Maintenance work can be divided into three primary categories: mechanical, information technology and structural. Many people assume that maintenance work relates solely to the ongoing repair of physical components, but it can be used to describe any type of ongoing work or effort required to maintain current operations. Although the work might be in different environments, the people who are drawn to maintenance work typically enjoy problem solving, facing challenges and using analytical skills.
Mechanical maintenance work is focused on physical units or systems. In general, the term is applied to mechanical systems, such as cars, heating or manufacturing machines. The level of skill required varies widely, based on the type of system, the primary purpose and the unique challenges created by the work environment. For example, maintenance work on a car includes the replacement of fluids that are used during the course of car operations. Maintenance of a manufacturing machine might include replacement of key parts that are worn away by extreme heat or the exposure to chemicals.
Information technology includes hardware and software components, both of which require ongoing maintenance work. Hardware needs to be maintained on a regular basis in two critical areas: operating system and physical components. The operating system is the type of software used to control the equipment and support other programs. The physical hardware unit includes electronic components, fans, power sources and other items that might require repair or replacement.
Software programs are subject to maintenance work as well. Large systems often have upgrades, patches or fixes that need to be applied to keep them running properly. In addition to these minor, scheduled maintenance tasks, all programs need to be maintained. This work includes adjusting existing programs to suit new requirements and fine-tuning programs to meet changing support structures. Software development departments typically dedicate between 40 percent and 60 percent of staff time to software maintenance.
Structural maintenance work is performed on buildings, bridges and other construction projects. In many cases, the asset is so large that maintenance is an ongoing project that simply starts again once an entire cycle has been completed. Roads, bridges, highways and traffic systems are all subject to ongoing maintenance. These efforts are built into the product lifespan, and without them, the entire infrastructure would need to be replaced because of widespread failure. In many cases, this work is scheduled in advance, to minimize disruption and to coordinate with weather conditions in the area.