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Transition from Plant mechanic to operator

Discussion in 'Other Earthmoving Equipment' started by ethanu1, Sep 6, 2017.

  1. ethanu1

    ethanu1 Member

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    So i am currently in year 12 and about to finish school. My eventual goal is to be running earth moving equipment but I have been strongly advised that it is very handy to also have a trade under your belt. So my question is, is it a difficult transition to make going from a diesel mechanic to an operator? Am i being realistic in having that as a goal a few years after my trade?


    Cheers Ethan
     
  2. thepumpguysc

    thepumpguysc Senior Member

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    Occupation:
    Master Inj.Pump rebuilder
    Location:
    Sunny South Carolina
    One problem I see is> once the "group" finds out you can fix a machine, you end up doing just that..
    Don't get caught "helping" an operator get going, when YOUR supposed to be operating..
    When I transitioned to BOSS after turning wrenches my whole life, I found it extremely difficult..
    I found myself working after hours at the shop, turning wrenches after everyone went home..
    I finally decided I don't like people or paperwork, so I went back to the other side of the desk.. lol
     
    mrappels and check like this.
  3. check

    check Senior Member

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    Ditto what Pumpguy said. In a lot of companies the bosses generally know that you never let a mechanic operate because he will find out it's a better way to make a living and then you've lost a mechanic, which is harder to find/train than an operator.
    Not everyone is suited to being an operator. It helps if you were born with a good feel for machinery and good concentration. I have neither.
     
    mikebramel likes this.
  4. Birken Vogt

    Birken Vogt Charter Member

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    I think I agree. I like operating for a few hours, then I get bored. I like wrenching better. All other things being equal, pay etc.
     
    funwithfuel likes this.
  5. ethanu1

    ethanu1 Member

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    I have very little experience in the industry but the experience I have had running machinery has been some of the best fun I've ever had. So as someone who has dreamed of operating equipment every since i was a kid is this a good way to start my career? or should I be taking the more generic route of becoming a laborer and doing some decent manual labor before eventually someone offers me a go in a machine?
    Also thank you so much for the answers so far.

    Long term I see my self becoming a contractor with my own machine but i believe that I would have to have a few years experience before i try starting my own business.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2017
  6. Hobbytime

    Hobbytime Senior Member

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    when you do something for fun it is just that, when you do it to make a living, it no longer is fun...many people that turn there hobby into a business, find out in short time they now hate what they do, because now the pressure is on to make $$ to pay bills...it seems you have a long term plan, that is good, thinking long term, many people only look to the end of the week...knowledge is your best asset...so to learn how to repair your equipment is invaluable, either you can work as a mechanic or you can fix your own equipment and save the repair bills, you cant go wrong with doing both, especially if the long term is you want your own business and equipment...
     
    ethanu1 likes this.
  7. Raildudes dad

    Raildudes dad Well-Known Member

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    Location:
    Grand Rapids MI
    Here's my story about working for the fun of it:

    When I was about 10-11, MDOT was building one of the I-routes thru town 1960-61. The closest point was about a mile from our house. All summer i would ride my bike over to the site, ride home for lunch with my mom and sister and back for the afternoon. I'd range from one end of the project to the other about 10 miles ducking out of sight of the inspectors LOL.

    I told my dad I wanted to run equipment like that for my living someday. My dad said no, be a civil engineer and tell the workers what to do. I asked, how do I do that? Answer from a friend of his: Get a civil engineering degree from Michigan Tech. So that was my goal.

    Graduated in June of 1972 with my CE degree and went to work for the county road department. Got my PE license in 1976. This June I started my 46th year with county. I'm currently the Asst. Directs of Engineering (for the 2nd time). I've done just about every engineering position and ran our 125 employee maintenance division for 10 years I look forward to going to work most every day. I could have retired 5-6 years ago but I don't know what else I would like to do that I would enjoy more.

    So I tell folks 57 years later my employer is still paying me to do what I did for fun as a kid, watching road (and bridge) construction. I am very fortunate, I really have never had just a "job".
     
    Tarhe Driver, Jim D and mikebramel like this.
  8. Welder Dave

    Welder Dave Senior Member

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    Being a good operator is almost like being a tradesman. To be good at either one you have to spend years at it. You can't just work at a trade long enough to get your ticket and consider yourself experienced. Some 1st year apprentices think they know it all though. I agree some people are made to be operators and some should never go near a machine. Maybe get a job landscaping or at a golf course where you'll be operating machines and see if you like it and have the right stuff for it. If you do, look at getting in the operating engineers union or maybe take a heavy equipment operating course. Some employers look for recent graduates of the better courses or the courses have contacts in the industry to help with job placement or work experience.
     
  9. Volvomad

    Volvomad Well-Known Member

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    Location:
    Ireland
    I do both operating agri + heavyish equipment and repairing both . I may not be brilliant at either but I get by . A good mechanical knowledge when operating complex machinery with lots of moving parts (in my case ,self propelled forage harvesters)
    is a big advantage . Over the last 20 odd years ,I seem to spend more time under than on machines but as age catches up with me ,it might suit better to reverse this if possible . A wise man once said there is no such thing as a wasted education .
     
    ethanu1 likes this.
  10. ethanu1

    ethanu1 Member

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    Their has been some interesting points made so far. Thanks you all of you's. Appreciate it!
     
  11. oregon96pd

    oregon96pd Well-Known Member

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    If you want to run equipment, then start out doing that. All I've ever done is mechanic, now a field mechanic, and I hate it. What pumpguy said is correct, once you become a mechanic that's pretty much where your stuck, employers (at least the ones I've worked for) won't let you transition over. I always enjoyed the little bit of operating I've done, it seems like a good way to make a living....at least at the end of the day you can look back and have a sense of accomplishment, not so much from the other side.
     
  12. Jim D

    Jim D Senior Member

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    equipment operator
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    California
    ethanu1,

    What everyone here said is correct.

    My advise, to you, is to motivate yourself, and push yourself, and take-a-new-job when you need to, to get yourself to where you want to be.

    Operator, mechanic, business owner, what ever it is that you want to be, it will only happen because of what *you* do to make it happen...

    My opinion is that being a mechanic won't get you hired as an operator. If you are a good mechanic, you are worth more than a good operator... if you want to operate equipment, then be the most knowledgeable you can be of the kind operating that you want to do. Know how the money is being made in the operations that you want to do, and know how to maximize the money earning. (In some operations, production makes money. In some operations, hours make money... )
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2018
  13. Coastiebro

    Coastiebro Active Member

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    Occupation:
    Ex diesel mechanic now contractor
    Location:
    New Zealand
    I started operating farm tractors at 13 years old and parents couldn't get me off the seat. I was told I needed to get a "formal education" which took time but allowed me to see the world as a Heavy Diesel Mechanic. No matter where you go there is a need for a fix it man/woman.
    I have transitioned to operator (own my own business) and now employ others but still spend weekends on the tools. I have a real passion for the work and machines and either you have it or not. ... just ask my poor wife!
     
  14. Tones

    Tones Senior Member

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    land clearing contractor
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    Ubique
    Ethanu 1 an old fart here. With complexity of modern machinery today and the possibility of it getting worse I suggest you learn the tools first. At your age even with want to operate machinery you have no idea of the twists and turns of life. So it could turn out that later on in your journey you end up running your show and it's my thoughts that to save garde yourself against being ripped of by manufacturers and dud dealer you need all the info you can get. That way you can talk the talk.
    And all the very best no matter what you decide.
     
  15. cuttin edge

    cuttin edge Senior Member

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    Finish grader operator
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    NB Canada
    My father pulled wrenches from the time he was 16, until he was 67. He stopped when he died. He started out with a car dealership, but then switched to truck and trailer. He was well known in his trade, and he loved it. I tinkered a lot as a kid, but even now I have no patience. I tend to get big hammer when I should use a little screwdriver. I got the truck bug early and started driving every chance I got. Once I turned 18, I hit the road, and after a time, it quit being fun, and I mean less than a year. I ended up heading off to university, gonna be like one of the guys on the Big Bang Theory, of course that show didn't exist then. I drove truck for a construction company the first summer. The second year they had a job close to the university and I worked evenings with the grading crew. Made friends with the graderman. Got some grading experience that summer, the money was good and in my hand, and here I am still almost 30 years later. I still keep in touch with my old roommate. He is a physics professor in British Columbia, and is involved in the large hadron collider at CERN . I might regret it when it comes time to retire and I have no pension, but I do enjoy my work.
     
  16. jyotiengineering

    jyotiengineering Well-Known Member

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    I have no experience in this field sorry, I can't help you..But, if you were born with a good feel for machinery and good concentration then, you can pursue..
     
  17. The Learner

    The Learner Well-Known Member

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    Occupation:
    Hydraulic specialist
    Location:
    SE Victoria Australia
    In Australia it’s fairly common to do a trade and then turn to machinery

    I know builders plumbers electrictrians and mechanics that have turned their hand to machinery after they are trade quailified

    Now all these guys prove to be in high demand

    Any boss loves a mechanic as an operator because
    You know what sounds good and bad
    How to do basic maintenance for long life of machinery
    And if it all goes bad you can pick up a spanner and save the day

    Builders, Plumbers and Electricians that transition into operators are great because they know what is going to happen in, on and around the excavations. You were once the one asking for it to be done now you are the one doing it you pick up a 6th sense of what has to happen around you

    Another thing
    When you do your trade do everything you can do to “work smarter not harder”
    body preservation is key
    No earthmover wants to hire an ex tradie with injuries from their previous life it limits how useful you will be to your new boss

    Cheers
     
  18. Wes J

    Wes J Senior Member

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    My experience is more in the manufacturing world, so maybe not applicable. In manufacturing, an operator is considered a low or medium skilled job and pay is typically not great. It's very boring and tedious work. The job involves loading machines or doing basic setups and measuring to make adjustments to the machines. It's a job I would never want to do.

    The maintenance or mechanic guys are there to keep the machines running. That is a skilled job and typically pays well, depending on your skill level. It can be a fun job, but when things break, it can be very stressful. The company doesn't make money unless the machines are running.

    One thing that I'm sure is the same across industries is that "mechanic" means many different things to different people. I've met a lot of operators who thought they were mechanics. IMO, those guys caused more problems than they ever solved. I can't count the number of times I've been called in to fix something that someone else had already "fixed".

    Even among people who are mechanics, it means many different things. I've met so many good mechanics who could really tackle any mechanical problem they come across. But, these guys have no clue about electrical or hydraulic problems. And if there is a computer involved, forget it.

    Almost all of the machines I work on are now computer controlled in some way. The older guys who cannot diagnose computer related issues are at a massive disadvantage. Electronics are here to stay. If you learn nothing else about wrenching, learn electronics.