Each day maintenance engineers are faced with challenges that might deter many people. Working in a fast moving industry, in which their role is crucial, it can be hard to prioritise the sheer scale of tasks that may be required.
We set out to identify the top ten challenges.
1. Top of the list has to be food safety.
Mistakes in food production can be fatal. Accidental cross contamination of food with products that can cause severe allergic reactions such as nuts could potentially result in someone dying. Then there is the risk posed by food that is contaminated by hazardous materials used in cleaning machinery, or consumers finding unwanted items within a prepared food product..
2. Ensuring that machinery is safe to use.
Loose bolts, damaged machinery, electrical faults are just some of the potential problems that can occur on fast moving production lines. If these are not spotted and dealt with in time, it can cause serious injury. Even undertaking repairs can be hazardous. An analysis of HSE figures led the IOSH Food and Drink Group to conclude that one third of fatal injuries incurred within the food industry were linked to equipment maintenance and cleaning. Equipment maintenance can involve some of the highest risk activities on a factory site such as refrigeration plants and cooling towers. On one occasion, Heinz was fined £50,000 when an engineer had his hand sliced off by an unguarded potato peeling machine.
3. Ensuring machinery runs efficiently and smoothly, often on a 24/7 basis.
Breakdowns cost money and that adds significantly to the overall costs of running a business. Every second that an engineer is on duty, it is essential to be alert and identify potential problems before they become a serious issue.
4. Changing methods of production.
This is an industry where there is constant pressure to innovate and adjust machinery, as well as the introduction of greater automation. Food production and maintenance engineers have to constantly be prepared to learn new techniques, and think outside the box to provide ideas and
concepts. Staying aware of new research, of new developments within the industry as a whole is essential.
5. Finding solutions to problems.
Each day will bring a different set of problems. Maintenance engineers have to possess the versatility and flexibility to think on their feet, and often deal with several problems at the same time. Being multi-skilled and innovative is crucial to an engineer’s daily work.
6. Sustainable technology - the world is changing and technology has to move constantly with the times.
Pressure on resources, water and the issues of climate change mean that there is increasing pressure to develop sustainable green technologies involving clean energy and the minimal use of hazardous substances. The Food & Drink Industry’s report 2020 Vision for Growth highlighted the way in which sustainable growth could be delivered through innovation. As just one example it pointed out that changing production techniques had saved the equivalent of 2965 Olympic sized swimming pools worth of water.
7. Dealing with contractors and staff.
Maintenance engineers are not just hands on people dealing with a technical problem, they have an important role to play within the management structure. They have to manage their own staff, collaborate with other people within the factory and deal with specialist contractors.
8. Reducing costs.
This is an ever-present problem for every engineer. It can cost millions of pounds to install new production equipment, especially if it involves robotics. Keeping those costs to a minimum and identifying ways in which production costs can be kept down on a daily basis is essential.
9. Developing ways to make food healthier, tastier and cheaper to produce.
Engineers can be involved in projects to devise new methods of food production and seeking ways to amend existing systems.
10. Coping with stress!
Last but by no means least, Engineers have an extremely stressful job! Given the sheer extent of the challenges faced every day, there is a constant need to cope with the stress and not allow it to overtake their lives. Keeping on top of problems and finding ways to reduce stress levels is essential for physical, mental wellbeing as well as ensuring that career development is possible.
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