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Assembly and Fabricator Careers, Jobs, and Employment Information

Assembly and Fabricator Career and Job Highlights

  • Because of a move to more automated lines and the popularity of outsourcing jobs to cheap labor off shore, employment is projected to fall.
  • Conditions in the workplace may not be favorable, as one must endure noise as well as sitting or standing for a prolonged length of time.
  • For the majority of openings a high school degree is required, while for a few assembly positions additional training is needed.

Assembly and Fabrication Career and Job Description

Many different types of products are produced by assemblers and fabricators using a variety of manufactured parts or subassemblies. They participate in manufacturing parts for aircrafts, automobile engines, computers, as well as electrical and electronic systems.

Work by assemblers is done in one of two areas, on a subassembly line or the final assembly line where a variety of finished goods or parts are manufactured. For instance, electrical and electronic equipment assemblers assemble missile control systems, radio or test equipment, computers, machine-tool numerical controls, radar, or sonar, and prototypes these goods or others. Electromechanical equipment assemblers produce and check products like appliances, dynamometers, or ejection-seat mechanisms. Coil winders, tapers, and finishers wind the wire coil that is utilized in many different components, such as resistors, transformers, generators, and electric motors. Engine and other machine assemblers put together or rebuild engines and turbines, and office, agricultural, construction, oilfield, rolling mill, textile, woodworking, paper, and food-wrapping equipment. Aircraft structure, surfaces, rigging, and systems assemblers assemble and perform installations of small components in airplanes, space vehicles, or missiles, such as landing gear. Structural metal fabricators and fitters must cut out, position, and piece together structural metal parts, following precise instructions before welding or riveting.
Workers participating in the development of parts and goods must read and understand engineering specs supplied by manuals, diagrams, and computerized drafting programs. Assemblers and fabricators also have to utilize many unique tools and precision measuring instruments. A few more experienced workers will join forces with engineers and techs to develop and put together prototypes or models.

Just as technological advances are being made, so too are improvements in manufacturing. For instance, new manufacturing facilities using automation incorporate the use of robotics, programmable motion control, computers, and other sensors. New technology like these revolutionizes how products are produced and changes the jobs of those who work to make the products.

For instance, facilities practicing “lean” manufacturing put more emphasis working together and communicating within defined “cells” of people than is placed on the assembly line. Team assemblers carry out each assembly duty related to their team, equally dividing the time each member spends doing a given task rather than specializing in just one task. Team assemblers also might work together to determine how different duties should be done and assigned out to individuals. Avoiding specialization allows firms flexibility when a worker misses a day or two of work as others can fill in easily, and it also helps firms react favorably to changes in demand as workers can easily be moved one line to another as needed. When demand for goods is on the fall, firms can use less workers to do close to the same amount of work by each person taking on more duties related to assembly. A few parts of the lean production methodology, like rotation of duties, are being incorporated into every assembly job or manufacturing position.

The conditions in which one works will differ depending on the plant and the industry. Working conditions may include loud noise as well as continuous sitting or standing. For instance, assemblers of electronic and electromechanical equipment must do their jobs sitting at tables, though they work in clean, lighted areas that have little dust. Other jobs such as those of electrical and electronics assemblers include conditions where workers are exposed to soldering fumes, however firms use vents and fans to reduce this issue. Many assemblers perform work on things that should not be exposed to dust or dirt, like a transmission, and thus have work areas that are very clean and built to limit exposure of products to contamination. Assemblers of other types of equipment, such as aircrafts, work in dirtier conditions involving a lot grease and oil as well as working on loud noisy conditions. Aircraft assemblers also must have to work with and move heavy parts. However, for the most part working conditions have seen improvements thanks to new workstation design and tools such as lifting cranes. The majority of full timers work 40 hours a week, although working overtime or in shifts is not uncommon. Schedules for workers will vary by planting, depending on how many shifts are utilized.

Assembly and Fabrication Training and Job Qualifications

Those desiring to be assemblers and fabricators typically begin as novices on the job. To obtain a job, it is important that one works fast and with precision following specific directions. Most employers prefer hiring applicants that are at least high school graduates. A good reading ability is required in order to understand assembly manuals and directions, but a lot of writings also utilize sketches and diagrams.

There are certain assembly positions which required additional training. For instance, many potential employees in electrical or electronic assembly must obtain formal training through technical schools or military training. For most other jobs, applicants need just informal on the job training, which might involve in class instruction sponsored by the employee, related to the various tasks included in assembly.

Workers that assemble smaller parts must have good vision, with or without using prescription aid. Firms involved in the production of electrical and electronic goods test applicants for color blindness since many wires used in the production process are color coded. Applicants should also have good hands and be able to perform complicated repetitive tasks rapidly.

As workers gain experience, they may be promoted to jobs necessitating more skill and ability. Assemblers with experience might move on to become repairers if they comprehend the making of the product and have adequately learned the steps to assembly of the product. Repairers repair products that have been labeled defective by inspection workers. It is also possible for assembly workers to become supervisors or work as quality control officers. Other assembly employees may move to the research and development division, aiding product designers and engineers in the design and development process as they work to create prototypes and test new products. In other firms, workers might begin training to work in an area of skill, such as becoming a machinist. Others with a good foundation in computers, science and math may be trained to become programmers or operators of sophisticated fabrication machinery that is automated.

Job and Employment Opportunities for Assemblers and Fabricators

As a result of the likelihood of increased automated production plants the move by many firms to outsource employment to countries with cheap labor, employment for fabricators and assemblers is projected to fall through the year 2012. As production plants work to improve efficiency and productivity levels, more and more automation equipment will be introduced displacing work previously done by human capital. As advancements in technology are made, assembly workers will become increasingly productive, which will hurt employment rates as less workers will be able to accomplish more. However, there will be positions available as many workers will leave this occupation.

The ramifications automation has on the industry will affect some assemblers and fabricators more so than others. Production systems that incorporate automation are typically very pricey, and thus their purchase can only be justified if large volumes of product are being produced. Automated manufacturing systems for parts that are irregular in size or location are only now being realized. For instance, assembling airplanes is not easy as many parts must be installed in nearly inaccessible spots, such as the fuselage, making it very difficult for robots to complete the work. Consequently, workers like airplane assemblers have more job security since robots cannot easily perform their jobs, although the employment in the airplane assembly industry is on the decline due to unfavorable economic conditions for the aerospace industry. Contrastingly, in areas such as electronics, more production is becoming automated it this will affect the large numbers of assemblers that work in this occupation.

Many firms are outsourcing their production jobs to foreign nations that provide cheaper labor. This movement, facilitated by free trade and investment policies, is changing the makeup of the workforce of this nation’s manufacturing companies. Employment growth in assembly occupations will be harmed due to outsourcing jobs; however with the current conditions of free trade, more and more goods already assembled here may be exported.

Historical Earnings Information

The wages of assemblers and fabricators depend on many different elements, including the industry, location, skill level, educational level, and complexity of the equipment operated. The average hourly wages were $ 18.71 for aircraft structure, surfaces, rigging, and systems assemblers; $14.02 for engine and other machine assemblers; $11.07 for coil winders, tapers, and finishers; $11.83 for fiberglass laminators and finishers; $11.63 for timing device assemblers, calibrators, and adjusters; $12.15 for electromechanical equipment assemblers; and $11.00 for all the rest in the year 2002.