A production operator, also known as a machine operator, uses equipment to assist with manufacturing, packaging, and other steps along a production line. While the exact duties may vary from company to company, a production operator may be expected to handle heavy machinery such as forklifts. On-the-job training may be available.
In order for products to make it to market, a number of specific steps must be followed repeatedly to properly assemble, pack, and ship them. A production operator works along an assembly path performing a specialized task that helps move a good towards the consumer market. A production operator must adhere to safety guidelines and ensure that final products meet high-quality standards.
While a production operator can work for a wide variety of companies, the job itself usually involves some aspect of the manufacturing process. Whether working in construction or packaging, a production operator maintains the machinery necessary to perform a specialized task. Additionally, a production operator must have an understanding of industry standards and regulations in order to safely and efficiently operate the machinery. A production operator may also be asked to keep records of their output and compare it with a production schedule.
In general, a production operator must have a minimum of a high school diploma or GED to qualify for the job. However, more specialized training may be necessary if the job demands working with high-tech equipment or machinery. Some companies provide on-the-job training.
Certification and Licensing
While not always necessary, a certification or license can serve as proof of competency to potential employers. They prove that the designated party possesses a particular range of skills in one or more areas. For example, during the winter of 2012-2013 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 50% of machinists and 32% of operators who worked with computer-controlled machines used with metals and plastics needed a postsecondary certificate.
Employment and Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of machinists (machine operators) was expected to increase by 10% between 2014 and 2024. Unfortunately, employment of metal and plastic machine workers was expected to decrease by 13% between 2014 and 2024. Metal and plastic machine workers working in production occupations may see a 3% decrease in employment through 2024.
As reported by the BLS, annual salaries for production operators can vary depending on the particular kind of machines used and materials manipulated. For example, in May 2015 the average annual salaries for production operators were as follows:
- Cutting, punching, and press machine setters, operators, and tenders for both metal and plastic: $38,720
- Computer-controlled machine tool operators for metal and plastic: $35,900
- Multiple machine tool setters, operators, and tenders for metal and plastic: $35,380
- Machinists in general: $42,120
- Milling and planing machine setters, operators, and tenders for metal and plastic products: $39,620
A production operator must have a minimum of a high school diploma or GED to operate equipment used in the manufacturing, packaging, and other steps involved in making products. Decreases and increases in employment depend upon the industries. Production operators can earn anywhere from $35,000 to over $42,000, again depending upon the industry and position.