2011 Salary Survey: What Lubrication Professionals Earn

Jason Sowards, Noria Corporation

Machinery Lubrication recently conducted an online survey of lubrication professionals in the United States to discover what they earn based on their experience, education level, geographic location, age and other relevant factors. In addition to earning power, the survey included questions regarding company size, job security, job satisfaction and future potential.

Responses poured in from nearly every state, with Texas, California and Pennsylvania registering the most results, while Vermont, Rhode Island and Delaware were the only states not represented.

Employees from some of the industry’s largest and most well-known companies participated in the survey, including Alcoa, Cargill, Caterpillar, Dow Chemical, Holcim, Kimberly-Clark, Temple-Inland, Fluor and Entergy. We wish to extend our thanks to everyone who contributed.

The Results

According to the results, machinery lubrication generally remains a male-dominated industry, as more than 96 percent of those responding to the survey were men. The small number of women who completed the survey reported an average salary that was 13 percent less than their male counterparts. Men were also more likely to have received a raise in the past year, while women were more likely to work fewer hours and be more satisfied with their jobs.

The average age of the respondents was 49, with the youngest being 25 and the eldest 71 years old. However, age did not seem to play much of a role in compensation, as those 40 years of age and younger earned just $2,000 less per year on average than their older colleagues but were more likely to have received a raise and a bonus in the past year.

Geographically, workers in the Western states reported the highest salaries, followed by those in the South. Salaries in the Northeast and Midwest lagged behind their contemporaries by almost 15 percent.


So what do lubrication workers earn? Salaries ranged from $200,000 to $12,000 per year, with the average almost $77,000 annually. Education was a determining factor, as those who had earned a bachelor’s degree averaged more than $20,000 more per year than those who had completed some college work but had not received a degree. Meanwhile, respondents with a graduate degree made an average of almost $10,000 more per year than those with only a bachelor’s degree. Predictably, workers with only a high-school education earned the least at almost 10 percent less than those who had taken some college courses.

Professional certification also seems to have a big impact on compensation, with those respondents holding some type of professional certification from the International Council for Machinery Lubrication (ICML) or another organization reporting 10 percent higher salaries than their non-certified peers.

“There are bonuses for any type of continuing education relative to our business,” said one respondent.

“It depends on the site and the qualifications they set in place, but for the most part they need to complete level I for oil analysis and lubrication (to be paid more),” wrote another survey participant.

Certifications were most common among respondents in the food processing, mining, rubber/plastic, paper, chemicals, power generation and petroleum product industries. In addition, men were almost twice as likely to hold a professional certification as their female counterparts.

Somewhat surprising was the fact that experience did not seem to affect the salary range as much as might be expected. Respondents with at least 10 years of experience in lubrication-related work made only 5 percent more than those with less experience, while those with 20 or more years of work experience garnered less than $5,000 more per year on average than their less experienced counterparts.

In comparison to 2010, income among lubrication professionals rose in 2011 according to our survey. Seventy percent of workers reported receiving a raise in the past year, although most saw an increase of just 5 percent or less. Only 6 percent of respondents received pay increases exceeding 10 percent. That was better than the 3 percent who watched their salaries decrease over the last 12 months.

Respondents with a bachelor’s degree or a professional certification and workers in power-generation facilities were among the most likely to have received a raise in 2011, while professionals in sales and petroleum products claimed the fewest raises over the past year. The largest salary increases were reported by those in maintenance management and those workers living in Texas.

Bonuses were also prevalent in 2011, as more than 60 percent of survey participants said that they received a bonus in the past 12 months. Those respondents working more than 40 hours each week were the most likely to have received a bonus, while workers who did not supervise any employees were among the least likely to have received a bonus in the past year.

In addition to their annual salaries, more than 90 percent of respondents receive other benefits, including health insurance and 401(k) contributions. However, only 35 percent collect any profit sharing.

Job Satisfaction

Rising income may have contributed to the high job satisfaction and overall contentment among survey participants, as 68 percent of respondents believe they are compensated fairly. Reliability professionals were the respondents most likely to believe their compensation was fair.

Job satisfaction was quite high for most of the lubrication professionals who completed our survey, with more than 70 percent rating themselves as either satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs, compared with only 5 percent who were dissatisfied. Maintenance workers ranked as the most satisfied with their jobs among their peers.

The factors that were regarded as the most important to job satisfaction were the challenge and stimulation of the position, followed by work environment and salary and benefits. Fellow colleagues and making products that help people were at the bottom of the list.

As for what respondents dislike about their jobs, most cited a lack of recognition or the hours and workload of their position.

“With so much equipment to cover, there just isn’t enough time to look at or even check oil levels on some equipment,” complained one respondent.

“As our plant grows, I have limited resources to manage the many competing priorities,” wrote another survey participant.

“The workload combined with my school load gets to be a bit much sometimes, and it is somewhat hard to keep up with,” added another respondent.

Work environment was another common item survey participants listed as something they disliked about their jobs.

“Too many here are retirement age and not willing to make changes,” commented one respondent. “There is apathy, and management is cutting costs, looking for short-term profits.”

“We have much opportunity for growth and profitability, but there is a lack of commitment,” said another worker.

“Our inept management is unable to weed out the 2 percent deadwood of the workforce that creates a toxic work environment,” noted another respondent.


Work Hours

Long hours and hard work appear to be the norm for most in machinery lubrication, as the majority of respondents work more than 40 hours per week, and one-fourth claim to work 10 or more hours each day. The extra hours seemed to pay off with an average of almost $9,000 more per year for those working more than 40 hours weekly.

However, respondents holding a professional certification tended to work fewer hours on average than those without certification, while those who supervise at least one employee reported working more hours on average than those who do not serve as a supervisor.

Employee loyalty was one trait most respondents shared, with the majority having worked for their current employer at least 10 years and the average almost 15 years of service. Several even reported working more than 40 years for the same employer.

Job Title and Function

Most survey takers described their primary job function as reliability, maintenance or maintenance management. Those listing engineering in their job title or function earned the most, at $20,000 more per year on average than those in other fields.

While “petroleum products” was predictably listed as the primary business activity for most respondents’ facilities, power generation, food processing, chemicals and mining were among the other top responses.

More than half of those responding to the survey supervise at least one employee, yet those who did not oversee any employees earned only 4 percent less than those in supervisory roles. The big difference in salary appeared among supervisors when comparing the number of employees managed, as those supervising fewer than 25 employees earned almost $12,000 less per year on average than supervisors of more than 25 employees.

Survey participants with professional certifications were more likely to serve as a supervisor than those without a certification, and men were more likely to be supervisors than women.

When it comes to company size, it seems to pay to work for a larger employer. While most survey participants work at facilities with 100 or more employees, these workers at the larger plants also reported 11 percent higher salaries than those employed at smaller plants.

Job Security

Although 80 percent of respondents believe their jobs are secure and 73 percent do not anticipate their company losing any lubrication-related jobs next year, most do not expect their company to add any lubrication-related jobs, new product lines or shifts in the coming year.

“There can be no job security if the economy does not improve and sales volumes do not increase,” wrote one respondent.

“If there is no manufacturing, there are no machines requiring service,” warned another survey participant.

2012 Outlook

According to our survey results, optimism for 2012 is high, with nearly two-thirds of respondents expecting their salary to increase in the coming year, and only 2 percent anticipating a decrease in compensation. Workers in Texas and California tended to be the most optimistic with regards to salary increases for the coming year, while survey participants in Ohio and Massachusetts were less hopeful in their compensation expectations for 2012.

Most respondents listed the economy and worries of a double-dip recession as their greatest concerns heading into next year.

“The economic instability of our nation makes me afraid that we will go back into recession,” said one respondent. “Manufacturing is not strong yet.”

“I work in a construction-material supply organization, and overall volumes keep dropping,” wrote another survey participant. “The total number of available jobs to bid on is falling.”

“If the economy stays flat, the drop in revenue will cancel or defer additional projects,” worried another respondent.

Others cited environmental regulations and overseas competition as threats to their companies.

“Environmental restrictions on manufacturers are making it impossible to manufacture in the USA,” noted one respondent.

“There are too many choices on the market today,” wrote another survey participant. “If you don’t deliver the right product at the right price at the right time, there are plenty of manufacturers who can.”

“Competitors undervalue our business by offering our services at prices below fair market value,” added another respondent.

The lack of knowledgeable personnel entering the job market and the aging workforce were other common worries.

“The labor force to hire from isn’t willing to work,” complained one respondent.

“We are growing so fast that we cannot get enough quality people hired to do the jobs,” said another survey participant.

“When they cut the next cost, many will retire, taking a lot of experience and leaving many scratching their heads,” wrote another worker.

Subscribe to Machinery Lubrication

About the Author