An assembly technician is responsible for the construction of smaller components which form units required to complete a whole mechanical or electrical system.
Assembly technicians usually work within a warehouse or factory, and always within a team of other technicians. It is their job to inspect, correct, maintain, fix and build simple or complex items which will be joined with other assemblies to form more complete systems; these could be objects, tools, machines, or simply larger components. The technician (or “tech”) is often rotated around the manufacturing lines within an organisation and are subsequently assigned to a station; some companies choose techs who are selected for their precise ability on one specific station, whereas some companies prefer to rotate all of their assembly staff to encourage multi-skilling.
The most important element of working as an assembly technician is to complete work on his or her component before the work schedule comes to an end; this will mean the component can be added to the “assembly mix” in order to go to form a complete whole, whether that be a tractor, aircraft wing or industrial printer. The job requires the candidate to work speedily and with a steady hand, both on their own initiative and simultaneously as part of a larger team.
The salary for assembly workers varies with the industry sector. For low-tech items produced on a simple factory assembly line, the job is often based on hourly pay, which gives employers the flexibility to increase or reduce manpower at will by way of shift work and overtime. Entry-level assembly jobs tend to pay only minimum wage. In the UK, this is currently £5.93 per hour for workers aged 21 and over, £4.92 for those in the 18-20 age category, and £3.64 for young workers aged between 16-17.
For full-time assembly techs who work in making and repairing components for mechanised vehicles or heavy industry, the salary can be much more rewarding. Workers who assemble earthmoving equipment, for example, can expect to earn £22,000 per annum as a starting salary for nightshift work, and £17,000 per annum for days. Team leader roles add another £3000 – £4000 on top of that too, so the remuneration can be significantly better in industries that require a greater technical aptitude. It is worth noting also that the employer will often pay for assembly techs to complete additional training or go to college, which carries with it an immediate and ongoing reward also.
- Understand the assembly-specific technical demands of the station being worked
- Understand how the tech’s own contribution fits into the process of component amalgamation
- Conduct fitment, building or rebuilding work quickly and accurately
- Communicate with other stations and departments within the build process
- Liaise with component suppliers (if applicable)
- Use a variety of electronic scanning and reporting tools (if applicable)
No formal qualifications are required to start as an assembly technician as the employer will usually offer a comprehensive training programme at the beginning of employment. This is because the technical knowledge required to work in component manufacture is usually less than that required to work in system design or integration. However, employers do like candidates to have GCSE level maths and English, as this demonstrates a good general aptitude for communication and problem-solving.
Companies who wish to develop the technical skill set of their assembly staff will often cover the cost for them to go on college courses. In the heavy mechanised vehicle sector, for example, many assembly workers are studying towards Mechanical Engineering and Business Improvement to NVQ level 3, which is paid for by the employer.
- Ability to work quickly and accurately
- Ability to work on own initiative but also form part of complex chains of interlinked teams
- An eye for detail and a steady hand for precision assembly work
- Ability to work under pressure and in close proximity to noisy equipment
- Ability to complete repetitive tasks without making mistakes
- A good general technical and mechanical mindset
Working as an assembly technician can place the candidate in a variety of possibly dangerous situations. This is due to the fast-paced nature of the modern warehouse/factory environment, the high levels of noise and the need to use potentially dangerous tools or heavy machinery. It is a requirement of law that persons do not use heavy equipment without appropriate training, and it is also necessary that new candidates complete health and safety training in order to alert them to potentially harmful workplace risks.
Work on an assembly line is completely open to unskilled candidates with no qualifications, because at its most basic level, the job is not technically challenging. For this reason, it is a popular choice for those who lack a sparkling CV or a large amount of general work experience. Entry level assembly jobs can allow the candidate to develop skills in a number of disciplines and different technical areas, meaning they then become better equipped to apply for promotions to more demanding (or more technical) assembly roles.
For candidates who have CVs which are more developed and broad, the improvement of job prospects is accelerated greatly. For a candidate who has several years’ experience in warehouse work, team leadership, or for somebody switching from an office environment, the chance of swift progression is good. Past the role of assembly technician, there may be positions available for technical team leader, quality assessors or production managers, depending on the type and size of the organisation.
In the UK, the range of employment opportunities in various sectors is vast; candidates may find themselves working in any business sector which has a demand for assembled components. This could be heavy industry, light or medium-scale manufacturing, energy, oil and gas, automotive, IT hardware, audio components; the list is virtually limitless.
Also known as…
- Line assembler
- Line production worker
- Warehouse team leader
- Shift manager
- Component design engineer
What’s it really like?
Keith Martin is an assembly technician for Caterpillar, a high-profile builder of internationally renowned earth-moving equipment. He is based in Leicestershire, UK.
Can you explain the different elements of the job?
Rework and repair in terms of Caterpillar refers to machines that are on the line and something (component-based) is not conforming to Cat standards; for instance, this could be something as simple as the screen-wash is not hitting the screen at the correct angle, so it is fixed in the Quality Gate where I personally work. Off the line, you still get problems like the above, but off-line tends to give bigger problems; you may need to replace or strip down and repair one of our earthmovers. This could be a huge 16ft stick or boom at the rear of the truck! Off-line rework and repair is done by another department in the week called Rework; at the weekend, this is where I get my overtime! So I go in and do off-line repairs and reworks. Warranty repairs (or “in the field repairs”) are handled by contractors all over the world as we ship the backhoe loader to virtually everywhere on the planet; eventually, this means that they could have a number of problems in the field.
Where do you see the job progressing?
My plan is to do Reworks full time, but I need to have a bit more experience before that can happen. I’m loving being able to study whilst I still earn very good money.
What made you decide or choose to get into this sort of career?
Actually it was by sheer chance; an employment agency was very pleased with the work I had done for them previously and so recommended me to Cat in my local area of Leicestershire. Caterpillar liked the fact I had a really varied CV – usually candidates see this as being a negative thing, but it can work to your advantage too! I also had quite a lot of supervisory experience working in different types of warehousing and office-warehouse jobs in the past.
Do you have a standard day or a standard type of `exercise’?
Yes and no. On the assembly line, you have to work to Caterpillar’s exact specification for each of the stations which have roles in the entire build process, and often this can include five or six independent tasks, making up the composite assembly. However, on Rework (reconstruction) and on the repair side of my job, it can be much more varied; we get anything from securing a loose wire to repairing a complete brake pedal assembly.
What is the most common type of problem/call-out/enquiry to which you must attend?
Probably repairing the hand brake boot and gaiter. You tend to see the same issues come up time and time again; it allows you to deal with rectifying these issues very quickly, and then the company can investigate as to how they can improve their product design in the future.
What do you like most about the job?
I enjoy the fact that I play a significant part in the manufacturing of some of the planet’s most fantastic machines; it gives me a huge amount of job satisfaction!
What do you like least about the job?
It can be a bit noisy a lot of the time. People who are considering joining a heavy manufacturer as an assembly technician should be aware of this; it may not suit everybody because of this.
What are the key responsibilities?
My key responsibilities depend on the station I’ve been assigned to. For my usual station, the tasks include fitting the Road Lock Cable (which is a safety feature for when the vehicle is travelling on public roads), filling the mechanical vessels with hydraulic oil and antifreeze, and attaching safety decals to the truck. In addition, there is the day-to-day reworking and repairing of general faults.
What advice do you have for someone who is looking to get into this as a career?
Go for it, but be prepared for some hard work, and a few ups and downs along the way. I’ve found it to be a fabulous experience so far; I love the fact the job allows me to study something I would not have had the chance to otherwise. Also, if you are able to find work with a prestigious manufacturer, the money is very decent too.
What are the most important qualities an applicant must and should possess?
The most important thing above all else is to work safely. This is an environment where you could get seriously hurt if you’re not careful or don’t perform a task properly. Then there are of course the obvious ones: don’t be late, don’t have unnecessary time off and work to the best of your abilities! I think it’s fair to say these are qualities any employer would look for in an employee regardless of the employment sector.