Exploring this Job
One of the best ways to find out more about this career is to talk with a millwright. See if your career services office or your school's shop instructor can help you set up an interview. You should develop a list of questions to ask, such as details about the responsibilities, hours, pay, and how he or she first got into the work. You could also visit an industrial setting that employs millwrights to watch these workers in action. Local unions that represent millwrights can also provide you with information on the career.
Millwrights are highly skilled workers whose primary function is to install heavy machinery. When machinery arrives at the job site, it must be unloaded, inspected, and moved into position. For light machinery, millwrights use rigging and hoisting devices such as pulleys and cables to lift and position equipment. For heavier jobs, they are assisted by hydraulic lift-truck or crane operators. To decide what type of device is needed to position machinery, millwrights must know the load-bearing properties of ropes, cables, hoists, and cranes.
New machinery sometimes requires a new foundation. Millwrights either prepare the foundation themselves or supervise its construction. To do this, they must be able to work with concrete, wood, and steel, and read blueprints and schematic diagrams to make any electrical connections.
When installing machinery, millwrights fit bearings, align gears and wheels, attach motors, and connect belts according to the manufacturer's instructions. They may use hand and power tools, cutting torches, welding machines, and soldering guns. In order to modify parts to fit specifications, they use metalworking equipment such as lathes and grinders.
Millwrights must be very precise in their work and have good mathematical skills to measure angles, material thicknesses, and small distances with tools such as squares, calipers, and micrometers. When a high level of precision is required, such as on a production line, lasers may be used for alignment.
Once machinery is installed, millwrights may do repair or preventive maintenance work such as oiling and greasing parts and replacing worn components.
Millwrights may be hired to change the placement of existing machines in a plant or mill to set up a new production line or improve efficiency. Their contribution is key to the planning of complicated production processes. In large shops and plants, they may update machinery placement to improve the production process. They may even move and reassemble machinery each time a new production run starts. In smaller factories, however, machinery is rearranged only to increase production and improve efficiency. Millwrights consult with supervisors, planners, and engineers to determine the proper placement of equipment based on floor loads, workflow, safety measures, and other important concerns.
The increasing use of automation in many industries means that millwrights are responsible for installing and maintaining more sophisticated machines. When working with this more complicated machinery, millwrights are assisted by computer or electronic experts, electricians, and manufacturers' representatives.