Operator Job Description
Operators operate all kinds of machinery and equipment. Factories, warehouses, restaurants, and other businesses hire operators to work full-time hours during all shifts, including nights and weekends. Some overtime may be required. Operators work in team-oriented environments and report to a shift or floor manager or another immediate supervisor. Operators primarily work within the equipment room, inside a factory, or on a warehouse floor, and are rarely required to travel elsewhere.
Operator Duties and Responsibilities
Job tasks vary for operators depending on the equipment or machinery they’re operating and the industry they work in. However, these core duties are essentially the same in all environments:
Set Up Equipment
Operators set up machinery and equipment at the start of their shift. This may include placing raw materials inside equipment, adding gasoline to machine fuel tanks, and other pre-operation tasks.
Operators operate equipment and machines, following all regulations and guidelines for safe operation as outlined by the hiring company.
Read Work Orders
Operators read work orders, schematics, and written instructions to fulfill daily work requests.
Maintain Equipment and Tools
Operators continuously monitor their equipment and tools, cleaning equipment regularly and performing maintenance when necessary. This may include adding lubricant, making machine adjustments, replacing parts, and performing tune-ups.
Follow Safety Regulations
Operators follow all safety regulations as outlined by OSHA and the hiring company. This includes wearing required safety gear, such as work boots and safety glasses.
Operators troubleshoot all tools and equipment they use to spot potential problems that could comprise safety or product quality.
Maintain Work Area
Operators keep their area clean and neat while working and thoroughly clean work areas at the end of each shift.
Operator Skills and Qualifications
Operators are efficient, detail-oriented workers with a high degree of mechanical aptitude who primarily work in manufacturing environments. Employers prefer operators who have the following skills:
- Attention to detail – operators need keen attention to detail to troubleshoot potential problems, ensure high quality, and keep tools and equipment functioning at peak levels
- Mechanical skills – operators have good mechanical skills and work well with their hands
- Physical fitness – operators spend time standing, walking, and working in uncomfortable conditions where they are exposed to weather changes, which requires strength and stamina
- Communication skills – excellent communication skills are essential in any manufacturing environment, where operators and other employers must talk to each other to maintain safety standards and share vital information regarding manufacturing processes and the work environment
- Critical thinking – operators use good critical thinking skills to maintain machines and equipment and make minor adjustments and repairs as needed to keep everything functioning properly
- Mathematics – because operators work with measuring tools as well as machinery and equipment, some math skills are essential for this job
Tools of the Trade
Operators commonly work with the following tools:
- Hand tools (screwdrivers, pliers, hammers, wrenches, drills, grinders)
- Measuring tools (calipers, micrometers, tape measures)
Operator Education and Training
Operators are often hired on an entry-level basis, and many employers only require a high school diploma or GED. Because this is an entry-level position, training is provided to new operators. While in training, operators work directly with a supervisor or a senior operator to learn basic job functions and become familiar with the specific equipment and machinery they’ll be operating. The training period varies by company and by the complexity of the equipment itself.
Operator Salary and Outlook
Construction equipment operators, who drive and control heavy machinery used in construction, earn a median income of $46,080 annually, or $22.15 hourly. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in this career field will grow 12 percent through 2026, a faster-than-average growth rate.
About half of all full-time operators receive medical benefits that include basic health insurance coverage. These employers usually also offer 401(k) retirement plans and disability insurance benefits. Most full-time operators receive paid vacation days even when other benefits are not offered. Some operators receive no benefits from employers at all, and part-time operators are usually not offered any benefits or insurance coverage.
Learn more about being an operator and pursue opportunities and information in this career field with the tools and resources available in these books and websites:
International Union of Operating Engineers – equipment operators in all industries will find job opportunities, training programs, and equipment-related content at the IUOE website, which was made for operating engineers in all career fields
Operator’s Guide to Rotating Equipment: An Introduction to Rotating Equipment Construction, Operating Principles, Troubleshooting, and Best Practices – both new and advanced operators will find useful information in this book, which contains tips for maintaining equipment, performing maintenance, and following safety protocols
Association of Equipment Management Professionals – find education resources, certification programs, upcoming conferences, and dates for professional networking events at the AEMP website, which was made for equipment management professionals who primarily work with heavy machinery
OEE for Operators: Overall Equipment Effectiveness – this book focuses on three important elements of operating equipment of all kinds: time, quantity, and quality. The text covers the basic elements of being an operator and how to apply these basics to every operating job
National Association of Manufacturers – visit the NAM website to find career opportunities, manufacturing data and reports, manufacturing news updates, and other job resources for all professional operators in manufacturing industries
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