Machine Operator Job Description

Machine operators use and oversee equipment needed to produce items. Their services are essential to any company involved in manufacturing. Thus, machine operators could be hired to make virtually anything, from tech gadgets and toys to clothing and appliances. But don’t expect a single machine operator to assemble an entire computer. Typically, workers take responsibility for a certain part of the final product, not the entire item. Each machine—and each machine operator—contributes to building what the customer ultimately receives. This set-up is sometimes called an assembly line.

Machine operators work in manufacturing plants. Some factories operate several shifts in order to keep production going, so employees may work untraditional hours. During busy seasons, workers may be required to perform overtime. Stamina and dexterity can be helpful since machine operators often spend time on their feet and need to be able to use their hands to maneuver machines and materials. Though work can be repetitive, machine operators are expected to maintain focus and consistency. Depending on the nature of what is being done, workplaces can be noisy, smelly, or involve being around hazardous materials. Safety must always be on a machine operator’s mind.


Machine Operator Duties and Responsibilities

Specific tasks will vary by industry, but many responsibilities are common among virtually all machine operators. Our analysis of job postings revealed the following to be some of the general duties anyone becoming a machine operator should expect to do:


Machine operators are given quotas of what needs to be done during their shift. If your job is to drill holes in refrigerator doors, for instance, you are expected to complete a certain number. Completion of your task means the next stage of assembly can progress as scheduled. Machine operators typically enter data daily about what they’ve done and any problems experienced. They also may be responsible for transporting their output to the next stage of the production line.


Mass production requires machines to constantly perform at optimal levels, so machine operators need to follow a regular schedule of upkeep – such as oiling parts, refilling dispensers or checking calibrations. Basic repairs, such as tightening bolts, may be part of the expectations for machine operators.

Quality Control

Inferior merchandise is a recipe for disaster. Take, for instance, car doors that aren’t being made properly. Overall production may slow down if the pieces don’t fit as they should into the vehicles. If the problem isn’t discovered until later when the autos are in circulation, the automaker might have to issue a costly recall to repair affected automobiles (and hope that nobody gets hurt in the meantime). The brand’s reputation takes a hit, and customers may be less likely to purchase from the company in the future. Thus, machine operators must be devoted to quality control by inspecting (visually and/or with precision tools) the pieces or products their machine turns out. Problems need to be brought to management’s attention immediately.


Machine operators often work with large, powerful equipment. They need to abide by workplace and governmental guidelines to reduce the chance of injury to themselves and others. This may involve checking that machines are working properly, wearing proper safety gear and maintaining a clean area.

Training Others

Seasoned machine operators may be tasked with getting new hires up to speed. Since so many who enter this profession do not have prior training, machine operators need to be able to explain things thoroughly and monitor progress carefully.


Machine Operator Skills

Because their actions have a direct impact on operational flow, machine operators need to be conscientious workers who are adept at following directions and committed to meeting goals. Other traits that hiring managers look for when hiring machine operators include:

  • Exhibiting outstanding teamwork because building things involves the efforts of multiple people
  • Presenting a track record of reliability since your absence affects the work of others
  • Demonstrating attention to detail in order to catch problems and mistakes before they lead to unwanted consequences
  • Prioritizing safety to prevent work-related injuries
  • Taking pride in one’s work to continuously deliver quality products
  • Displaying a willingness to be trained on other machines as need dictates


Tools of the trade Machine Operator

While machinery will vary by industry and position, some items are common among machine operators in general. Such things include:

  • Safety gear – earplugs, protective eyewear, close-toed shoes and other things worn for protection
  • Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) Regulations – governmental standards that must be observed in the workplace
  • Forklift – transportation device used to move items from one location to another
  • Dollies – platforms with wheels that can be useful in transporting heavy items or multiple boxes


Machine Operator Education and Training

The majority of machine operators hold a high school diploma. On-the-job training is common, though taking classes at a vocational institution or earning an associate’s degree can increase employment prospects.


Machine Operator Resources

Want to learn more about being a machine operator? The following books can help:

Machinery’s Handbook – Touted as the “Bible of the metalworking industries,” this respected reference book is now in its 30th edition. Reviewers commend its “incredible amount of information.”

Careers in Manufacturing and Production – Aspiring machine operators can learn about what such a position entails and how to advance their careers in this book covering all types of employment options in the manufacturing sector.


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