Press Operator Job Description

Press operators run computer numerical controlled (CNC) machines that cut and shape plastic and metal into component parts. This job is required in any industry that relies on plastic or metal parts to build its products, including the automotive industry, commercial building construction, bridge construction, and consumer products that span a variety of industries. Press operators spend most of their shift on their feet, operating their machine on the factory floor. Though they work in close proximity to other machine operators, the work itself is solitary. It requires the ability to stay focused for long periods. Some press operators, typically workers with the most seniority, work day shifts. Newer press operators usually have to work nights and weekends, as a lot of factories maintain extended hours.

All press operators start at the entry level. They work under the direction of the shift supervisor. A press operator that shows aptitude can move into a leadership role training and mentoring new press operators. According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for metal and plastic machine workers, which includes press operators, is set to decline 9 percent through 2026.


Press Operator Duties and Responsibilities

Press operators complete a handful of important tasks during their shift. We analyzed several press operator job descriptions to come up with the following list of press operator duties and responsibilities:

Read Blueprints and Set Press Machine Accordingly

Press operators have to be able to read blueprints to determine how to set their press machines and perform the necessary calculations.

Monitor Machines for Irregularities

Good press operators can hear and see slight irregularities in their machine, which may indicate a mechanical issue.

Regularly Inspect Finished Product

Press operators are partly quality control workers. They periodically inspect the products produced by pressing machines to ensure they meet the specifications outlined in the blueprints.

Troubleshoot Machine Malfunctions and Complete Minor Repairs

Press operators have to understand the mechanics of pressing machines to figure out why a malfunction has occurred. If it’s minor, they fix it themselves; if it’s a major issue they hand over the situation to a decision maker.

Adhere to All Safety Standards and Regulations

This is a role that requires workers to be sticklers for safety. Press operators have to follow all safety rules at all times, which includes regular machine maintenance and keeping a clean work area.

Document and File Daily Production Results

Press operators don’t have much paperwork, but the paperwork they have to complete is vital. They have to create a report of their machine’s daily production and file it into the main database. This data is used by management to make production decisions.


Press Operator Skills

Press operators need good physical stamina, as operating their machine requires them to be on their feet. They need mental stamina as well to keep their focus trained on their machine to detect slight irregularities before they become major malfunctions. When it comes to technical knowledge, press operators have to be experts in the mechanics and operation of press machines. In the digital age, this requires proficiency with computer-aided manufacturing software. Press operators also need familiarity with word processing and spreadsheet software to document production numbers and craft production reports. The following are some of the most important skills for a press operator to possess:

  • Setting press machines using computer-aided manufacturing software
  • Monitoring press machine production; this requires sharp focus and a strong attention to detail
  • Smoothing imperfections through strong manual dexterity
  • Solving and repairing minor mechanical issues using mechanical knowledge and problem-solving skills
  • Analyzing production rates to determine why a machine is not at peak performance


Press Operator Tools of the Trade

If you plan on becoming a press operator, you may want to familiarize yourself with the following:

  • Press machines – used to press metals or plastics into a certain shape or mold
  • Computer-aided manufacturing software – used to set press machines


Press Operator Education and Training

Press operators tend to get their education from vocational schools. These programs provide students with the practical experience necessary to grasp the basics of machine operation, as well as in-depth knowledge of all safety standards. In addition to vocational school, press operators go through 1 to 2 years of on-the-job training.


Press Operator Salary

According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national median salary for metal and plastic machine workers, which includes press operators, is $34,840. Those in the top 10 percent earn above $54,600, while those in the bottom 10 percent earn below $22,470.


Press Operator Resources

The following list of resources is for those who want to further explore a career as a press operator.

National Tooling and Machining Organization – A general organization that includes all types of professions that involve working with industrial machinery, this is a great organization for press operators to join to diversify their skill set and areas of knowledge.

Okuma – Okuma is a company that sells CNC machine tools; its company blog is updated twice a month with excellent articles on industry trends.

Machinists’ Ready Reference – This book provides dozens of the most common formulas, charts, and tables used by machinists. While it doesn’t focus specifically on press machines, this book is good for press operators looking to branch out into learning similar machines.

Machining for Dummies – This book covers everything one needs to know about metalworking. It features case studies from the real world and interviews with experts to back up theories.

The Starrett Book for Machinists’ Apprentices – This industry classic is perfect for students and apprentice press operators. It covers all the basics one needs to know, such as the ins and outs of interpreting blueprints.


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