What is a Millwright?

Nov 2, 2021 | Uncategorized

The confusion over the millwright’s scope of services comes from the fact that the name ‘millwright’ is a little less descriptive than other skilled trades. Everyone knows, at least to a basic degree, what a welder does. A pipefitter, well that’s somewhat self-explanatory. Electricians, well, they do electrical…stuff.

When it comes to Millwrights though, even in industries utilizing them on a regular basis, the work is a bit more esoteric. Even some people engaged in hiring, evaluating or providing training to millwrights lack a sense of what exactly it is that they do, though their speciality is tremendously important and the products of their work are everywhere.

‘Millwright’ as a name is a holdover from the profession’s original history of working on sawmills, flour mills and paper mills – applications so old they predate industrialization. So, the name is largely traditional, and the trade itself has evolved from its origins, but millwrighting can be thought of as a progenitor of modern industrial mechanics. In fact, while the term ‘millwright’ is commonly used in industries in Canada, the USA and South Africa, ‘Industrial Mechanic’ is sometimes used elsewhere.

Start with the basics: A Millwright is a skilled tradesperson who builds, installs, maintains and removes industrial machinery such as might be found in factories, warehouses and construction sites. Putting whole factories together into a working series of processes is no mean feat, and there is no room to get it wrong! The diverse range of requirements they may be called upon to address mean they need the serious breadth of knowledge and experience.

It’s not just a matter of moving things into place, either. A millwright has to attend to assembling, aligning, balancing and leveling equipment. This may involve any number of stationary, mobile, fluid, hydraulic or pneumatic components. Some systems are sensitive to vibration, other perturbation or distortion of parts such that a whole process may fail if connected improperly. A millwright has to understand how to apply minute precision to massive implements, and execute the work in high-risk environments.

In Alberta, ‘Millwright’ is a regulated trade (Industrial Mechanic (Millwright) Trade Regulation 290/2000), meaning that the training progression, responsibilities, wages and employment processes are, at least partially, governed by compulsory regulation. The government has a say in how the trade is exercised, and there are regulatory hurdles in the way of just anyone practicing within a protected scope without the necessary combinations of qualifications and experience.