Plant Equipment Mechanic

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Plant Equipment Mechanic


Plant equipment mechanics are the jack-of-all-trades in the industrial plant industry who maintain, repair and troubleshoot equipment and machinery in factories, production plants and recreational facilities. Factories and businesses depend on machines to perform various tasks and services. From escalators to robotic machines to auto production lines, the plant equipment mechanic plays a role in it all. Wherever a machine exists, it is likely that a plant equipment mechanic has a part in it.

Plant equipment mechanics read diagrams and schematic drawings to determine work procedures. They operate hand and power tools to install stationary industrial machinery and mechanical equipment according to layout plans, and operate hoisting and lifting devices to position machinery and parts during the installation, set-up and repair of machinery.

Plant equipment mechanics are responsible for keeping the machines in a factory running smoothly and working efficiently. When a machine breaks down, the mechanic, like a doctor, will quickly diagnose the problem and make a repair. This can bring a great deal of pressure to the equipment mechanic for if the breakdown has marred a production line, for example, they must fix the problem in a quick hurry, for the production of the company and people's jobs depend on it. Sometimes, plant equipment mechanics will do routine checks and cleans of machine parts to avoid having to fix the machine after the fact.

Many plant equipment mechanics like the changing aspect of their profession -- no two days are alike. Therefore, if you are one for routine work, then becoming a plant equipment mechanic may not be the right path for you. For example, they might work at a nuclear power plant one week and then a food factory the next . . . it all depends on where someone is willing to contract them out or if a machine breaks. Further, since they are constantly moving around, they get to learn quite a bit about different industries.

Most plant equipment mechanics recommend that you brush up on your math skills. They are constantly measuring angles, material thickness and distances with tools like squares and micrometers. They may also use lasers, ultrasonic measuring tools, cutting torches, soldering guns and welding machines. Besides this mathematical component, they also perform physical, strenuous activity. There is a great deal of hoisting cables, rigging pulleys and even operating cranes. This is a position where you will get dirty and greasy, so let's hope you enjoy that aspect.
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  Interests and Skills  
Plant equipment mechanics need the strength and stamina required to work with heavy equipment, and good co-ordination and manual dexterity. They need to know their way around a construction site and be able to read and visualize a layout by looking at plans and blueprints. Also, they must be okay with the idea of getting greasy and dirty on sites.

They are born troubleshooters when it comes to mechanical systems, and they are very personable. They can get along with everyone they work with and can also work alone. Being a plant equipment mechanic is most rewarding for those who enjoy variety, security and doing precision work with machinery and equipment.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Read diagrams and schematic drawings to determine work procedures
  • Install stationary industrial machinery and mechanical equipment according to layout plans using hand and power tools
  • Operate hoisting and lifting devices to position machinery and parts during the installation, set-up and repair of machinery
  • Inspect and examine machinery and equipment to detect and investigate irregularities and malfunctions
  • Adjust machinery and repair or replace defective parts
  • Operate machine tools such as lathes and grinders to fabricate parts required during overhaul, maintenance or set-up of machinery
  • Clean, lubricate and perform other routine maintenance work on machinery
  • Construct foundations for machinery or direct other workers to construct foundations
  • Assemble machinery and equipment prior to installation using hand and power tools and welding equipment
  • Working conditions for plant equipment mechanics will vary from one job to another. Hours of work change depending on the site and shift work and overtime may be required. In factories and plants, they are exposed to a variety of hazards: the work environment may be noisy and there may be some risk of injury involved in working with heavy machinery, including bad backs and falls. They may also exposed to deadly gases, lead, silicone and asbestos, which in the long run can be very harmful to one's health.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Plant equipment mechanics are employed in manufacturing plants, water utility plants, nuclear power plants, construction, maintenance, machine shops, amusement parks, paper mills, steel mills, power generation plants, automobile manufacturing plants, refineries, and many other industrial establishments that operate industrial machinery.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Plant equipment mechanics are exposed to the duties involved in a variety of other trades, and therefore can be good candidates for promotion to supervisory and superintendent positions. Special consideration is given to those interested in certification as machinists. Also, with experience, they could take upon an apprentice to teach the tools of the trade.

  Educational Paths  
The educational path for becoming a plant equipment mechanic calls for a high school diploma as the very minimum requirement. While still in high school, classes in math, shop, science and trade are highly recommended. The next step is to get involved in an apprenticeship program or a pre-apprenticeship course. A pre-apprenticeship course takes about five to six months to complete at a community college and is designed to help you get connected with a good company to apprentice with. It is important to apprentice with a reputable company as that is your education.

An apprenticeship lasts four to five years, consisting of structured on-the-job training coupled with four periods of in-school technical education. The apprenticeship is a paid position however wages are about 50% less of what an employer pays the Journeyperson, with yearly increases. Apprenticeships vary from state to state so check with your state office.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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