Metal-Refining Furnace Operators and Tenders

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Also known as:
Electric Arc Furnace Operator, Melt Room Operator, Smelter Operator

Video transcript

High-impact bars inside a car door, steel girders supporting skyscrapers, even that piece of foil around your sandwich, have one thing in common - all were once ore or scrap metal that was melted down and carefully mixed with additives, before being shaped.

Metal-refining melters, furnace operators, blowers and keepers monitor and control vessels and furnaces that melt and purify metal so that it can be poured into a mold to make a product. They may work in various types of metal refineries, foundries and scrap metal recycling facilities.

In integrated steel mills they control the process that makes iron, which is subsequently refined into steel. The steel furnace operators and furnace keepers are among the highest paid production people in the mill. While they may spend part of their time in the hot and noisy furnace area, the steel furnace operators are usually found in an air conditioned pulpit control room, operating computers and monitoring visual displays.

The furnace operator, using computerized charge models, watches over the amounts of scrap, hot metal, and additive used and makes adjustments as necessary. He or she is responsible for ensuring that the proper ratio of raw materials is maintained, and for adjusting the furnace temperature. Then the furnace operator uses the controls that allow the iron to be purified into steel. Once this is completed, the molten metal is tapped into a ladle, which is used to pour the steel into a mold. The mold will cast a slab of steel.

All the data generated in the iron and steel making process is captured into a computer system. A good grasp of basic mathematics, a high school education, and on-the-job training will help you advance from an entry-level position to the control room.

Being adaptable and willing to keep up with technology could "heat up" your prospects for a career in this field.

Operate or tend furnaces, such as gas, oil, coal, electric-arc or electric induction, open-hearth, or oxygen furnaces, to melt and refine metal before casting or to produce specified types of steel.
Critical decision making
Level of responsibilities
Job challenge and pressure to meet deadlines
Dealing and handling conflict
Competition for this position
Communication with others
Work closely with team members, clients etc.
Comfort of the work setting
Exposure to extreme environmental conditions
Exposure to job hazards
Physical demands
Daily tasks

Drain, transfer, or remove molten metal from furnaces, and place it into molds, using hoists, pumps, or ladles.

Kindle fires, and shovel fuel and other materials into furnaces or onto conveyors by hand, with hoists, or by directing crane operators.

Inspect furnaces and equipment to locate defects and wear.

Regulate supplies of fuel and air, or control flow of electric current and water coolant to heat furnaces and adjust temperatures.

Draw smelted metal samples from furnaces or kettles for analysis, and calculate types and amounts of materials needed to ensure that materials meet specifications.

Weigh materials to be charged into furnaces, using scales.

Record production data, and maintain production logs.

Operate controls to move or discharge metal workpieces from furnaces.

Observe air and temperature gauges or metal color and fluidity, and turn fuel valves or adjust controls to maintain required temperatures.

Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
Handling and Moving Objects Using hands and arms in handling, installing, positioning, and moving materials, and manipulating things.
Getting Information Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material Inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to identify the cause of errors or other problems or defects.
Performing General Physical Activities Performing physical activities that require considerable use of your arms and legs and moving your whole body, such as climbing, lifting, balancing, walking, stooping, and handling of materials.
Making Decisions and Solving Problems Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
Production and Processing Knowledge of raw materials, production processes, quality control, costs, and other techniques for maximizing the effective manufacture and distribution of goods.
Mechanical Knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.
Public Safety and Security Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
Administration and Management Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
Education and Training Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
Customer and Personal Service Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Chemistry Knowledge of the chemical composition, structure, and properties of substances and of the chemical processes and transformations that they undergo. This includes uses of chemicals and their interactions, danger signs, production techniques, and disposal methods.
Mathematics Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
Operation Monitoring Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
Operation and Control Controlling operations of equipment or systems.
Monitoring Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
Speaking Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Reading Comprehension Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
Complex Problem Solving Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
Critical Thinking Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
Quality Control Analysis Conducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance.