Henry Ford

Innovators Who Shaped American Manufacturing: Henry Ford

Before his name was associated with F-150 trucks, Henry Ford, American industrialist and founder of the Ford Motor Company, was better known for his iconic Model T car and his pioneering work in the manufacturing sector. With the introduction of the moving assembly line and novel, employee-focused business initiatives, his legacy set numerous precedents for today’s industrial landscape.

Though he is most commonly recognized in the context of automobiles, American industrialist and businessman Henry Ford is also often credited with revolutionizing manufacturing through his innovative approaches and groundbreaking achievements. Armed with a dream and a natural affinity for engineering, Ford’s unwavering determination and innovative mindset propelled him to become one of the most influential figures of the 20th century and one of the most impactful forces in creating the American middle class.

Cars for the Great Multitude

Henry Ford was born on July 30, 1863. He was raised on a farm in Dearborn, Michigan, and showed an early interest in mechanics and engineering. Though he had little formal education, he found work as a teen apprentice in a machine shop, where he became proficient in operating and servicing steam engines. In adulthood, he started at the Edison Illuminating Company in Detroit, quickly rising to become chief engineer within just a couple of years.

Growing up in a family of limited means, one of Ford’s most persistent dreams throughout his life was to produce goods in such a way that they would be affordable for anyone. After multiple career setbacks and failed business ventures, the Ford Motor Company was started in 1903, where he began producing a variety of automobiles. Five years later, after proclaiming he would “build a motor car for the great multitude,” Ford introduced the iconic Model T, which, at its peak, would eventually represent half of all cars on the road worldwide.

Pioneering the Assembly Line

Ford’s most notable contribution to the manufacturing industry came from the moving assembly line. In 1913, at his Highland Park factory in Michigan, Ford introduced the world to a groundbreaking method of mass production that involved breaking down the assembly of automobiles into a series of simple, repetitive tasks. This led to faster production times and a significant increase in the output of goods, as the time it took to build a car dramatically reduced from hours to just minutes. This innovation increased efficiency and productivity and made automobiles more affordable and accessible to consumers.

With the implementation of the assembly line, Ford achieved his vision of making the automobile a practical mode of transportation for the average American. By 1925, the Model T had become a reliable, affordable, mass-produced car that transformed the automotive industry. By standardizing parts and streamlining production processes, Ford lowered the Model T’s cost from $825 to just $260, making it a reasonable investment for millions of working-class families across the country.

Less Work, More Pay

In a bold move to combat high employee turnover and attract skilled workers, Henry Ford also introduced the “Five-Dollar Day” in 1914, doubling the average wage of his employees to $5 per day. This groundbreaking initiative improved the quality of life for Ford’s workers and set a new standard for employee compensation and welfare in the manufacturing industry. By paying higher wages, Ford aimed to attract and retain skilled workers, reduce turnover, and foster loyalty and productivity among his workforce.

As another method of enticing and keeping reliable employees and increasing production, Ford shortened the average workday by one hour from nine to eight. This allowed for the addition of a third shift, turning the company into a 24-hour operation, giving existing employees more time outside of the plant, and providing jobs for even more workers. Though critics called him “Crazy Henry” for his unconventional business practices, insisting he would quickly go bankrupt, Ford would eventually say it was “the smartest cost-cutting move [he] ever made.” Not only were his employees more likely to continue showing up to work, but a new class of consumers was created that could afford Ford cars – another win-win for both the company and its workers.

Lasting Effects on American Manufacturing

Ford’s introduction of the assembly line and unprecedented business initiatives transformed the automobile industry and set a precedent for manufacturing practices across various sectors. His innovative methods and forward-thinking approach, which emphasized productivity, standardization, and continuous improvement, laid the foundations of the modern industrial landscape and have had a profound impact on the way goods are produced to this day.

His legacy can be seen in modern production techniques, supply chain management, and labor practices that prioritize efficiency, quality, and employee well-being. As the manufacturing landscape evolves, Henry Ford’s foundational principles remain relevant, serving as a testament to his enduring impact on American industry and innovation.

To learn more about manufacturing, check out Effects Of The Industrial Revolution On Wisconsin, History Of Manufacturing In Eau Claire, and Supporting Employee Mental Health In The Manufacturing Industry

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Heavy Equipment Operator

All in the Blue Collar Family: Heavy Equipment Operator

At some point, you have likely seen a child be amazed by a bulldozer knocking over a structure, a crane lifting massive pieces of building materials, or an excavator digging up scoops of dirt. But those vehicles don’t work independently – they need skilled people behind the wheel. Often the first to arrive and the last to leave for the day at a job site, heavy equipment operators are crucial to the construction world, commanding the large machines that shape the landscapes of our cities and towns.

Heavy equipment operators are vital components in just about any major construction project. They are responsible for running large machines that push, pull, pump, or lift material that is too much for human hands. With a rich history dating back to the early days of mechanized construction, these skilled professionals play a pivotal role in shaping the world around us.

History of Heavy Equipment

The roots of heavy equipment operation can be traced back to the Industrial Revolution when new machinery revolutionized agricultural, construction, and even military operations. In the late nineteenth century, Benjamin Holt invented the first combine harvester and steam engine tractor, and John Froelich soon followed with a gas-powered tractor. These machines set the stage for additional variations of ground-breaking heavy equipment innovations in the following decades, such as the excavator and bulldozer.

In the 1950s, a significant increase in demand for new suburban neighborhoods and interstate highways made heavy equipment invaluable in the booming construction industry. As the technology continued to evolve, so did the role of operators, with the introduction of diesel-powered equipment, hydraulic systems, and more compact machines in the early twentieth century, marking significant milestones in the profession’s development. Heavy equipment operators are expected to continue being in high demand in the coming years, as the job outlook is projected to grow by 13.6% in Wisconsin between 2016-2026.

The Role of Heavy Equipment Operators

Heavy equipment operators are responsible for maneuvering and operating a wide range of machinery, such as bulldozers, excavators, cranes, backhoes, and loaders. Their work is indispensable in construction projects that require industrial aerial, earth-moving, paving, power generation, and hauling functions. Construction companies or private contractors may employ them for various projects, from new buildings and infrastructure to roads and landscaping.

What Heavy Equipment Operators Do

The tasks performed by heavy equipment operators are diverse and multifaceted, ranging from excavation and earthmoving to material handling and site preparation. Some typical jobs and responsibilities include:

  1. Excavation: Operators may help clear spaces in the ground by digging trenches, foundations, and drainage ditches using excavators or backhoes.
  1. Grading: Preparing sites for construction projects often involves leveling and smoothing terrain to create even foundational ground using excavators, backhoes, or skid steers.
  1. Material Handling: For large amounts that cannot be lifted by hand, operators may transport and distribute heavy materials such as soil, gravel, and concrete using loaders, dump trucks, or bulldozers.
  1. Lifting and Rigging: Cranes, forklifts, or excavators may be used to hoist and position heavy objects like construction materials, containers, and even other machines.
  1. Demolition: To begin clearing an area of unwanted structures, operators may break down heavy materials using excavators, backhoes, or bulldozers to make them easier to transport.

Becoming a Heavy Equipment Operator

Becoming a heavy equipment operator requires education, training, and practical experience. While specific requirements may vary depending on location and employer, the general steps typically include:

  1. Education: While the job doesn’t require much formal education, most employers look for at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Focusing on math, physics, and auto mechanics classes can help later on.
  1. Training: Depending on the type of equipment, aspiring operators may have a variety of training options, including on-the-job training with an experienced operator, vocational training programs, or apprenticeships. Any of these options will provide an opportunity to learn the fundamentals of heavy equipment operation and get hands-on experience.
  1. Licensing and Certification: While not all types of heavy machinery need licenses, it is essential to check which do and earn the proper certifications as necessary. Requirements may vary by state but typically involve knowledge and skills testing.
  1. On-the-Job Experience: Gaining practical experience by working alongside seasoned operators can help hone skills and increase knowledge while earning valuable experience in an entry-level position.
  1. Continuing Education: Staying updated on industry trends and advancements through ongoing training and professional development can provide opportunities for continued career growth and additional employment options.

As the construction industry continues to change, heavy equipment operators will remain indispensable to projects of all kinds. With a bright outlook for employment opportunities and technological advancements, these dedicated professionals will continue to play a vital role in shaping the landscapes of our communities.

To learn about other jobs in the blue-collar family, check out these articles about plasterers, carpenters, and masons.

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Exploring Scientific Research on Polymer Durability

Exploring Scientific Research on Polymer Durability and its Impact on the Rubber Industry

In the world of rubber manufacturing, durability is the holy grail. The ability of rubber products to withstand wear, tear, and the ravages of time is paramount. Today, cutting-edge research is pushing the boundaries of polymer durability, promising products that last longer and perform better.

The concept of more resilient, long-lasting rubber is poised to enhance the way we build, move, and live with new scientific advancements in the durability of polymers. This article will explore the fascinating world of polymer research and its impact on the rubber industry.

Understanding Polymer Durability

A polymer is a large molecule composed of repeating structural units, or monomers, connected by chemical bonds. These long chains of repeating units give polymers their distinctive properties based on the type of molecules they’re made of and how they’re arranged. Rubber is considered an elastomer (“elastic polymer”), characterized by its ability to stretch and return to its original shape with impressive strength and resilience.

However, due to heat, stress, and exposure to chemicals and UV radiation, polymers can break down over time. This degradation leads to reduced product lifespan and performance. Because of this, researchers and manufacturers continually explore ways to modify and improve the polymer structure to enhance rubber’s performance and durability in various applications.

The Quest for Resilience

Rubber manufacturing companies have long sought ways to enhance the durability of their products, and recent research efforts are focused on developing innovative techniques to fortify polymers. Here are some notable approaches:


Cross-links are ionic or covalent bonds connecting segments from separate polymer chains via chemical reactions. This creates a strengthened network of polymers, improving thermal stability and chemical resistance.

The most common form of cross-linking is vulcanization using sulfur, which toughens rubber, improves tensile strength, and protects against abrasion. Some newer techniques use peroxide for better compression set percentages and low-temperature flexibility. By combining these types of elements, scientists have been able to achieve a variety of properties based on the desired applications.

Researchers are investigating additional methods to increase cross-linking within polymers to further improve this process’s effectiveness. A recent study by a team of chemists from MIT and Duke University found that using weaker links to connect chains in random places significantly improved tear strength due to cracks needing to travel through a longer path to break the weaker links while avoiding the stronger ones.


Utilizing nanomaterials is another promising avenue that involves manipulating matter at the nanoscale. Researchers are experimenting with incorporating nanoparticles into rubber compounds to reinforce polymer matrices with cross-linking agents.

During this process, the nanoparticles are dispersed within the polymer, penetrating the spaces between chains and acting as reinforcements. The introduction of nanoparticles strengthens the polymer and enhances its properties, including increased tensile strength and improved resistance to factors like heat and chemicals.

Bio-Based Polymers

Sustainable rubber is rising, and researchers have been exploring bio-based polymers derived from renewable sources, a significant departure from traditional petroleum-based polymers. These environmentally-friendly options are gaining attention for their potential to create durable, eco-conscious rubber products.

The key to improved durability with bio-based polymers lies in their unique molecular structures, which have intrinsic self-healing mechanisms that a small amount of energy can activate. When exposed to chemical and physical forces, local growth occurs within the polymeric chains, repairing the material’s structure and restoring its functional properties.

While bio-based polymers have not yet become the most effective solution to increased durability, scientists continue developing them to use them as a more environmentally-conscious option. As of right now, they appear to have a strong potential for significantly improving the lifespan of products and reducing waste.

Applications and Impact

The impact of enhanced polymer durability can make a notable impact in numerous applications extending across various industries such as:

1. Automotive: Longer-lasting rubber components like hoses, gaskets, and seals mean reduced vehicle maintenance and replacement costs. Durable, well-functioning parts also ensure the safety of the passengers, especially when it comes to tires.

2. Construction: Rubber is often used for roofing, sealing, and insulation due to its ability to withstand harsh environmental conditions. Durable rubber helps maintain consistent home temperatures, absorb vibrations and sound, and effectively protect piping and cables.

3. Aerospace and Aviation: Aircraft rely on rubber for various components, such as hydraulic actuators, air valves, and auxiliary power units, mainly due to its ability to withstand extreme temperatures and aggressive chemicals. Improved durability ensures safer and more reliable aircraft.

4. Medical: In the healthcare sector, durable rubber is essential for medical accessories and devices that maintain performance and sterility over time. Reliable protective wearables like gloves and masks help to maintain cleanliness and reduce the risk of disease transmission. At the same time, specialized equipment like rubber bladders, catheters, and tubes must dependably be able to hold their contents to avoid potential contamination.

The quest for durability in rubber manufacturing is an ongoing journey marked by scientific innovation and tireless research. The efforts to fortify polymers open doors to a new era of rubber products that endure and excel in performance. As we witness the collaboration of cutting-edge science and the rubber industry, we can anticipate a future where rubber products last longer, perform better, and continue to be the backbone of countless applications in our modern world.

For more rubber-related content, check out 5 Quick Facts About the Rubber Manufacturing Industry, Seven New Uses for Old Tires, and History of Manufacturing in Eau Claire.

For more articles From the Plant, check out our blog.

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Maintaining Quality and Consistency in Rubber Manufacturing

Whether it is being made into tires, conveyor belts, hoses, cabling, or any other application, the quality of rubber significantly impacts the quality of the final product it is used for. Because of this, rubber manufacturers need to be mindful of every step of the process to ensure ideal, consistent results.

Rubber manufacturing is a complex process that transforms raw materials into a range of products we use daily, from automotive parts to household items. Ensuring the quality and consistency of these rubber products is crucial not only for safety but also for meeting customers’ specific needs and expectations. Here are some measures taken to maintain high standards throughout the process.

Understanding the Raw Materials

To make high-quality rubber, you need to start with high-quality ingredients essential for producing durable and reliable products. Manufacturers carefully select and test raw materials, such as natural rubber and synthetic polymers, to ensure they meet required specifications and performance standards. This initial step is vital to achieving consistent results in the final product.

Precision in Mixing and Compounding

During mixing and compounding, raw materials are blended to create the desired rubber compound – a precise is required to achieve the right balance of ingredients. Reliable equipment and systems ensure accurate measurement and thorough mixing, minimizing variations and inconsistencies.

Careful Monitoring During Processing

Once the rubber compound is ready, it undergoes various processing techniques, such as molding, extrusion, or calendering, to shape it into the final product. Strict quality control measures are implemented throughout these processes to monitor critical parameters like temperature, pressure, and speed. Skilled operators detect deviations and make adjustments to maintain the desired quality and consistency.

Thorough Testing and Inspection

Once the rubber has been processed, rigorous testing and inspection are conducted. Each batch is tested for physical properties, such as tensile strength, elongation, and hardness, as well as for durability and performance in real-world conditions. This thorough testing ensures that the rubber products meet industry standards and customer requirements before they are shipped out.

Constant Improvement

Continuously producing top-quality rubber is an ongoing commitment. Investing in research and development to explore new materials, technologies, and processes can further enhance product composition and performance. Continuous training and education for staff ensure they understand and can apply the latest knowledge and skills to uphold the highest standards in rubber manufacturing.

Maintaining quality and consistency in rubber manufacturing is a multifaceted process that requires attention to detail, expertise, and a commitment to excellence at every stage. By investing in quality control, precision manufacturing techniques, and continuous improvement, rubber manufacturers can deliver products that meet and exceed customer expectations. Whether in the market for automotive parts, industrial components, or consumer goods, knowing the measures taken to ensure quality can help you make informed decisions and choose products that offer durability, reliability, and value for money.

To learn more about what we do, check out The Role of Rubber Manufacturers in Building a Circular Economy, A Guide to Natural vs. Synthetic Rubber, and 5 Quick Facts About the Rubber Manufacturing Industry.

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The Human Element of Rubber Manufacturing

At API, our skilled team takes pride in delivering high-quality rubber. Our commitment to customer satisfaction, quality, and innovation are the cornerstones of our success. We know that even though our machines do a lot of work, our business wouldn’t be possible without our people, who play a vital role in the manufacturing process. Before the rubber meets the road, it passes through our hands.

With its sophisticated machinery and intricate processes, rubber manufacturing might seem like a highly automated industry. While those elements play a crucial role, there’s another essential component that often goes unnoticed—the people. Behind every product lies a touch of human expertise, dedication, and craftsmanship. Undoubtedly, people contribute the most to creating an excellent final product.

The Art of Mixing

At the heart of rubber manufacturing is the blending of raw materials to create the perfect rubber compound. While machines handle the bulk of the mixing process, skilled technicians oversee and adjust the recipes to achieve the desired consistency and quality. Their expertise in understanding the nuances of different rubber types and additives is essential in creating compounds that meet specific performance requirements.

Craftsmanship in Molding

Molding is where rubber takes shape, transforming from raw material to the final product. Operators use their keen eye for detail and hands-on skills to ensure that each piece meets specifications. Whether for automotive parts, industrial components, or consumer goods, the precision and care taken during molding significantly impact the product’s functionality and durability.

Ensuring Optimal Quality

Quality control is an integral part of rubber manufacturing, and the humans behind it are crucial to ensuring the final product is satisfactory. Meticulous testing ensures that each batch of rubber products meets strict quality standards and customer expectations. Trained inspectors examine each batch of rubber products, checking for consistency, durability, and performance. Their attention to detail helps identify any irregularities or defects, ensuring that only the best products make it to the market. Their vigilance and commitment to quality assurance help maintain the company’s reputation and build customer trust.

Innovation and Problem-Solving

People who work in rubber manufacturing are not just operators or technicians but also innovators and problem solvers. Facing challenges and seeking innovative solutions is part of their daily work. They have an intimate knowledge of the materials, processes, and equipment involved, allowing them to troubleshoot issues, optimize performance, and ensure quality at every step of the way. Whether improving production efficiency, developing new formulations, or troubleshooting issues, their creativity and ingenuity drive continuous improvement and propel the industry forward.

Building Relationships

Beyond the production floor, people in other roles around the plant are crucial in building and nurturing relationships with customers and partners. Sales representatives, customer service agents, and support staff are vital in understanding customer requirements, addressing concerns, and ensuring a seamless experience from inquiry to delivery. Their knowledge, professionalism, and commitment to customer satisfaction foster a positive experience that fosters loyalty and long-term partnerships. In a world where business is increasingly digital, the human touch remains irreplaceable in establishing trust and understanding customer needs.

While machines and technology are indispensable in modern rubber manufacturing, it’s the humans who breathe life into the process. This industry would not exist without the invaluable knowledge and skills of its dedicated people. From craftsmanship and quality control to innovation and customer engagement, humans are the driving forces behind the quality of production and the core of everything we do.

To learn more about human involvement in manufacturing, check out Supporting Employee Mental Health in the Manufacturing Industry, The Beauty Behind Blue-Collar Work, and Safety Considerations in Manufacturing.

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Applications of Rubber Products in Diverse Industries

Rubber has become indispensable across various industries, revolutionizing everything from transportation to healthcare. With its unique properties and versatility, rubber enhances our daily lives and drives innovation across multiple sectors in many ways. Here are just a few of the seemingly infinite uses of rubber.

One of the most versatile materials, rubber has found its way into countless products and industries we rely on daily. From the tires on our cars to the seals in our appliances, rubber is a staple in modern life. Rubber plays a significant role in contributing to the world around us and is invaluable to a diverse range of industries, such as:


One of the most recognizable applications of rubber is in the automotive industry. Tires, in particular, rely on rubber’s elasticity and durability to provide traction, grip, and shock absorption, ensuring safe and smooth road rides. Rubber is also used in belts, hoses, and o-rings, which help engines run smoothly and efficiently. Additionally, rubber vibration isolators help reduce noise and enhance comfort for drivers and passengers.

Aerospace and Aviation

In aerospace and aviation, rubber components are essential for sealing, insulation, and vibration dampening. Rubber and gaskets help maintain airtight seals in aircraft doors and windows, while rubber insulation protects critical electrical and mechanical systems from extreme temperatures and vibrations. It is valued for its extreme durability and chemical resistance and is often used in hydraulic actuators, auxiliary power units, turbine engines, and bleed air valves and fittings.

Construction and Infrastructure

Rubber finds widespread use in construction and infrastructure projects, using roofing materials, waterproofing membranes, coatings, joints, and belting, improving durability and safety. Additionally, rubber components prevent leaks in plumbing and HVAC systems, while rubber mats and flooring provide slip resistance and absorb impact and sound.


Rubber’s elasticity and durability make it indispensable in the healthcare and medical fields. Medical gloves, masks, and tubing are often made of latex or synthetic rubber due to their hypoallergenic properties and flexibility. It is also used for medical device seals to ensure airtight connections, prosthetics, and other equipment such as catheters, syringes, and bladders.

Electrical and Engineering

Rubber is commonly used in electronics and electrical engineering for its insulating properties and resistance to heat and moisture. It can be found in cables, wiring harnesses, connectors, and gaskets to protect sensitive electronic components from environmental factors and ensure reliable performance.


In agriculture, rubber materials are crucial in enhancing productivity and sustainability. Rubber hoses and tubes are used for irrigation systems, ensuring efficient water distribution to crops. Additionally, rubber belts and conveyor systems facilitate the movement of produce and equipment, allowing for streamlined operations and reduced reliance on manual labor.

Sports and Recreation

Rubber’s elasticity and resilience make it an ideal material for sporting goods and recreational equipment. Rubber enhances comfort, performance, and safety in various sports and leisure activities, from tennis rackets and golf clubs to shock-absorbing soles in athletic shoes. It is also used in running tracks, gym flooring, and just about every type of sports ball available.

Consumer Goods

Rubber’s versatility also shines in making consumer goods, which are used in everything from household appliances and electronics to waterproof clothing and footwear, enhancing the functionality and durability of everyday items. Rubber grips on kitchen utensils and other handles provide ergonomic comfort and non-slip features, while rubberized coatings on electronics offer protection against shocks and impacts. It can be found in almost every room in the house and outside, as it is used in toys, office supplies, storage containers, hair ties, doorstops, headphones, fashion accessories, gardening tools, and hundreds of other items we use regularly.

From the cars we drive to the the healthcare we receive, rubber touches virtually every aspect of our daily lives. As the rubber manufacturing industry continues to evolve and explore new applications, we expect to see even more groundbreaking uses across all sectors.

To learn more about the various applications of rubber, check out The Role of Rubber Manufacturers in Building a Circular Economy, Seven New Uses for Old Tires, and A Guide to Natural vs. Synthetic Rubber.

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All in the Blue Collar Family: Auto Mechanic

We make the rubber that goes on the tires that get put onto cars. Automotive mechanics are the people responsible for making sure those tires are properly installed and taken care of. But they also do so much more than that. These specialized technicians provide critical services that help us keep our world moving (literally) every single day.

According to Forbes, 91.7% of US households had at least one vehicle in 2022, and a total of 278,870,463 vehicles were registered to drivers. But as critical as cars are for getting to work, school, and other day-to-day tasks, the majority of Americans are not able to fix many issues that may arise with their cars by themselves.

This is where auto mechanics come in. These skilled tradespeople provide the essential service of keeping our vehicles in good condition to stay on the road.

History of Automotive Service

When cars first came onto the market, routine care and repairs were largely left up to the owners since there was not yet an established industry for vehicle service. However, because they were so new, most people did not have the proper knowledge and skills to perform necessary maintenance, and only the wealthy were able to afford finding and hiring car makers and drivers who could do it for them. As more and more of these individuals were able to earn an income for performing vehicle service, it soon morphed into an established and valuable trade.

After several decades, cars became more standardized and less expensive, and therefore more common, leading dealerships and private businesses to offer more accessible and affordable mechanic services. Since then, vehicles have become increasingly complex, now requiring even higher levels of knowledge about new technologies and industry standards.

The Role of Auto Mechanics

Automotive mechanics have advanced knowledge of vehicle parts and operations, as well as how to evaluate, maintain, and repair them. Using a variety of specialized tools and techniques, they perform service tasks on cars, trucks, and other vehicles to fix any issues and keep them in prime operating condition. They may work in a variety of settings, such as independent repair shops, dealerships, or commercial automotive service centers, and specialize in a range of areas to work on different parts and types of vehicles.

What Auto Mechanics Do

The jobs of auto mechanics can vary depending on the kinds of vehicles they work on, as well as the type of shop. Some of their most common responsibilities include:

  1. Inspections: Whether part of routine maintenance or diagnosing an issue when a car comes in for service, mechanics are responsible for looking over the different parts of a car to identify any potential problems. This may include evaluating the condition of the engine and other mechanical components as well as the computer and other electronic systems.
  1. Routine Maintenance: To keep vehicles in optimal condition and stay ahead of any potential issues, mechanics conduct routine maintenance such as rotating tires, changing oil, lubricating parts, filling up fluids, and swapping out filters.
  1. Repairs: When issues arise, mechanics are in charge of fixing vehicle systems as necessary based on their evaluation and developed work plans. This may include replacing or repairing parts such as brake pads, sensors, bearings, hoses, or just about any other components.
  1. Customer Relations: When customers bring their cars in for service, mechanics must be able to effectively explain their findings and suggestions for optimal solutions, including time and cost estimates. They should also keep detailed records of the work that was completed for future reference.
  1. Updates: As the industry continues to develop, mechanics need to stay abreast of new technologies, repair techniques, and safety regulations. They should continue learning throughout their career so they have adequate skills to work with newer vehicles and perform their jobs more efficiently.

Becoming an Auto Mechanic

The first and most important qualification for becoming an auto mechanic is having an interest and at least some background knowledge of cars. The professional learning process then typically involves:

  1. Basic Education: To begin training as an auto mechanic, it is generally required to have a high school diploma or equivalent. Strong math, science, and reasoning skills, as well as previously spending time in auto shops tend to be helpful when starting out.
  1. Trade-Specific Education: Because of the complexity of working with cars, additional coursework is typically required, which can be completed in a variety of settings such as trade schools, community colleges, or even the military. These classes typically teach topics such as mathematics, electronics, and auto repair.
  1. Apprenticeship: In addition to classroom learning, hands-on training is crucial for gaining experience with the necessary tools and techniques under an experienced mechanic. Apprenticeships are often available in connection with educational programs or even dealerships.
  1. Certification: To begin working as a professional mechanic, certification from the National Institution for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) is required. Entry-level certification is earned by passing an exam covering eight main areas, including breaks, engine repair, and all major systems.  
  1. Additional Qualifications: After becoming a certified professional, mechanics can go on to earn additional certifications in specialized areas such as air conditioning, diesel engines, or electric vehicles. There are also options to learn and grow into other related jobs such as auto body technician, aircraft mechanic, or heavy machinery mechanic.

With the necessity of automotives to operate in our modern society, mechanics are essential to the maintenance of our entire transportation system. As vehicles continue to become more complex and require advanced knowledge to maintain, the services of these tradespeople will become even more valuable.

To learn about other jobs in the blue-collar family, check out these articles about plumbers, electricians, and welders.

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All in the Blue Collar Family: Plasterer

Have you ever stared at your ceiling and thought you saw a silly face or maybe even a lopsided ice cream cone? While those vague images might not have been created intentionally, they were the work of a plasterer. In addition to adding decorative textures to our walls, these skilled tradespeople are responsible for sealing them for proper functionality – features no house or building would be complete without.

The art of plastering has existed as long as humans have needed permanent protective shelters. Early builders used earthen materials like clay, sand, and straw that were applied to walls and hardened by the sun. Today, plasterers use a wide variety of materials and techniques to strengthen and enhance the walls of our homes—a critical job that requires a combination of technical and artistic skills.

History of Plastering

Some of the earliest examples of plastering date back to around 7500 BC, when the walls and floors of dwellings were made from mud and marble. In the centuries following, it is believed that ancient Egyptians began using lime and gypsum to coat their pyramids, palaces, and tombs, which can still be seen today. Then, as Greek and Roman societies further developed the practice, more decorative applications arose, such as creating sculptures and architectural features.

As time went on, plaster continued to prove useful as both an essential building material and an artistic medium. Native American societies utilized dense clay to create structures that were highly energy-efficient and climate-controlled, and many European castles and cathedrals were adorned with ornamental plaster ceilings. Over the past several centuries, plastering has evolved along with science and technology, leading to the creation of advanced tools and machinery that streamline mixing and application processes, as well as new ingredients and formulations that enhance durability and appearance.

The Role of Plasterers

Within the process of constructing new walls and ceilings, plasterers are responsible for adding the finishing touches before painting begins. Generally, they mix and apply a layer of plaster to seal the walls, protecting them from atmospheric effects like moisture and providing added functionality like fire and soundproofing. They are also responsible for creating the final texture of walls, which can have a decorative effect on the finished product.

What Plasterers Do

While their jobs may seem pretty straightforward, being a successful plasterer involves utilizing significant technical expertise and creativity. Their work generally involves:

1. Surface Preparation: Plasterers must meticulously prepare surfaces to ensure they are clean and have the proper texture to receive the plaster. This may include leveling out uneven walls, removing rough particles, or even scratching up ceilings if they are too smooth.

2. Mixing Plaster: Depending on the desired result, plasterers will mix a specific combination of water and a dry powder such as cement, gypsum, or lime to form a spreadable paste. Applying knowledge of different material properties is critical for proper adhesion and texture.

3. Applying Plaster: Plasterers’ main job is to apply plaster to interior walls and ceilings or exterior walls to seal them. They typically use equipment such as trowels, brushes, and sprayers to create a finished look and protect the walls from the elements.

4. Decorative Finishes: While some projects require smooth finishes, adding intricate patterns or textures with plaster can enhance the visual appeal of interiors. Plasterers can create intricate designs, such as crown moldings and cornices using specialized tools and techniques.

5. Repair and Restoration: In addition to new constructions, plasterers may also repair aging and broken plaster walls and fixtures. This may include filling holes or cracks in walls, restoring decorative molding, or adding new finishing coats for protection.

Becoming a Plasterer

The main requirements for becoming a plasterer generally involve basic competencies in reading, writing, and arithmetic, as well as physical stamina and artistic skills. Some of the typical steps to becoming a plasterer include:

1. Education: In addition to math and English, taking shop or building-related classes in high school will create a strong foundation for an aspiring plasterer. While not always necessary, earning an associate’s degree in construction or plastering at a college or vocational school can also be beneficial.

2. Apprenticeship: The most critical learnings take place during an apprenticeship, where they work alongside an experienced plasterer and become familiar with crucial skills like mixing plaster, applying plaster, and mounting plasterboard. Apprenticeships typically last two to four years and involve a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on work.

3. Certification: Some locations may require certification to legally practice as a professional plasterer. This generally involves taking a course through an organization such as The National Plastering Industry Association (NPIA) and passing a skills test.

4. Specialization: To diversify their market, plasterers often choose to specialize in areas like solid plastering, drywall finishing, or ornamental detailing. This allows them to use different techniques and materials and work on a greater variety of projects, such as historic restorations and others with special requirements.

5. Continuous Learning: Staying abreast of new materials, techniques, and safety protocols is crucial, especially when it comes to working on new builds. Professional plasterers should continue to develop their knowledge and skills, which may be accomplished by reading trade publications, attending workshops, and networking with others in the industry.

Plastering is a fusion of craftsmanship and tradition that has shaped the architectural landscape for centuries. It has maintained its importance in the construction trade and continues to be reminiscent of its roots, using similar tools, techniques, and materials to protect and decorate the structures we live in every day.

To learn about other jobs in the blue-collar family, check out these articles about plumbers, electricians, and welders.

For more articles From the Plant, check out our blog.


All in the Blue Collar Family: Carpenter

A trade indispensable to the creation of our homes, businesses, and towns, carpentry is a profession that has provided the foundation for our daily living spaces for millennia. Carpenters are skilled craftsmen who frame our houses, make our furniture, and restore our buildings, using their expertise to construct and maintain the essential structures all around us.

The term “carpenter” originates from the Latin “carpentarius”, meaning wagon or carriage-maker – an individual highly skilled at complex woodworking and construction. As we define them today, carpenters build much more than wagons, but the basis of their craft is the same, as they are the experts in creating and repairing structures and objects we use on a daily basis, especially those traditionally made from wood.

History of Carpentry

Seemingly one of the oldest trades in existence, carpentry has been an essential skill since around 8000 BCE, when humans first began establishing communities and needed to build more permanent shelters. Over the next several thousand years, the craft continued to evolve, seeing the introduction of more specialized tools and techniques and the ability to work with additional types of wood. Ancient Egyptian and Greek societies were especially adept at creating precise, complex structures such as ships, pyramids, and temples.

One of the most significant eras of advancement for carpentry started during the Industrial Revolution, when nails and other fasteners started to be mass-produced instead of hand-made, and tools such as saws, planers, and steam engines greatly increased speed and efficiency. Today, carpenters have access to even more sophisticated equipment such as power tools, heavy-duty machines, and computer software that have expanded their capabilities for design and construction using a wide variety of materials.

The Role of Carpenters

The main jobs of carpenters involve constructing, repairing, and installing different kinds of structures that are typically made from wood but sometimes other materials. Carpenters can be involved in a variety of projects during the construction of new buildings and renovations from installing frameworks like walls and floors, performing finishing work like baseboards and varnishes, and fitting interiors like cupboards and doors. They may also perform jobs in other settings, such as transportation infrastructure, film and theatrical sets, and furniture construction.

What Carpenters Do

The tasks undertaken by carpenters effectively combine functionality with artistry. They measure, cut, shape, and assemble wood with precision, transforming it into structures that form the backbone of our infrastructure. Some of their typical jobs include:

  1. Framing: Carpenters are responsible for constructing the skeletal structure of buildings, which often includes laying out flooring, putting up walls, and installing roofing.
  1. Finishing: Once the main structure of a building is complete, carpenters then add the final touches, like trim, staircases, and doors.
  1. Cabinetry: In addition to fitting permanent elements into a home, carpenters sometimes also craft furniture such as tables, chairs, and cabinets, especially when they need to adhere to specific dimensions.
  1. Restoration: Many carpenters not only have knowledge of how to construct structures, but also how to fix them, allowing them to repair items such as broken window frames, crumbling walls, or worn-out flooring, or breathe new life into old, run-down buildings.
  1. Consulting: Carpenters can use their expertise to give advice to clients on how to best complete a construction project, which may involve designing items, interpreting blueprints, or evaluating processes for optimal efficiency.

Becoming a Carpenter

Learning the carpentry trade requires little formal education but involves a strong commitment to hands-on training. Here is a common path taken by aspiring carpenters:

  1. Education: Most apprenticeships require at least a high school diploma or GED. While continued formal education isn’t mandatory, pursuing vocational programs and trade-specific classes teaches important techniques and terminology.
  1. Apprenticeship: The majority of necessary skills are obtained during an apprenticeship, which is typically offered by commercial and industrial employers or construction unions and lasts three to four years. Learning the ropes under the guidance of seasoned carpenters provides practical insights into the craft.
  1. Skill Development: After earning journeyman status following the completion of an apprenticeship, many carpenters continue to gain experience through additional training and education. This may include learning about advanced mathematics, blueprint reading, and framing.
  1. Certification and Licensure: Earning certifications, such as those offered by carpentry associations, can enhance credibility and job prospects. Some states also require contracting licenses to work on larger-scale projects and to become master carpenters.
  1. Specialization: To set themselves apart, some carpenters choose a niche, such as residential, commercial, or industrial carpentry. They may also further refine their expertise in skills such as in renovation, infrastructure, or cabinetry for additional marketability and improved reputation.

The enduring nature of the carpentry trade is a testament to the everlasting value the craft has provided to society as a whole. Over thousands of years, carpenters have, quite literally, built the foundations of our living spaces – from homes and businesses to other critical infrastructure we use everyday. It is a profession that will continue to evolve with the needs of humans and a job that will be essential for the inevitable future.

To learn about other jobs in the blue-collar family, check out these articles about plumbers, electricians, and welders.

For more articles From the Plant, check out our blog.

Rubber Manufacturing

The Role of Rubber Manufacturers in Building a Circular Economy

Rubber, known for its durability and versatility, is a prime candidate for recycling and reuse. Rubber manufacturers actively contribute to a circular economy as end-of-life rubber products are transformed into raw materials for new production cycles. From recycled rubber mulch for playgrounds to eco-friendly flooring solutions, possibilities are expanding as manufacturers find innovative ways to reincorporate rubber into new applications.

As the sustainability of commercial production becomes more of a concern, rubber is stepping into the spotlight as a champion of the circular economy. This is being achieved by improving manufacturing processes and repurposing already-used rubber. These thoughtful approaches ensure that products have a second life, reducing the need for new raw materials and taking a step towards eco-consciousness in the industry.

Transforming Waste

In the not-so-distant past, worn-out rubber products would often find themselves relegated to landfills, further contributing to an overabundance of waste in our society. Today, manufacturers are at the forefront of a revolutionary shift, seeing the inherent value in used rubber and transforming it into a valuable resource through recycling.

To do this, they collaborate with other suppliers, customers, and recycling facilities to give used rubber products a new purpose. Through these partnerships, the industry can foster a more comprehensive and effective approach to closing the loop on rubber production.

Repurposing Rubber

Once considered a major environmental concern, old rubber is now a source of opportunity as rubber manufacturers pioneer recycling programs that reclaim the material from discarded tires and other products. The recycled rubber is used to create a myriad of products, from playground surfaces and athletic tracks to eco-friendly shoes.

Instead of ending up in vast junkyards, manufacturers are repurposing rubber through innovative recycling methods. Here are a few ways it is reused:

Eco-Friendly Footwear

Ever thought your shoes could have already hit the road in a different lifetime? Rubber manufacturers are reshaping the fashion landscape by incorporating recycled rubber from used tires and other products into footwear. Sneakers, sandals, and other shoe varieties crafted from upcycled rubber not only reduce waste but also showcase the versatility and durability of recycled materials, especially rubber.

Long-Lasting Landscapes

Your local playground or garden may have undergone a subtle yet impactful transformation thanks to recycled rubber mulch. Manufacturers are repurposing discarded rubber by shredding it, providing a safe and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional wood mulch. This innovative use both extends the life of rubber materials and provides a long-term, low-maintenance solution.

Durable Construction Materials

Rubber is no stranger to construction sites, but now it’s taking on a greener role. Recycled rubber is finding its way into projects through components such as roofing tiles, sealants, and accessibility ramps, contributing to more sustainable building practices. In these applications, rubber provides ample durability while reducing the demand for using new resources.

Hardy Sports Surfaces

Recycled rubber is hitting the fields and courts, providing surfaces that are not only high-performance but also environmentally-conscious. Whether it’s a rubberized running track or synthetic turf made from recycled materials, these surfaces support the athletic pursuits of communities by providing a heavy-duty playing field.

Consumers can become integral partners in closing the loop and promoting a more sustainable, circular economy by choosing items made from recycled rubber, from rubber-based fashion items to eco-friendly home accessories. Whether through product labeling, educational campaigns, or partnerships with retailers, the industry is empowering consumers to make environmentally conscious choices, further amplifying the impact of sustainability efforts.

Manufacturing Responsibly

To truly understand and enhance the sustainability of their products, rubber manufacturers are conducting comprehensive life-cycle assessments. This involves evaluating the environmental impact at every stage, from raw material extraction to end-of-life disposal. By pinpointing areas for improvement, they can refine their processes and contribute to a more circular and sustainable economy.

As a result, rubber manufacturers are increasingly prioritizing sustainable sourcing practices, ensuring that the material they use is obtained in an environmentally and socially responsible manner. This not only safeguards ecosystems but also supports local communities dependent on rubber cultivation.

They are also investing in energy-efficient technologies and processes that minimize waste and reduce the environmental footprint of production. Cutting-edge innovations, such as lean manufacturing and closed-loop systems, enable these companies to optimize resources and increase overall efficiency.

The journey of rubber from discarded to repurposed products showcases the ingenuity of rubber manufacturers in embracing recycling as a cornerstone of a circular economy. As these practices become more widespread, the industry is witnessing a tangible shift towards increased sustainability and eco-consciousness.

For more rubber-related content (our specialty), check out Seven New Uses for Old Tires, Five Quick Facts About the Rubber Manufacturing Industry, and A Guide to Natural vs. Synthetic Rubber.

For more articles From the Plant, check out our blog.