Axion Specialty Contracting

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Mechanical Engineers

Mechanical engineering is one of the broadest engineering disciplines. Mechanical engineers research, design, develop, build, and test mechanical devices, including tools, engines, and machines.

Mechanical engineers typically do the following:

  • Analyze problems to see how a mechanical device might help solve the problem
  • Design or redesign mechanical devices, creating blueprints so the device can be built
  • Develop a prototype of the device and test the prototype
  • Analyze the test results and change the design as needed
  • Oversee the manufacturing process for the device

Mechanical engineers use many types of tools, engines, and machines. Examples include the following:

  • Power-producing machines such as electric generators, internal combustion engines, and steam and gas turbines
  • Power-using machines, such as refrigeration and air-conditioning
  • Industrial production equipment, including robots used in manufacturing
  • Other machines inside buildings, such as elevators and escalators
  • Machine tools and tools for other engineers
  • Material-handling systems, such as conveyor systems and automated transfer stations

Like other engineers, mechanical engineers use computers extensively. Computers help mechanical engineers to do the following:

  • Produce and analyze designs
  • Simulate and test how a machine is likely to work
  • Generate specifications for parts
  • Monitor the quality of products
  • Control manufacturing and production

Civil Engineers

Civil engineers design and supervise large construction projects, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment.

Civil engineers typically do the following:

  • Analyze survey reports, maps, and other data to plan projects
  • Consider construction costs, government regulations, potential environmental hazards, and other factors in planning stages
  • Test soils to determine the adequacy and strength of foundations
  • Test building materials, such as concrete, asphalt, or steel, for use in particular projects
  • Provide cost estimates for materials, equipment, or labor to determine a project's economic feasibility
  • Use design software to plan and design transportation systems, hydraulic systems, and structures in line with industry and government standards
  • Oversee, or participate in, surveying to establish reference points, grades, and elevations to guide construction
  • Present their findings to the public on topics such as bid proposals, environmental impact statements, or property descriptions

Many civil engineers hold supervisory or administrative positions ranging from supervisor of a construction site to city engineer. Others work in design, construction, research, and teaching. They work with others on projects and may be assisted by civil engineering technicians and technologists.

The federal government employs about 12,100 civil engineers to do many of the same things done in private industry, except that the federally employed civil engineers may also inspect projects to be sure that they comply with regulations.

Civil engineers work on complex projects, so they usually specialize in one of several areas.

Geotechnical engineers work to make sure that foundations are solid. They focus on how structures built by civil engineers, such as buildings and tunnels, interact with the earth (including soil and rock). Additionally, they design and plan for slopes, retaining walls, and tunnels.

Structural engineers design and assess major projects, such as bridges or dams, to ensure their strength and durability.

Transportation engineers plan and design everyday systems, such as streets and highways, but they also plan larger projects, such as airports, ports, and harbors.


Construction Equipment Operators

Construction equipment operators drive, maneuver, or control the heavy machinery used to construct roads, bridges, buildings, and other structures.

Construction equipment operators typically do the following:

  • Check to make sure that equipment functions properly
  • Clean, maintain, and make basic repairs to equipment
  • Report malfunctions to supervisors
  • Move levers, push pedals, or turn valves to activate power equipment
  • Drive and maneuver equipment
  • Coordinate machine actions with crew members in response to hand or audio signals
  • Ensure that safety standards are met

Construction equipment operators use machinery to move construction materials, earth, and other heavy materials at construction sites and mines. They operate equipment that clears and grades land to prepare it for construction of roads, bridges, and buildings, as well as airport runways, power generation facilities, dams, levees, and other structures.

The following are types of construction equipment operators:

Operating engineers and other construction equipment operators work with one or several types of power construction equipment. They may operate excavation and loading machines equipped with scoops, shovels, or buckets that dig sand, gravel, earth, or similar materials. In addition to operating the familiar bulldozer, they operate trench excavators, road graders, and similar equipment. Sometimes, they may drive and control industrial trucks or tractors equipped with forklifts or booms for lifting materials. They also may operate and maintain air compressors, pumps, and other power equipment at construction sites.

Paving and surfacing equipment operators control the machines that spread and level asphalt or spread and smooth concrete for roadways or other structures. Paving and surfacing equipment operators may specialize further:

  • Asphalt spreader operators turn valves to regulate the temperature of asphalt and the flow of asphalt onto the roadbed. They must ensure that the machine distributes the paving material evenly, and they also must ensure that there is a constant flow of asphalt into the hopper.
  • Concrete paving machine operators control levers and turn handwheels to move attachments that spread, vibrate, and level wet concrete. They must watch the surface of the concrete carefully to identify low spots into which workers must add concrete.
  • Tamping equipment operators use machines that compact earth and other fill materials for roadbeds or other construction sites. They also may operate machines with interchangeable hammers to cut or break up old pavement and drive guardrail posts into the ground.

Piledriver operators use large machines mounted on skids, barges, or cranes to hammer piles into the ground. Piles are long, heavy beams of wood or steel driven into the ground to support retaining walls, bridges, piers, or building foundations. Some piledriver operators work on offshore oil rigs.

Some workers operate cranes to move construction materials. For more information on these workers, see the profile on material moving machine operators.


Construction Managers

Construction managers plan, coordinate, budget, and supervise construction projects from early development to completion.

Construction managers typically do the following:

  • Prepare and negotiate cost estimates, budgets, and work timetables
  • Select appropriate construction methods and strategies
  • Interpret and explain contracts and technical information to workers and other professionals
  • Report on work progress and budget matters to clients
  • Collaborate with architects, engineers, and other construction and building specialists
  • Instruct and supervise construction personnel and activities onsite
  • Respond to work delays and other problems and emergencies
  • Select, hire, and instruct laborers and subcontractors  
  • Comply with legal requirements, building and safety codes, and other regulations

Construction managers, often called general contractors or project managers, coordinate and supervise a wide variety of projects, including the building of all types of residential, commercial, and industrial structures, roads, bridges, powerplants, schools, and hospitals. They oversee specialized contractors and other personnel. Construction managers schedule and coordinate all design and construction processes to ensure a productive and safe work environment. They also make sure jobs are completed on time and on budget with the right amount of tools, equipment, and materials. Many managers also are responsible for obtaining necessary permits and licenses. They are often responsible for multiple projects at a time.

Construction managers work closely with other building specialists, such as architects, engineers, and a variety of trade workers, such as stonemasons, electricians, and carpenters. Projects may require specialists in everything from structural metalworking and painting, to landscaping, building roads, installing carpets, and excavating sites. Depending on the project, construction managers also may interact with lawyers and local government officials. For example, when working on city-owned property or municipal buildings, managers sometimes confer with city council members to ensure that all regulations are met.

For projects too large to be managed by one person, such as office buildings and industrial complexes, a construction manager would only be in charge of one part of the project. Each construction manager would oversee a specific construction phase and choose subcontractors to complete it. Construction managers may need to collaborate and coordinate with other construction managers who are responsible for different aspects of the project.

To maximize efficiency and productivity, construction managers often use specialized cost-estimating and planning software to effectively budget the time and money required to complete specific projects. Many managers also use software to determine the best way to get materials to the building site. For more information, see the profile on cost estimators.


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