When you think of a food manufacturing plant, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Odds are the machinery that produces the food.
Motors, conveyor belts and pumps, all these things are just a few of the parts which compose fast-moving manufacturing plants. But what happens when these parts break down or a company looks to install a new piece of processing equipment?
Food companies call in experts who are already employed right in their own companies. These employees are millwright mechanics and they ensure plant operations run smoothly.
Millwright mechanics are responsible for performing corrective, preventative and predictive maintenance on industrial manufacturing equipment at food production facilities. They have a strong technical background which allows them to understand different types of industrial machinery and how they work. Mechanics diagnose and repair equipment faults by observing mechanical devices in operation, listening for problems and using precision measuring and testing instruments. If required, they remove defective parts using hoists, cranes and hand/ power tools. Furthermore, mechanics fabricate by using shop instrumentation and equipment.
Millwright mechanics are keen on performing preventative maintenance because it improves the performance and safety of equipment. Continuously throughout the maintenance process, they manage and log inventory and labour as a record of maintenance completion.
Finally, these professionals are responsible for assembling new equipment when it arrives at the manufacturing plant. This equipment includes pumps, fans, tanks, conveyors and sometimes even generators. The assembly of the different machines may take hours, days or even weeks depending on their size and complexity.
2. Millwright mechanics work independently and as part of a team
Successful millwrights are flexible tradesman, able to work independently but also as part of a team. Sometimes a millwright will work on their own, focusing on a single work order while other times they work together with a team, tackling the same project. How big these teams are depends on how large the company is.
Members of maintenance participate in team efforts to achieve assigned departmental goals. They work closely with other team members to ensure all maintenance activities are completed on time.
3. Millwright mechanics need to have completed an apprenticeship
To become a millwright mechanic at a food manufacturing plant, a person must complete or be in the process of completing an industrial mechanic millwright apprenticeship program. This program does not require the completion of a post-secondary degree. However, many apprentices attend a technical school because it improves their chance of being accepted into an apprentice program. Courses at these schools include drawing and schematics, electrical design, machine technology and power transmission. Conestoga College offers an Industrial Mechanic (Millwright) Apprenticeship program!
For example, in Ontario once you have completed high school, students are required to be apprenticed in the Ontario College of Trades Apprenticeship Act (2009). This requires students to have completed a 7280-hour apprenticeship (approximately four years). Afterwards, they can write an exam for the certificate of qualification as an industrial millwright. It is almost always a requirement for a worker to have a certification such as an Industrial Millwright Mechanic License 443A.
4. Many millwright mechanics know programming languages
The food industry has changed substantially within the last few years. Many food companies have switched to automated processes in the plants. Automation leads to improved productivity, improved product quality and improved profitability. For plant equipment to be automated, they need to be equipped with control systems like programmable logic controls (PLC) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA). It is becoming more common for millwright mechanics to have at least a working knowledge of these systems.
5. Millwright mechanics are in good physical shape
When new machinery enters a food manufacturing plant, it needs to be opened and inspected for any damage. Inspecting these pieces can become a difficult task if they are large.
Sometimes millwrights are required to lift heavy objects or climb to reach equipment located high above the floor. If the equipment is too large, they may require the assistance of a hydraulic lift.
Millwrights are constantly bending, lifting and getting into tight spots so they can fit bearings, align gears and perform other maintenance tasks. This job would be near impossible without being in good shape.
6. Millwright mechanics are problem solvers
Everyday is unique for a millwright mechanic because new and different problems arise everyday. For example, if a conveyor belt stops working, they need to determine whether a defective part needs to be refurbished, repaired or replaced. It is up to the mechanic to use their problem-solving skills and years of experience to determine the best course of action.
7. Millwright mechanics support on going research projects
As it was mentioned before, millwright mechanics are responsible for assembling new equipment when it enters a plant. Millwright mechanics have experience working in their “home” manufacturing plant, making them the ideal candidates to help engineers during new projects. They not only install new equipment but also read blueprints, diagrams and schematics to determine work procedures.
8. Millwright Mechanics are continuously learning and improving
As with any occupation, there are certain sets of skills which will aid you better than others. For a millwright mechanic these skills include:
- Strong literacy skills- A millwright mechanic constantly reads manuals for operating, troubleshooting and repairing tools and equipment. Furthermore, they need to be comfortable with reading blueprints, diagrams and schematic drawings to determine work procedures.
- Strong mathematical skills– Millwright mechanics compare measurements such as width, height and rotations per minute on a variety of parts to ensure they are within an acceptable range. They use these measurements to calculate loads, capacities and dimensions for mechanical components and systems. If any of these measurements are incorrect, this could mean a lot of trouble down the line!
- Oral communication- When a millwright makes changes to a piece of equipment it is important that they communicate this information to production line workers. When communicating they must do so in a way that workers understand especially if the changes are safety related.