Industrial machinery mechanics maintain and repair factory equipment and other industrial machinery such as conveying systems, production machinery, and packaging equipment. Workers must follow safety precautions and use protective equipment such as hardhats, safety glasses, and hearing protectors. Most mechanics work full time. However, they may be on call or assigned to work nights or weekends. Overtime is common.
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Industrial machinery mechanics typically do the following:
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 due to worn belts, weak motor bearings, or some other problem. Mechanics often need years of training and experience to diagnose all problems fully. They also use computerized diagnostic systems and vibration analysis techniques to help figure out the source of problems. After diagnosing a problem, they may take the equipment apart to repair or replace the necessary parts.
Increasingly, mechanics are expected to have the electrical, electronics, and computer programming skills to repair sophisticated equipment on their own. Once a repair is made, mechanics test a machine to make sure that it is running smoothly.
Industrial machinery mechanics might also do preventive maintenance. In addition to hand tools, mechanics commonly use lathes, grinders, or drill presses. Many are also required to weld.
Employers of industrial machinery mechanics generally require them to have earned at least a high school diploma or the equivalent. However, employers increasingly prefer to hire workers with some training in industrial technology. 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 formal 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. Some mechanics complete a two-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 informally or by taking courses offered through their employer.
Employers may offer onsite technical training or send workers to local technical schools while they also receive on-the-job training. Classroom instruction focuses on subjects such as shop mathematics, blueprint reading, 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.
Most industrial machinery mechanics work in factories or powerplants or at construction sites. Most are employed full time during regular business hours. However, mechanics may be on call or assigned to work nights or weekends. Overtime is common.
Industrial machinery mechanics suffer common injuries, such as cuts, bruises, and strains. They also may work in awkward positions, including on top of ladders or in cramped conditions under large machinery. To avoid injuries, they must follow safety precautions and wear protective equipment such as hardhats, safety glasses, steel-tipped shoes, and hearing protectors. Even so, they experience rates of injuries and illnesses that are much higher than the national average.
The median annual wage of industrial machinery mechanics was $45,420 in May 2010. (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% earned less than $29,880, and the top 10% earned more than $68,130.