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Millwrights install, repair, replace, and dismantle the machinery and heavy equipment used in almost every industry. These responsibilities require a wide range of skillsfrom blueprint reading and pouring concrete to diagnosing and solving mechanical problems.
The millwright's responsibilities begin when machinery arrives at the job site. The new equipment must be unloaded, inspected, and then moved into position. To lift and move light machinery, millwrights may use rigging and hoisting devices such as pulleys and cables. In other cases, they require the assistance of hydraulic lift-truck or crane operators to position the machinery. Because millwrights often decide what device to use for moving machinery, they must know the load-bearing properties of ropes, cables, hoists, and cranes.
New machinery sometimes requires a new foundation. Millwrights either personally prepare the foundation or supervise its construction, so they must know how to read blueprints and work with building materials such as concrete, wood, and steel.
When assembling 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; millwrights must have good mathematical skills so that they can 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 may be used. They also use hand and power tools, cutting torches, welding machines, and soldering guns. Some millwrights use metalworking equipment such as lathes or grinders to modify parts to specifications.
The increasing level of automation found in most industries means that there are more sophisticated machines for millwrights to install and maintain. This machinery often requires special care and knowledge, so millwrights often work closely with computer or electronic experts, electricians, engineers, and manufacturer's representatives to install it. (Additional information about commercial and industrial electronic equipment repairers as well as electricians appears elsewhere in the Handbook.)
In addition to installing and dismantling machinery, many millwrights repair and maintain equipment. This includes preventive maintenance, such as lubrication, and fixing or replacing worn parts. (For further information on machinery maintenance, see the statement on industrial machinery repairers elsewhere in the Handbook.)
Working conditions of millwrights vary by industry. Those employed in manufacturing often work in a typical shop setting and use protective equipment to avoid common hazards. For example, injuries from falling objects or machinery are avoided by protective de-vices such as safety belts, protective glasses, and hard hats. Those in construction may work outdoors in uncomfortable weather conditions.
Millwrights may work independently or as part of a team. They must work quickly and precisely because non-functioning machinery costs a company time and money. Most millwrights work overtime; nearly two-thirds report working more than 40 hours during a typical week.
Millwrights held about 77,000 jobs in 1994. Most worked in manufacturing, primarily in durable goods industries such as motor vehicles and equipment and basic steel products. Millwrights found in other sectors were employed primarily by construction firms and machining and equipment wholesalers. Many of these workers are contractors.
Although millwrights work in every State, employment is concentrated in heavily industrialized areas.
Millwrights receive their training from a formal apprenticeship program, a community college, or informally on the job. Apprenticeship programs normally last 4 years and combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction. Apprenticeship programs include training in dismantling, moving, erecting, and repairing machinery. Apprentices may also work with concrete and receive instruction in related skills such as carpentry, welding, and sheetmetal work. Classroom instruction is given in mathematics, blueprint reading, hydraulics, electricity, and increasingly, computers or electronics.
Most employers prefer applicants with a high school diploma and some vocational training or experience. Courses in science, mathematics, mechanical drawing, and machine shop practice are useful. Because millwrights assemble and disassemble complicated machinery, mechanical aptitude is very important. Strength and agility also are important because the work can require a considerable amount of lifting and climbing. Millwrights need good interpersonal and communication abilities in order to work as part of a team and give detailed instructions to others.
Advancement for millwrights usually takes the form of higher wages. Some advance to supervisor.
Employment of millwrights is projected to decline through the year 2005, due in part to an expected downturn in new industrial construction. When construction activity falls, jobs are scarce, and even experienced millwrights may face layoffs or shortened workweeks. In coming years, new industrial construction is expected to be insufficient to maintain existing employment levels. In addition, some of the duties of millwrights are being transferred to other workers, such as electronic technicians and industrial machinery mechanics, as new automation becomes more complicated and involves more electronic components. Finally, millwrights are becoming more productive through technologies like hydraulic torque wrenches, ultrasonic measuring tools, and laser shaft alignment that allow fewer of these workers to perform a greater amount of work.
Although employment is expected to decline, millwrights will still be needed to maintain and repair existing machinery, to dismantle old machinery, and to install and maintain new equipment. Workers with these skills will encounter a number of job openings that will arise annually as experienced millwrights transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force.
Median weekly earnings of full-time millwrights were about $700 in 1994; the middle 50 percent earned between $520 and $880. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $380, while the top 10 percent earned more than $1,290. Earnings vary by industry and geographic location. Two-thirds of millwrights belong to labor unions, one of the highest rates of membership in the economy. Typical benefits for these workers include health and life insurance, pension plans, paid vacation, and sick leave.
To set up machinery for use in a plant, millwrights must know how to use hoisting devices and how to assemble, disassemble, and in some cases repair machinery. Other workers with similar job duties are industrial machinery repairers, mobile heavy equipment mechanics, aircraft mechanics and engine specialists, diesel mechanics, farm equipment mechanics, ironworkers, and machine assemblers.
Sources of Additional Information 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:
The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, 101 Constitution Ave. NW., Washington DC 20001.
Association for Manufacturing Technology, 7901 Westpark Dr., Mclean, VA 22102.
Associated General Contractors of America, 1957 E St. NW., Washington, DC 20006.
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