Machine operators are trained to set up, operate, and maintain heavy machinery. The machine operator job description mentions they must be familiar with all aspects of the machine, and must develop expertise in its use. The machines they operate may be largely computer controlled, or heavily mechanical. The particular machine that the machine operator works with will vary according to the industry he/she works in, and the responsibilities associated with their employment.
In this article, we’ll talk about the machine operator job description, mentioning the job duties, skills, qualifications, and working hours you should expect from such a job.
Job Overview: What Does a Machine Operator Do?
The responsibilities in the machine operator job description will likely include ensuring that the machines are well maintained, that they have all the requisite materials for operation, and that they operate at full capacity. They are also the ones who ensure that the machine will continue to run without unnecessary interruptions in the production cycle. They may also be responsible for the quality assurance of the machine’s outputs. They often work as part of a team in order to ensure that production runs smoothly.
Machine Operator Job Duties
- Read job orders.
- Identify products and materials required from the job orders.
- Set up machines to begin production cycle – calibrate, clean, etc.
- Feed raw materials and parts into machine.
- Periodically test the operation of the machine.
- Operate machine at full capacity – control settings (e.g. speed).
- Deal with machine maintenance and troubleshooting problems or issues that arise.
- Inspection of machine products with precision tools for quality assurance.
- Keep accurate activity logs/reports.
- Oversee and maintain a safe working environment at all times.
Machine Operator Job Essential Skills
Mathematical ability. Mathematical reasoning and good computational skills are valuable.
Analytical ability. Being able to read and understand blueprints, schematics, and models is an important skill. General analytical ability is very valuable when trying to understand performance issues in machines that don’t operate as expected.
Problem Solving. Being able to diagnose inefficiencies and error sources quickly.
Detail-oriented mindset. Machine outputs usually have very low error tolerances, so precision in operation is important. Attention to detail is a must!
Mechanical and Technical skills. CAD/CAM, drafting, machine operation related computer skills (programming, etc.) A working knowledge of tools and measurement devices (such as calipers and micrometers) is important as well.
Physical stamina. If long hours of operation are required, physical strength may also be needed, and is definitely good to have as a machine operator.
Teamwork. A machine operator is almost always part of a larger team of workers who ensure that production occurs smoothly, with peak quality and efficiency. Therefore, machine operators must be team players.
Becoming a Machine Operator
Machine operators often require graduation from accredited courses or apprenticeships, and a certification in order to operate machinery. Vocational schools, community colleges, and technical colleges offer accredited courses for machine operation. However, this education is almost always supplemented by on-the-job training. Even then, many years of experience are required before becoming an expert machine operator. To operate heavy machinery, most states require a CDL licence. Some states require a specialty licence.
Qualifications and Training
- High school diploma/GED (usually the minimum educational requirement, but not always)
- 2 years+ of experience and training (before being considered a professional machine operator)
- General Safety training
- Machine specific training
- On-the-job training (almost always required)
- Certifications for particular machines (may not be required)
- Knowledge of the workings underlying different types of machinery
- Skilled with the use of tools and measurement devices
- CDL licence or specialty licence (for operation of heavy machinery)
It is possible to get hired as a machine operator without experience, if the employer is willing to train you on the job. 2+ years of on the job training and experience are usually required before being considered a professional machine operator. However, 4-5 years of training and education is usually the amount of experience required in the machine operator job description, at least for the operator to be considered a fully trained professional.
Some employers don’t require a formal educational background, but most require a high school diploma or GED. Depending on the industry, it is possible to obtain accreditation in the use and operation of particular machines (e.g. forklift operator) that may aid in job placement. Associate degrees and certificates in machine operation are available, but are not required. On-the-job training and/or apprenticeships will still be required regardless of certifications or degrees obtained.
Being a machine operator requires flexible working hours, according to the machine operator job description. When undergoing training, the machine operator may be required to spend a first shift training and a second shift working. Therefore, working hours may be long.
Job Outlook & Advancement Opportunities
There will always be a need for machine operators, but job growth for machine operators is not expected to increase much in the future. Job losses to automation in manufacturing will continue to occur. Machine operators with a broad range of skills can find work in a shop, where jobs often demand that operators have a very flexible skill set. Therefore, those who are interested in becoming machine operators should acquire as many skills as they can and avoid specializing in a particular machine.
A detail-oriented, hands-on worker with good mastery of basic arithmetical operations should be well-suited for the machine operator job description.They should be familiar with the use and operation of all kinds of tools, and possess an aptitude for mechanics. A strong work ethic is also required, as machine operators tend to have limited supervision and work flexible hours.
Those interested in becoming a machine operator will spend many years training on machines. They should endeavor to obtain experience in as broad a range of machines as possible, in order to have the flexibility to operate many different kinds of machines.