Industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers maintain and repair factory equipment and other industrial machinery, such as conveying systems, production machinery, and packaging equipment. Millwrights install, dismantle, repair, reassemble, and move machinery in factories, power plants, and construction sites.

Duties

Industrial machinery mechanics typically do the following:

  • Read technical manuals to understand equipment and controls
  • Disassemble machinery and equipment when there is a problem
  • Repair or replace broken or malfunctioning components
  • Perform tests and run initial batches to make sure that the machine is running smoothly
  • Adjust and calibrate equipment and machinery to optimal specifications

Machinery maintenance workers typically do the following:

  • Detect minor problems by performing basic diagnostic tests
  • Clean and lubricate equipment or machinery
  • Check the performance of machinery
  • Test malfunctioning machinery to determine whether major repairs are needed
  • Adjust equipment and reset or calibrate sensors and controls

Millwrights typically do the following:

  • Install or repair machinery and equipment
  • Adjust and align machine parts
  • Replace defective parts of machinery as needed
  • Take apart existing machinery to clear floor space for new machinery
  • Move machinery and equipment

Industrial machinery mechanics and machinery maintenance workers maintain and repair complex machines, such as an automobile assembly line’s conveyor belts, robotic welding arms, and hydraulic lifts.

Industrial machinery mechanics, also called industrial machinery repairers or maintenance machinists, keep machines in good working order. To do this, they must be able to detect and correct errors before the machine, or the products it produces, are damaged. Machinery mechanics use technical manuals, their understanding of industrial equipment, and careful observation to discover the cause of a problem. For example, after hearing a vibration from a machine, a mechanic must decide whether it is the result of worn belts, weak motor bearings, or some other problem. Mechanics often need years of training and experience to be able to diagnose all of the problems they find in their work. They may use computerized diagnostic systems and vibration analysis techniques to help figure out the source of problems.

After diagnosing a problem, the industrial machinery mechanic may take the equipment apart to repair or replace the necessary parts. Mechanics are expected to have electrical, electronics, and computer programming skills so they can repair sophisticated equipment. Once a repair is made, mechanics test a machine to ensure that it is running smoothly. Industrial machinery mechanics also do preventive maintenance.

In addition to handtools, mechanics commonly use lathes, grinders, or drill presses. Many also are required to weld.

Machinery maintenance workers do basic maintenance and repairs on machines. They are responsible for cleaning and lubricating machinery, performing basic diagnostic tests, checking performance, and testing damaged machine parts to determine whether major repairs are necessary.

Maintenance workers must follow machine specifications and adhere to maintenance schedules. They perform minor repairs, generally leaving major repairs to machinery mechanics.

All maintenance workers use a variety of tools to do repairs and preventive maintenance. For example, they may use a screwdriver or socket wrenches to adjust a motor’s alignment, or they might use a hoist to lift a heavy printing press off the ground.

Millwrights have a wide range of skills that aid in their work of installing, maintaining, and disassembling industrial machines. Putting together a machine can take a few days or several weeks.

Millwrights perform repairs that include replacing worn or defective parts of machines. Millwrights also may be involved in taking apart existing machines, a common situation when a manufacturing plant needs to clear floor space for new machinery. To do this, each part of the machine must be carefully taken apart, categorized, and packaged.

Millwrights use a variety of hand tools, such as hammers and levels, as well as equipment for welding, brazing, and cutting. They also use measuring tools, such as micrometers, measuring tapes, lasers, and other precision-measuring devices. On large projects, they commonly use cranes and trucks. When millwrights and managers determine the best place for a machine, millwrights bring the parts to the desired location using forklifts, hoists, winches, cranes, and other equipment.

Work Environment: 

Industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers and millwrights held about 447,600 jobs in 2012. Most worked in factories, power plants, or at construction sites.

Injuries and Illnesses

Industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers suffer common injuries, such as cuts, bruises, and strains. They also work in awkward positions, including on top of ladders or in cramped conditions under large machinery. To avoid injuries, workers must follow safety precautions and use protective equipment, such as hardhats, safety glasses, steel-toed shoes, and earplugs. Even so, industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers experience rates of injuries and illnesses that are much higher than the national average.

Work Schedules

Most industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers are employed full time during regular business hours. However, mechanics may be on call and work night or weekend shifts. Overtime is common, particularly for mechanics.

Millwrights typically are employed on a contract basis and can spend only a few days or weeks at a single site. As a result, workers often have variable schedules and may experience downtime between jobs.

Education and Training: 

Industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers and millwrights typically need a high school diploma. However, industrial machinery mechanics need a year or more of training after high school, whereas maintenance workers typically receive on-the-job training that lasts a few months to a year.

Millwrights mostly go through an apprenticeship program that lasts about 4 years. Programs are usually a combination of technical instruction and on-the-job training. Others learn their trade through a 2-year associate’s degree program in industrial maintenance. A high school diploma or equivalent is the typical education needed to become a millwright.

Education

Employers of industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers and millwrights generally require them to have at least a high school diploma or a General Educational Development (GED) certificate. However, employers increasingly prefer to hire workers with some education in industrial technology from a community or technical college. Employers also prefer to hire workers who have taken high school or postsecondary courses in mechanical drawing, mathematics, blueprint reading, computer programming, or electronics.

Industrial machinery mechanics usually need a year or more of education and training after high school to learn the necessary mechanical and technical skills. Although mechanics used to specialize in one area, such as hydraulics or electronics, many factories now require every mechanic to understand electricity, electronics, hydraulics, and computer programming. These skills allow mechanics to troubleshoot a much larger range of machine problems.

Some mechanics complete a 2-year associate’s degree program in industrial maintenance. Others may start as helpers or in other factory jobs and learn the skills of the trade on the job or take courses offered through their employer.

Employers may offer onsite technical training or send workers to local technical schools in addition to on-the-job training. Classroom instruction focuses on subjects such as shop mathematics, blueprint reading, the use of hand tools, welding, electronics, and computer training. In addition to technical instruction, mechanics train on the specific machines that they will repair. They can get this training on the job, through dealers’ or manufacturers’ representatives, or in a classroom.

A high school diploma is the typical education needed to become a millwright. However, there are 2-year associate’s degree programs in industrial maintenance that also provide good preparation for prospects. Employers may give workers classroom instruction in addition to on-the-job training.

Training

Most millwrights learn their trade through a 3- or 4-year apprenticeship. For each year of the program, apprentices must have at least 144 hours of related technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. On the job, apprentices learn to set up, clean, lubricate, repair, and start machinery. During technical instruction, they are taught welding, mathematics, how to read blueprints, how to use electronic devices, pneumatics (using air pressure), and how to use grease and fluid properly. Many also receive computer training. 

After completing an apprenticeship program, millwrights are considered fully qualified and can usually perform tasks with less guidance. 

Apprenticeship programs are often sponsored by employers, local unions, contractor associations, and the state labor department. The basic qualifications for entering an apprenticeship program are as follows:

  • Minimum age of 18
  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Physically able to do the work

Machinery maintenance workers typically receive on-the-job training that lasts a few months to a year. They learn how to perform routine tasks, such as setting up, cleaning, lubricating, and starting machinery. This training may be offered on-the-job, by professional trainers hired by the employer, or by representatives of equipment manufacturers.

Important Qualities

Manual dexterity. When handling very small parts, workers must have a steady hand and good hand–eye coordination.

Mechanical skills. Workers must be able to reassemble large, complex machines after finishing a repair.

Technical skills. Industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers and millwrights use technical manuals and sophisticated diagnostic equipment to figure out why machines are not working.  

Troubleshooting skills. Industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers and millwrights must observe and properly diagnose and fix problems that a machine may be having.

Pay: 

The median annual wage for industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers and millwrights was $45,840 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,020, and the top 10 percent earned more than $69,990.

In May 2012, median annual wages for industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers and millwrights were as follows:

  • $49,510 for millwrights
  • $46,920 for industrial machinery mechanics
  • $40,620 for machinery maintenance workers

Most industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers are employed full time during regular business hours. However, mechanics may be on call or assigned to work evenings, nights, or weekends. Overtime is common, particularly for mechanics.

Millwrights are sometimes employed on a contract basis and can spend only a few days or weeks at a single site, as that is what it takes to assemble or disassemble an industrial machine. As a result, workers often have variable schedules and may experience downtime between jobs.

Union Membership

Compared with workers in all occupations, industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers and millwrights had a higher percentage of workers who belonged to a union in 2012.

Job Outlook: 

Overall employment of industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers and millwrights is projected to grow 17 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will vary by specialty.

Employment of industrial machinery mechanics is projected to grow 19 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. Increased adoption of sophisticated manufacturing machinery will require more highly-skilled mechanics to keep machines in good working order.

Employment of machinery maintenance workers is projected to grow 11 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Increased automation, including the use of many new computer-controlled machines in factories and manufacturing plants, should spur demand for maintenance workers in order to keep machines operating well.

Employment of millwrights is projected to grow 18 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. The use of machinery in manufacturing will require millwrights to install and disassemble this equipment, as well as perform some repair work.

Job Prospects

Overall, applicants with a broad range of skills in machine repair should have very good job prospects.

Faster-than-average employment growth and the need to replace many older workers who are expected to retire over the coming decade should result in numerous job openings.

Those that complete apprenticeships and educational programs designed for industrial machinery repair should have the best job prospects.

For More Information: 

For information about industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers, visit

APICS

Association for Maintenance Professionals

National Association of Manufacturers

Society for Maintenance & Reliability Professionals

For information about millwrights and the precision machined products industry, training, and apprenticeships, visit

Precision Machined Products Association

For further information on apprenticeship programs, write to the Apprenticeship Council of your state's labor department or to local firms that employ machinery mechanics and repairers. You can also find information about registered apprenticeships, together with links to state apprenticeship programs, on the U.S. Department of Labor website: Employment and Training Administration. Apprenticeship information is available as well from the U.S. Department of Labor toll-free help line: (877) 872-5627.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2014–2015 Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh.

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