Machine operator: job description

Last updated: 4 Jul 2023, 10:52

Machine operators keep the wheels of industry rolling and are a vital component in the manufacturing process.

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What does a manufacturing machine operator do? Graduate salaries | Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Machine operators (sometimes called production operators) run the machinery involved in producing goods in manufacturing plants. Products can range from baked goods to books, and equipment may be computer controlled and need expert handling.

Typical duties include:

  • maintaining factory machinery
  • ensuring the smooth and efficient running of machines
  • following standard operating procedures and health and safety guidelines
  • carrying out routine maintenance
  • fixing machines that have broken down
  • measuring raw materials and feeding them into the machines
  • conducting periodic checks on output efficiency
  • spotting damaged products
  • packing finished products.

Shift work, including nights and weekends, may be required, especially when manufacturing equipment is in 24-hour operation.

Graduate salaries

Salaries for machine operators are around £23,000, according to job comparison site Glassdoor. People in this role tend to be paid hourly, with wages around £12 per hour. There may be opportunities to earn more through overtime.

You may be paid monthly or monthly, and you may work through an agency.

Typical employers of machine operators

  • Food and drink companies
  • Consumer goods manufacturers
  • Printing and packaging companies
  • Electronic goods assembly companies
  • The automotive industry
  • Timber and raw materials processing plants.

Jobs are advertised on local jobs boards and by recruitment agencies.

Qualifications and training required

A career as a machine operator is typically pursued by school leavers via an apprenticeship or entry-level job. Once you’re employed, you’ll receive on-the-job training on the role, including aspects of health and safety.

There are a number of other opportunities open to engineering graduates in the manufacturing industry, including roles such as packaging technologist, maintenance engineer, manufacturing engineer, materials engineer and mechanical engineer.

Key skills for machine operators

Successful applicants will demonstrate these skills:

  • problem solving
  • decision making
  • concentration
  • attention to detail
  • teamwork
  • ability to follow instructions and production schedules
  • ability to act quickly when a problem arises.

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