Home / Operations Building Maintenance

The Maintenance Side of Metalworking


Metalworking today is a broad industry that covers a wide range of applications, each with distinct requirements and skillsets. As the industry has evolved, two significant sides of the discipline have emerged: production, or those tasks and machinery needed to manufacture a finished product for sale, and maintenance.

The term maintenance metalworking refers to the many tasks around a facility or jobsite that are essential to keeping day-to-day operations running. Maintenance that requires metalworking includes repairing mechanical, plumbing or electrical devices. It also includes routine preventive maintenance tasks essential for keeping a facility working and facility occupants safe.

Whether the facility is a manufacturing plant, a school or a hospital, most will have a maintenance shop with an inventory that includes the tools and equipment needed to accomplish maintenance metalworking tasks. Some tasks need heavier, stationary equipment and an enclosed area away from other building occupants for safety reasons, while other types of repairs can happen anywhere on the facility grounds and require specialized portable tools. These ongoing metalworking tasks are critical to keeping a facility working productively.

General Maintenance Metalworking Operations

Maintenance jobs that require metalworking happen most everywhere. Here’s a guide to the key types of metalworking processes that happen across industries, and some of the tools used for each.


Grinding is a repair task that can be accomplished using many different kinds of equipment. Most grinding equipment is powered by an electric motor or compressed air. A grinding wheel in a repair shop, for example, is used for many tasks, including tool sharpening, or surface repair or finishing such as rust removal. A handheld angle grinder can be used for repair tasks away from the maintenance shop such as mortar repairs.

Sawing and Cutting

Like grinding, sawing and cutting operations can take place in a stationary metalworking shop as is the case when using a bandsaw or for jobs around the facility that would need a portable abrasive saw, also known as a cut-off saw or chop saw. These power tools are typically used to cut hard materials like metal, such as rebar, tile, and concrete. The cutting action is performed by an abrasive disc (similar to a thin grinding wheel).


Maintenance welding is focused on the repair of parts used to support the production or infrastructure needs at a facility. Maintenance welding can happen anywhere, either at the point of need such as on the production line itself, or to repair equipment off-site. Other tasks will take place in the maintenance or fabrication shop. There are three types of welding; Metal Inert Gas or MIG, Tungsten Inert Gas or TIG and stick welding. MIG welding uses an electric arc between a consumable wire electrode and the workpiece metal, heating the workpiece metal and causing them to melt and join. MIG welding is the most widely used type of welding in industrial applications. TIG welding uses a nonconsumable tungsten electrode to create an electrical arc that joins material with heat and uses a filler metal in the form of a handheld rod. Welders use TIG to weld copper, titanium, or two dissimilar metals. Stick is a manual welding operation that uses a consumable electrode (or stick) covered with a flux to produce the weld.

Manual Machining

Manual machining refers to the many metalworking processes that use manually operated equipment to cut features into metal. Many of today’s metalworking shops now use programmable CNC machining to do the work of traditional or manual machining. And while the benefits of Computer Numeric Control (CNC) machines are clear, including improved precision, higher production and uniformity, both manual and CNC machining serve an important role across a variety of industries. Manual machining is a great backup to CNC machining, especially when it comes to maintenance applications. Manual machining operations include drilling, tapping, milling, die cutting, turning and threading. Each of these processes requires specific tools, such as drills, reamers, end mills and taps.

The Maintenance Schedule

A good maintenance metalworking plan can help keep your facility in top condition and will help you get ahead of any potential problems before they become expensive operational issues. The best case for regular maintenance on a predictable schedule is that it reduces downtime. Any downtime, or time when operations aren’t running according to schedule can be costly. The more time a facility is down, the higher the cost, which is why it’s important to have the people, tools and inventory available at all times to perform metalworking maintenance tasks.

According to a study by Information Technology Intelligence Consulting, one hour of downtime can cost the average company more than $300,000. In some cases, the costs for downtime can reach into the millions. A good maintenance schedule anticipates how often all kinds of repairs are needed, the supplies, parts or tools needed to make those repairs and where these tasks occur regularly.

The Right Tool in the Right Place at the Right Time

A maintenance plan that includes your general maintenance metalworking tasks and your production metalworking equipment will help your procurement department keep the right supplies in stock when they are needed. A firm schedule and system for re-ordering makes it easier to ensure that you have all of the supplies you need regularly such as welding supplies, cutting tools and abrasives.

Grainger KeepStock® Inventory Management solutions can help you keep the right maintenance supplies in stock and anticipate what tools or parts need to be replenished, so that you can stay ahead of maintenance for metalworking.

Grainger has the services, tools and supplies you need to keep your metalworking maintenance shop running efficiently.

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.