have a complete engineering and technical library on each of your assets. When you don’t know the right answer to a breakdown event, you then go to the library and find the right answer.

  17. Learn from past problems suffered by plant and equipment similar to those in your operation. Your plant may be new, but your equipment types have been used in other operations and businesses. Start reading about the types of problems your plat and equipment can suffer. Build your own technical library of articles and white papers explaining what problems other people have faced and solved.

  19. Do all the above in person. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can learn all that you need to know about your plant’s condition from the process control room screens, the SCADA real-time read-outs, and the reports generated by the technical experts, the operations group, the maintenance group, etc. Yes, you do want to know all of those things in a timely way. But if you want to be the very best maintenance engineer or plant engineer that you can be, you need to “own” your plant as though it was your personal property.

I hope that the above is helpful to you.

All the very best to you,

Mike Sondalini
LRS Consultants Global