Having a Career in Manufacturing Cars

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Several million cars roll off the assembly lines in the United States every year. But before they reach the end of the line, years of planning, designing, engineering, testing, and production planning have taken place for each model. The first step is always market research, which involves finding out what customers want in a car. Then a new model is proposed, and teams of designers work on creating the most appealing design. Meanwhile, engineers are busy designing and developing the more than 13,000 parts that will go in a car. This is a formidable task because all the pieces must fit together like a giant jigsaw puzzle. After the final design is selected and the parts are engineered, the production engineers must plan the assembly of the new model. Prototypes must be built and tested in laboratories, highways, and proving grounds. Before final assembly of a car can begin, all the parts have to be built. The manufacturing of cars is one of the largest industries in the United States. There are jobs for engineers, designers, executives, managers, drafters, office personnel, salespeople, computer programmers-to name just some of the jobs in this giant industry. Nevertheless, the greatest number of people employed in this industry is those who assemble cars and the parts used in making cars.

What It's Like To Be an Assembler

You are most likely to work in Michigan, Ohio, or Indiana, although other states do have facilities that manufacture cars and parts for cars. Furthermore, chances are three out of five that you will work at a company that has 1,000 or more employees. It is quite possible that you will work as part of a team. And you are likely to find yourself in a highly automated plant with robots working beside you.

Let's Find Out What Happens On the Job

Although the production of a car may take several years, the final assembly of an automobile takes only hours. The body of the car, which is already painted, will move down the assembly line to your station. The part that you are installing either will arrive at your station exactly when you need it or will be stored at your station. Depending on your task, the line may stop so your part can be installed, you may install the part while you walk along the moving line, or you may ride the conveyor belt to install your part. As soon as you have finished, you will repeat the same steps with the next car on the assembly line.

The Pleasures and Pressures of the Job

At many factories, you will enjoy the camaraderie of working on a team. You may also rotate jobs with team members, which eliminates the boredom of doing the same work all the time. Assembly-line work conditions have improved in recent years with increased automation; however, your workplace may be noisy, repeating the same motions can cause injuries, and you may have to lift and fit heavy parts. And more work-related injuries happen in the automotive industry than other manufacturing industries. You will also have the pressure of keeping up with the pace of the assembly line.

The Rewards, the Pay, and the Perks

One of the biggest rewards of working as an assembler is the pay-the highest in manufacturing. If you work for an auto or body manufacturer, you may start for as much as $13 an hour and be earning about $19 within 3 years. If you work the late shift, you will receive a premium. In addition, you will receive very generous benefits, including health, life, and accident insurance; paid holidays; and pension plans.

Getting Started

You can find out about jobs as an assembler at auto or body manufacturing plants. Another source of job information is a state employment office. You can also find out about openings through news-paper ads. Although you can be hired as an assembler without a high school diploma, most assemblers do have diplomas. Competition for these jobs is intense so having a diploma is a plus. Besides working at a plant that manufactures autos or auto bodies, you will find many assembly jobs at factories that manufacture auto parts and accessories.

Climbing the Career Ladder

Being an assembler is not a dead-end job; however, if you wish to advance, you will need more education and training. Fortunately, much of the training is available right at the plant, and manufacturers will often pay for further education at vocational schools and colleges. The next rung up the ladder from assembler in plants with a team approach is team leader, then to leader of a group, which is made up of several teams. From group leader, you can advance to being an assistant manager in charge of an area and then to manager of a floor.

Now Decide If Being an Assembler Is Right for You

You have the advantage of making an excellent hourly wage as an assembler. The benefits package you receive will be most generous. And you may have performance bonuses based on the quality of cars produced at your factory. One negative to taking a job as an assembler is that the number of job openings is declining and is expected to continue to decline through the year 2005. This is largely because productivity has increased through the use of more and more automation. Nevertheless, there will be jobs to replace workers and jobs for more skilled workers such as welders and electricians.

Things You Can Do To Get a Head Start

Because the demand for unskilled assemblers is declining, consider getting skills that will make you a more attractive job candidate. Having computer, electronics, welding, drafting, computer-aided design, and computer-aided manufacturing skills will give you the opportunity to become a precision assembler. Precision assemblers do work that requires a high degree of accuracy and are less likely to be replaced by increased automation. High school courses in math and science can provide a good background for future training.

You and Automobile Manufacturing and Design

In making an automobile, the computer-aided design (CAD) technician designs car parts, and the assembler actually puts together the parts to build the car. Let's see if you have the qualities of a successful CAD technician.

  1. I understand how automobiles are manufactured and how they work.

  2. I know how to draft.

  3. I am good at using computers and like to use them.

  4. I do not mind making changes to my work.

  5. I pay close attention to detail and do my work neatly.

Now, let's look at the qualities of a successful assembler.

  1. I have taken high school shop and electronics courses.

  2. I like to work with my hands and do it well.

  3. I do not mind doing the same thing repeatedly.

  4. I have an aptitude for mechanical work.

  5. I can work at a fast pace.

Find Out More about Making Automobiles

Get more details by writing to the human resources department of an automobile manufacturer. For general information about careers in making and designing automobiles, contact these sources:

  • Society of Automotive Engineers

  • American Automobile

  • Manufacturers Association

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