What Is an Industrial Electrician?
Industrial electricians are integral to any plant's daily running needs. These professionals are responsible for installing, maintaining and repairing electrical components of different industries, such as machines or wiring in manufacturing plants. Understanding what an industrial electrician does, as well as what skills you need to succeed in such an occupation, can help you decide if this career path is right for you. In this article, we explain what an industrial electrician does, what skills you need for the position, where these professionals work and what skills you need to get into the industry.
Related: Types of Electricians
What is an industrial electrician?
An industrial electrician is an electrician that works at an industrial plant monitoring electrical controls, wiring and worksite equipment. They work for many kinds of employers, including parts manufacturers, electrical firms and steel production plants. Industrial electricians may either work as independent contractors or as full-time employees for a single employer. Typically, they handle a 40-hour standard workweek. However, sometimes the schedules of industrial electricians vary.
They can work unexpected overtime on weekends and evenings. They may work with small teams, other industrial electricians or alone. Industrial electricians often report to a supervising manager, or a plant manager. Because of this, industrial electricians need to be both flexible and amicable regarding company obligations, hours and communication during their work.
Related: How To Become an Electrician
What does an industrial electrician do?
An industrial electrician's responsibilities all relate to keeping equipment, and therefore the plant as a whole, running smoothly. They install electrical components, test components, troubleshoot components and repair any electrical components that may be below company or industry standards. They also translate blueprint information for other department members and outline specifications of machines. Industrial electricians ensure all mechanical components and wiring are up to date and code for the area they work in. Some of the specific duties an industrial electrician may handle include:
Handling of new electrical systems
Industrial electricians maintain electrical systems from the moment they install them in manufacturing plants or production plants. They run tests to make sure that the new machine is ready to function at full performance and diagnose any problems the machine may run into over its lifespan. Not only should they be able to install these systems, but they should be able to explain system functions to anyone who may work with the machine, or need information about the machine, such as a coworker, intern or manager.
Electrical system repair
Industrial technicians repair any pre-existing or installed systems or machines at their respective plants. With this, they must understand the overarching issues behind common problems. Commonly, they fix machines with hydraulic, electrical issues, and can identify what parts they need and how much time it will take for them to repair a given machine.
They also may need to explain why a machine is not working properly, as well as communicate what needs to be done and the costs related to fixing it. Industrial electricians may often encounter machines or appliances they did not install themselves, and will therefore have to be flexible and knowledgeable in relation to all things mechanical, adapting to situations that arise during their workday.
Maintain records and repair logs
One important aspect of the industrial electrician's duties is to both make and manage logs or reports for all repairs and maintenance of company machines. The goal of this duty is to accurately and promptly communicate information to managers. This is so that managers know when a machine was updated, why, and proof that the electrician repaired it.
Document management is important to an industrial electrician's job, and may be more or less involved depending on whether the electrician is an employee of a company or not. Industrial electricians who work on a contract basis may need more document management skills to work continuously for multiple contracts.
Skills for an industrial electrician
Below are some of the skills needed to become an industrial electrician:
A high school education
In order for a potential industrial electrician to be eligible for training, they need to complete a high school education. This is so that they meet some basic knowledge parameters to prepare for training.
Because an industrial electrician's job involves moving, repairing and maintaining equipment, they need a certain level of physical strength to do so. Industrial electrician's may need to crawl, climb or otherwise strategically maneuver to their destinations where mechanical parts or portions of a machine need repair.
Typically, industrial electricians work in very busy or noise-filled environments. Because of this, any aspiring industrial electrician will need to be capable of working, functioning and communicating in a possibly stress inducing environment.
Electrical troubleshooting knowledge
Because electrical technicians need to diagnose many different mechanical problems, they need to have knowledge of different troubleshooting methods. They may need to adapt to unexpected situations, or challenges that may require intuitive exploration on their part for a solution.
An apprenticeship program
To become an industrial electrician, you typically need to complete a certain margin of specialized training. In order to earn a journeyman electrician's license, you will need to complete an apprenticeship program.
General organizational and communication skills
Besides training and education, industrial electricians need many soft and physical skills to function properly in the workplace. These include:
Basic computer skills
Above average hand-eye coordination
The ability to stand, crouch or kneel for long periods of time
Attention to detail
In addition, because industrial electricians work with large, potentially dangerous equipment, they need to have a natural emphasis in caution regarding safety protocol, both for themselves and others.
Salary and job outlook for industrial electricians
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the national average salary of industrial electricians is $56,900 per year. The employment of industrial electricians is expected to grow by 8% in the next eight years, which is much faster than average.
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