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Plastics Manufacturing Technician


Description

A world without plastic would mean a world without coffee travel mugs, squeaky toys for dogs, kids' lunch boxes and trashcans. Yet plastic is also used for a multitude of other useful things. From home insulation to speed bumps on the road, it would surprise most people to find out how useful plastic really is. Plastics manufacturing technicians search for ways to incorporate plastic into the efficiency of a company's production rates. Applying knowledge of working characteristics of plastics and bonding techniques, technicians fabricate, assemble, rework and repair plastic products using precision instruments, handtools, power tools, machines and equipment.

There are three areas plastics manufacturing technicians can choose to specialize in -- research and development, quality control or manufacturing. While assisting in development and research, technicians often work in laboratories conducting scientific studies and research on plastics and related products. They also participate in field surveys, inspections or technical investigations of products and locations that use plastic products in order to help their research. Computers are commonly used to process laboratory test data and prepare computer-aided drawings. Quality control involves conducting inspections and is thereby related to research in that tests must be performed in order to test the existing quality of certain plastic tools and products. Technicians are proficient at using transists, levels, density testing devices, and many other quality control test instruments. The manufacturing side deals more with hands-on design, development and even possibly production work.

The plastics manufacturing technician career field combines design with scientific training and seeks to develop effective and innovative plastic products that will help out industries and hopefully save them money. Like other technicians, they can also focus their work in areas such as sales, quality control and maintenance. Some technicians estimate production costs and suggest materials to be used in particular projects, while others inspect plastic products. Some prepare sketches and drawings while others monitor instruments used in different research studies. There are many different working possibilities.

Most plastics manufacturing technologists are drawn to this field because of the diversity involved in the job. They take on projects from significantly different organizations. From a healthcare institution to a toy manufacturer to a clothing company, or a transportation firm, the possibilities are endless because most industries use plastic in some form. Accordingly, plastics manufacturing technicians are required to constantly update their skills and knowledge in order to keep up with technological advancements in this quickly changing field.
 
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  Interests and Skills  
Plastics manufacturing technicians have a natural aptitude for mathematics and science and can visualize abstract concepts and relationships. They possess excellent communication and leadership skills because they interact with clients on a daily basis. They must be good at troubleshooting, but maintain a positive outlook in order to deal with the constant stream of problems faced daily. Finally, paying strict attention to details is just as important as persistence in their career.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Design plastic moulds and mould forms
  • Assist in the design of plastic products
  • Conduct work measurement or other studies
  • Collect and compile operational or experimental data
  • Assist in the development of estimates, schedules, specifications and reports
  • Collect and analyze data and plastic samples in support of quality assurance and industrial health and safety programs
  • Develop manufacturing and processing procedures and variables
  • Set machine or equipment controls and oversee production
  • Working environments for plastics manufacturing technicians are mainly in offices and in factories. Most spend the majority of their time in offices on the computer, researching, designing and writing reports. They usually work standard eight-hour days and longer hours may be required if there are any deadlines to be met. They often work with a team that may include engineers and technologists and they pool their work together towards the completion of bigger projects.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Plastics manufacturing technicians generally work for public and private companies or sometimes on a freelance contractual basis. In the private sector, they work for industrial consulting firms, plastics manufacturing and processing companies, insurance companies, financial institutions, transportation companies and any other industry that requires some help from an efficiency consultant. Government organizations, hospitals and educational institutions hire plastics manufacturing technicians.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Since plastics manufacturing technicians have the option of specializing in so many components of the plastics manufacturing industry, advancements are plentiful and foreseeable. Technicians are assistants by job title but as they acquire experience and further knowledge, they will be given more responsibility. Experienced plastics manufacturing technicians may advance to become production managers or quality control supervisors and inspectors. With further training and education, technicians can also become industrial or manufacturing engineering technologists.
 

  Educational Paths  
Completion of a two- or three-year college program in manufacturing or industrial engineering technology is usually required for plastics manufacturing technicians. A certification in industrial or manufacturing engineering technology or a related field is available through associations of engineering or applied science technologists and technicians, and may be required for some positions.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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