Millwrights install, repair, replace, and dismantle the machinery and heavy equipment used in many industries. About half of all millwrights work in a variety of manufacturing industries; another third work for construction builders and contractors. The wide range of facilities and the development of new technologies require millwrights to continually update their skillsfrom blueprint reading and pouring concrete for machinery to set on to diagnosing and solving mechanical problems.
The millwright's responsibilities begin when machinery arrives at the jobsite. New equipment must be unloaded, inspected, and moved into position. To lift and move light machinery, millwrights use rigging and hoisting devices, such as pulleys and cables. With heavier equipment, they may require the assistance of hydraulic lift-truck or crane operators to position the machinery. Because millwrights often decide which device to use for moving machinery, they must know the load-bearing properties of rope, cables, hoists, and cranes.
Millwrights consult with production managers and others to determine the optimal placement of machines in a plant. When this placement requires building a new foundation, millwrights either prepare the foundation themselves or supervise its construction. As a result, they must know how to read blueprints and work with a variety of building materials.
To assemble machinery, millwrights fit bearings, align gears and wheels, attach motors, and connect belts, according to the manufacturer's blueprints and drawings. Precision leveling and alignment are important in the assembly process, so millwrights measure angles, material thickness, and small distances with tools such as squares, calipers, and micrometers. When a high level of precision is required, devices such as lasers and ultrasonic measuring and alignment tools may be used. Millwrights also work with hand and power tools, such as cutting torches, welding machines, hydraulic torque wrenches, hydraulic stud tensioners, soldering guns, and with metalworking equipment, including lathes and grinding machines.
Increasingly sophisticated automation means more complicated machines for millwrights to install and maintain, requiring millwrights to specialize in certain machines or brand names. For example, millwrights install and maintain turbines in power plants that can weigh hundreds of tons and contain thousands of parts. This machinery requires special care and knowledge, so millwrights receive additional training and are required to be certified by the manufacturer of the turbine.
Working conditions vary by industry. Millwrights employed in manufacturing often work in a typical shop setting and use protective equipment to avoid common hazards. For example, protective devices, such as safety belts, protective glasses, and hardhats may be worn to prevent injuries from falling objects or machinery. Those employed in construction may work outdoors in difficult weather conditions.
Advances in some equipment, such as hydraulic wrenches and hydraulic stud tensioners, have made the work safer and eliminated the need for millwrights to use a sledge hammer to pound bolts into position. Other equipment has reduced the amount of heavy lifting and other strenuous tasks that would often cause injuries in the past.
Millwrights work independently or as part of a team. Their tasks must be performed quickly and precisely, because disabled machinery costs a company time and money. Many millwrights work overtime; about 4 in 10 millwrights report working more than 40 hours during a typical week. During power outages or other emergencies, millwrights are often assigned overtime and shift work.
Millwrights that work at construction sites may have to travel long distances to reach different worksites. For example, millwrights who specialize in turbine installation travel to wherever new power plants are being built.
Millwrights normally receive training through 4- to 5-year apprenticeship programs that combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction, or through community college programs coupled with informal on-the-job training. These programs include training in dismantling, moving, erecting, and repairing machinery. Trainees also may work with concrete and receive instruction in related skills, such as carpentry, welding, and sheet-metal work. Millwright apprentices attend about one week of classes every three months. Classroom instruction covers mathematics, blueprint reading, hydraulics, electricity, computers, electronics, and instruction in specific machinery.
Employers prefer applicants with a high school diploma or equivalency and some vocational training or experience. Courses in science, mathematics, mechanical drawing, computers, and machine shop practice are useful. Millwrights are expected to keep their skills up-to-date and may need additional training on technological advances, such as laser shaft alignment and vibration analysis.
Because millwrights assemble and disassemble complicated machinery, mechanical aptitude is very important. Strength and agility also are necessary for lifting and climbing. Millwrights need good interpersonal and communication skills to work as part of a team and to effectively give detailed instructions to others.
Advancement for millwrights usually takes the form of higher wages. Some advance to the position of supervisor or superintendent, while others may become self-employed contractors.
Millwrights held about 59,000 jobs in 2004. Most work in manufacturing, primarily in durable goods industries, such as motor vehicle and parts manufacturing and iron and steel mills. About 1 in 3 millwrights are employed in construction, where most work for contracting firms. Although millwrights work in every State, employment is concentrated in heavily industrialized areas.
Employment of millwrights is projected to grow more slowly than average for all occupations through the year 2014. Because millwrights will always be needed to maintain and repair existing machinery, dismantle old machinery, and install new equipment, skilled applicants should have good job opportunities. Prospects will be best for millwrights with training in installing newer production technologies. In addition to employment growth, many job openings for these workers will stem from the need to replace experienced millwrights who transfer to other occupations or retire.
Employment of millwrights has historically been cyclical, rising and falling in line with investments in automation in the Nationís factories and production facilities. To remain competitive in coming years, firms will continue to require the services of millwrights to dismantle old equipment and install new high-technology machinery. Additionally, as the services sector of the economy grows, there is an increasing number of companies in this sector employing new technology to make them more efficient, which will likely offset the loss of manufacturing work. Warehouse and distribution companies, for example, are deploying highly automated conveyor systems which are being maintained by millwrights. Employment growth from new automation will be dampened somewhat by foreign competition and the introduction of new technologies, such as hydraulic torque wrenches, ultrasonic measuring tools, and laser shaft alignment, which allow fewer millwrights to perform more work. In addition, the demand for millwrights may be adversely affected as lower paid workers, such as electronics technicians and industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers, assume some installation and maintenance duties.
Median hourly earnings of millwrights were $21.02 in May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between $16.53 and $27.07. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $13.02, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $32.17. Earnings vary by industry and geographic location. Median hourly earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of millwrights in May 2004 were as follows:
Motor vehicle parts manufacturing
Building equipment contractors
About 54 percent of millwrights belong to labor unions, one of the highest rates of membership in the economy.
For further information on apprenticeship programs, write to the Apprenticeship Council of your State's labor department, local offices of your State employment service, or local firms that employ millwrights. In addition, you may contact:
United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, 6801 Placid St., Las Vegas, NV 89119. Internet: http://www.carpenters.org
Associated General Contractors of America, 333 John Carlyle St., Suite 200, Alexandria, VA 22314. Internet: http://www.agc.org
Associated Builders and Contractors, Workforce Development Dept., 2300 Wilson Blvd., Suite 400, Arlington, VA 22201. Internet: http://www.trytools.org
National Tooling and Machining Association, 9300 Livingston Rd., Fort Washington, MD 20744. Internet: http://www.ntma.org
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition,
Millwrights, on the Internet at
(visited June 21, 2006).