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Job Outlook: -11% (Decline)

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What Assemblers and Fabricators Do About this section

Assemblers and fabricators
Assemblers and fabricators conduct quality checks for faulty components or mistakes in the assembly process.

Assemblers and fabricators assemble finished products and the parts that go into them. They use tools, machines, and their hands to make engines, computers, aircraft, ships, boats, toys, electronic devices, control panels, and more.

Duties

Assemblers and fabricators typically do the following:

  • Read and understand schematics and blueprints
  • Position or align components and parts either manually or with hoists
  • Use hand tools or machines to assemble parts
  • Conduct quality control checks
  • Clean and maintain work area, tools, and other equipment

Assemblers and fabricators have an important role in the manufacturing process. They assemble both finished products and the pieces that go into them. The products encompass a full range of manufactured goods, including aircraft, toys, household appliances, automobiles, computers, and electronic devices.

Changes in technology have transformed the manufacturing and assembly process. Modern manufacturing systems use robots, computers, programmable motion-control devices, and various sensing technologies. These technological changes affect the way in which goods are made and the jobs of those who make them. Advanced assemblers must be able to work with these new technologies and use them to manufacture goods.

The job of an assembler or fabricator requires a range of knowledge and skills. Skilled assemblers putting together complex machines, for example, read detailed schematics that show how to assemble the machine. After determining how parts should connect, they use hand or power tools to trim, shim, cut, and make other adjustments to fit components together. Once the parts are properly aligned, they connect them with bolts and screws, or they weld or solder pieces together.

Quality control is important throughout the assembly process, so assemblers look for faulty components and mistakes in the assembly process. They help fix problems before defective products are made.

Manufacturing techniques are moving away from traditional assembly line systems toward lean manufacturing systems, which use teams of workers to produce entire products or components. Lean manufacturing has changed the nature of the assemblers’ duties.

It has become more common to involve assemblers and fabricators in product development. Designers and engineers consult manufacturing workers during the design stage to improve product reliability and manufacturing efficiency. Some experienced assemblers work with designers and engineers to build prototypes or test products.

Although most assemblers and fabricators are classified as team assemblers, others specialize in producing one type of product or perform the same or similar tasks throughout the assembly process.

The following are examples of types of assemblers and fabricators:

Aircraft structure, surfaces, rigging, and systems assemblers fit, fasten, and install parts of airplanes, space vehicles, or missiles, such as the wings, fuselage, landing gear, rigging and control equipment, and heating and ventilating systems.

Coil winders, tapers, and finishers wind wire coils of electrical components used in a variety of electric and electronic products, including resistors, transformers, generators, and electric motors.

Electrical and electronic equipment assemblers build products such as electric motors, computers, electronic control devices, and sensing equipment. Automated systems have been put in place because many electronic parts are too small or fragile for human assembly. Much of the work of electrical and electronic assemblers is done by hand during the small-scale production of electronic devices used in all types of aircraft, military systems, and medical equipment. Production by hand requires these workers to use devices such as soldering irons.

Electromechanical equipment assemblers assemble and modify electromechanical devices such as household appliances, computer tomography scanners, or vending machines. The workers use a variety of tools, such as rulers, rivet guns, and soldering irons.

Engine and machine assemblers construct, assemble, and rebuild engines, turbines, and machines used in automobiles, construction and mining equipment, and power generators.

Structural metal fabricators and fitters cut, align, and fit together structural metal parts and may help weld or rivet the parts together.

Fiberglass laminators and fabricators laminate layers of fiberglass on molds to form boat decks and hulls, bodies for golf carts, automobiles, and other products.

Team assemblers work on an assembly line, but they rotate through different tasks, rather than specializing in a single task. The team may decide how the work is assigned and how different tasks are done. Some aspects of lean production, such as rotating tasks and seeking worker input on improving the assembly process, are common to all assembly and fabrication occupations.

Timing device assemblers, adjusters, and calibrators do precision assembling or adjusting of timing devices within very narrow tolerances.

Work Environment About this section

Assemblers and fabricators
Assemblers and fabricators work in plants and factories.

Assemblers and fabricators held about 1.9 million jobs in 2019. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up assemblers and fabricators was distributed as follows:

Miscellaneous assemblers and fabricators 1,389,100
Electrical, electronic, and electromechanical assemblers, except coil winders, tapers, and finishers 291,700
Structural metal fabricators and fitters 78,500
Engine and other machine assemblers 45,900
Aircraft structure, surfaces, rigging, and systems assemblers 43,900
Fiberglass laminators and fabricators 20,400
Coil winders, tapers, and finishers 13,000
Timing device assemblers and adjusters 1,300

The largest employers of assemblers and fabricators were as follows:

Transportation equipment manufacturing 25%
Temporary help services 12
Machinery manufacturing 10
Computer and electronic product manufacturing 9
Fabricated metal product manufacturing 8

Most assemblers and fabricators work in manufacturing plants, and working conditions vary by plant and by industry. Many physically difficult tasks, such as tightening massive bolts or moving heavy parts into position, have been automated or made easier through the use of power tools. Assembly work, however, may still involve long periods of standing, sitting, or working on ladders, such as in the shipbuilding industry.

Injuries and Illnesses

Some assemblers may come into contact with potentially harmful chemicals or fumes, but ventilation systems normally minimize any harmful effects. Other assemblers may come into contact with oil and grease, and their work areas may be noisy. Fiberglass laminators and fabricators are exposed to fiberglass, which may irritate the skin. Therefore, fiberglass workers must wear gloves and long sleeves and must use respirators for safety.

Miscellaneous assemblers and fabricators have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. ("Miscellaneous" titles represent occupations with a wide range of characteristics that do not fit into any of the other detailed occupations.)

Work Schedules

Most assemblers and fabricators are employed full time. Some assemblers and fabricators work in shifts, which may require evening, weekend, and night work.

How to Become an Assembler or Fabricator About this section

Assemblers and fabricators
Assemblers and fabricators usually receive training in a specialty area.

The education level and qualifications needed to enter these jobs varies with the industry and employer. Although a high school diploma is enough for most jobs, experience and additional training are needed for more advanced assembly work.

Education

Most employers require a high school diploma or equivalent for assembler and fabricator positions.

Training

Workers usually receive several months of on-the-job training, sometimes including employer-sponsored technical instruction.

Some employers may require specialized training or an associate’s degree for the most skilled assembly and fabrication jobs. For example, jobs with electrical, electronic, and aircraft and motor vehicle products manufacturers typically require more formal education. Apprenticeship programs are also available.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

The Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International (FMA) offers certificates and training programs in fabrication, coil processing, and other related topics. Although not required, becoming certified can demonstrate competence and professionalism. It also may help a candidate advance in the profession.

In addition, many employers that hire electrical and electronic assembly workers, especially those employers in the aerospace and defense industries, require certifications in soldering. The Association Connecting Electronics Industries, also known as IPC, offers a number of certification programs related to electronic assembly and soldering.

Important Qualities

Color vision. Assemblers and fabricators who make electrical and electronic products must distinguish different colors, because the wires they often work with are color coded.

Dexterity. Assemblers and fabricators should have a steady hand and good hand–eye coordination, as they must grasp, manipulate, or assemble parts and components that are often very small.

Math skills. Assemblers and fabricators must know basic math and be able to use computers, because the manufacturing process continues to advance technologically.

Mechanical skills. Modern production systems require assemblers and fabricators to use programmable motion-control devices, computers, and robots on the factory floor.

Physical stamina. Assemblers and fabricators must stand for long periods and perform repetitious work.

Physical strength. Assemblers and fabricators must be strong enough to lift heavy components or pieces of machinery. Some assemblers, such as those in the aerospace industry, must frequently bend or climb ladders when assembling parts.

Technical skills. Assemblers and fabricators must understand technical manuals, blueprints, and schematics for a wide range of products and machines in order to manufacture the final product properly.

Pay About this section

Assemblers and Fabricators

Median annual wages, May 2019

Total, all occupations

$39,810

Production occupations

$36,000

Assemblers and fabricators

$33,710

 

The median annual wage for assemblers and fabricators was $33,710 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,000, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $54,660.

Median annual wages for assemblers and fabricators in May 2019 were as follows:

Aircraft structure, surfaces, rigging, and systems assemblers $54,210
Engine and other machine assemblers 45,660
Structural metal fabricators and fitters 40,390
Coil winders, tapers, and finishers 36,520
Fiberglass laminators and fabricators 35,480
Timing device assemblers and adjusters 35,080
Electrical, electronic, and electromechanical assemblers, except coil winders, tapers, and finishers 34,810
Miscellaneous assemblers and fabricators 32,350

In May 2019, the median annual wages for assemblers and fabricators in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Transportation equipment manufacturing $38,820
Machinery manufacturing 36,190
Fabricated metal product manufacturing 34,640
Computer and electronic product manufacturing 34,200
Temporary help services 27,390

Wages vary by industry, geographic region, skill, education level, and complexity of the machinery operated.

Most assemblers and fabricators are employed full time and may need to work evenings and weekends.

Job Outlook About this section

Assemblers and Fabricators

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Total, all occupations

4%

Production occupations

-4%

Assemblers and fabricators

-11%

 

Overall employment of assemblers and fabricators is projected to decline 11 percent from 2019 to 2029.

Within the manufacturing sector, employment of assemblers and fabricators will be determined largely by the growth or decline in the production of certain manufactured goods. In general, overall employment of assemblers and fabricators is projected to decline because many manufacturing sectors are expected to become more efficient and able to produce more with fewer workers.

In most manufacturing industries, improved processes, tools, and, in some cases, automation will reduce job growth. Increasingly, new advances in robotics have enabled machinery to perform more complex and delicate tasks previously performed by workers. In addition, assemblers and fabricators are increasingly working alongside robots, also known as “collaborative robotics.” These new robots can help workers perform tasks and increase efficiency. However, this increased efficiency may reduce the demand for some assemblers and fabricators.

Cheaper and more advanced robotics, along with the possibility of decreased taxes and regulations, may entice some manufacturers to bring previously offshored production back to the United States. However, the new jobs may be more highly skilled in nature and more dependent upon automated technology.

Advances in three-dimensional printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has the potential to reshape the entire manufacturing sector in the future. Entire parts or even vehicles might be produced in a single build that would require very little assembly or fabrication by hand. This technology is still emerging though, and may not immediately affect the demand for these workers over the next 10 years.

Job Prospects

Despite declining employment, 156,300 openings for assemblers and fabricators are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Qualified applicants, including those with technical vocational training and certification, are likely to have the best job opportunities.

Employment projections data for assemblers and fabricators, 2019-29
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Assemblers and fabricators

1,883,700 1,679,400 -11 -204,300

Aircraft structure, surfaces, rigging, and systems assemblers

51-2011 43,900 36,300 -17 -7,600 Get data

Coil winders, tapers, and finishers

51-2021 13,000 10,500 -19 -2,400 Get data

Electrical, electronic, and electromechanical assemblers, except coil winders, tapers, and finishers

51-2028 291,700 295,900 1 4,200 Get data

Engine and other machine assemblers

51-2031 45,900 39,000 -15 -7,000 Get data

Structural metal fabricators and fitters

51-2041 78,500 66,000 -16 -12,500 Get data

Fiberglass laminators and fabricators

51-2051 20,400 19,300 -5 -1,100 Get data

Timing device assemblers and adjusters

51-2061 1,300 1,000 -22 -300 Get data

Miscellaneous assemblers and fabricators

51-2090 1,389,100 1,211,500 -13 -177,600 Get data

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