Employers place a strong emphasis on essential skills in the workplace. Essential skills are used in nearly every occupation, and are seen as ¿building blocks¿ because people build on them to learn all other skills.
Each profile contains a list of example tasks that illustrate how each of the 9 essential skill is generally performed by the majority of workers in an occupation. The estimated complexity levels for each task, between 1 (basic) and 5 (advanced), may vary based on the requirements of the workplace.
Sawmill machine operators operate, monitor and control automated lumbermill equipment to saw timber logs into rough lumber; saw, trim and plane rough lumber into dressed lumber of various sizes; and saw or split shingles and shakes. They are employed in sawmills and planing mills.
- May deal with a branch or sliver being caught in the saw slot. They try to catch the problem early and clear debris from around the saw before friction causes the blade to heat and buckle. (1)
- Find that saws or conveyors have become jammed with pieces of wood. They clear the jammed wood either manually or by using controls. Care is needed to avoid injury. (1)
- May catch and correct computer errors. For example, if two logs are very close to each other the computer may register them as one and choose the wrong cut pattern. Operators manipulate and slow the carriage to separate the logs. (1)
- May deal with a "double up" where one board rides up on another board while going through the planer and causes the planer to jam. They stop the planer to determine the cause, possibly tracing it to a board with a sniped end that the infeed operator let go through. (2)
- May deal with "trouble logs," ones that are misshapen or might have rocks embedded in them. They figure out how to trim the logs so that they are maneuverable on the carriage, lose the least value and don't damage the blade or jam the carriage. They may have to lockout the headrig at the electrical panel and manually clear a jam. (2)
- May find boards that don't meet specifications. They figure out why and make adjustments to the saw or planer. (2)
- Encounter mechanical problems. Their troubleshooting can range from performing routine tasks such as changing fuses or belts, to resolving complex problems such as helping the millwright and supervisor to make up the parts needed for upgrading a planer. (3)
- May decide when to change or sharpen blades and knives, trying to get the most out of them without causing damage to products or equipment. (1)
- May constantly make fast decisions about the condition of boards (size, straightness, defects), to judge if they should be allowed to go through the saw or planer. (1)
- May constantly make decisions about what sizes of lumber to cut slabs into, based on the size and quality of the slab and what dimensions have been ordered. They make their decisions quickly to keep up with the flow of wood on the conveyor. Wrong decisions could waste wood and require resawing. (2)
- Decide when to shut down for repairs, based on how serious the problem is and how feasible it is to carry on until the next break. (2)
- May decide to correct the computer's choice of cutting pattern based on their own assessment of how to get the most value from the log. (3)
- May follow cut priorities specified for each deck of logs, making fast decisions about which of those cuts should be made from each log. Each highgrade cut could equal thousands of dollars. A head sawyer's cutting decisions can cause a mill to make a significant profit from the logs or to merely break even. (3)
Critical Thinking information was not collected for this profile.
Job Task Planning and Organizing
Most sawmill machine operators perform repetitive tasks quickly to keep up with a fast moving automated production line. (1) Head sawyers, as "quarterback" of the line, set the pace for other operators. Planers sometimes have leeway in how they sequence jobs to minimize setting adjustments. (1)
Significant Use of Memory
- Remember the specifications of lumber that needs to be cut during the day.
- Remember the sound of a cracked or binding blade or of a board lifting up in the planer. Such sounds indicate particular cutting problems.
- Remember how to unjam the machine in different situations.
- Remember metric and imperial equivalents.
- Ask the foreman for clarification about lumber orders. (1)
- Consult the millwright or foreperson for help with solving an equipment problem. (2)
- May consult a planer manual to troubleshoot mechanical problems. (2)
- May contact other mills to ask why a machine is operating in a particular way. (2)
Other Essential Skills:
Working with Others
Sawmill machine operators mainly work independently on their section of the production line. They co-ordinate their pace with the whole team on the line that manufactures logs into finished lumber. They occasionally work with another worker to unjam equipment or change sawblades, and sometimes work with several people to troubleshoot equipment breakdowns.
Sawmill machine operators continue to learn through on-the-job experience, building up their knowledge and speed in using the machinery. Some operators take first aid and grading courses.