Printing Press Operator Job Description
Printing press operators set up, operate, and maintain various kinds of presses — such as offset lithographic, flexographic, and letterset — to produce printed material. They have knowledge of the standard practices, materials, techniques, and processes used in a pressroom and consistently adhere to safety rules and regulations associated with operating such machinery. Printing press operators generally work 40-hour weeks. Scheduled hours can include early morning, night, or weekend hours, depending on printing or publication requirements.
Printing Press Operator Duties and Responsibilities
Although the specific duties and responsibilities of printing press operators are determined by where they work, some tasks are universally expected of those in the profession. Based on our review of job listings, the core tasks associated with the job are:
Reviewing Job Orders
Each job order differs, requiring press operators to remove or install different parts and supplies. Printing press operators review each job order in advance and make adjustments as needed.
Installing or Removing Parts and Supplies
Installing or removing parts and supplies, such as rollers, type, printing plates, screens, stencils, dies, and cylinders, according to specifications are necessary tasks. Printing press operators load, position, and adjust materials to be printed.
Cleaning the Printing Press
To ensure that the printing press continues to work properly, printing press operators are responsible for knowing how to clean it. Cleaning can involve the use of various solvents, dry-ice blasting, or other cleaning materials as specified by the employer.
Printing press operators consistently monitor production runs to ensure quality, making necessary adjustments during the run, such as to registration or color. They also monitor production to make sure it stays on schedule.
Performing Preventative Maintenance
To keep printing presses operating at their top level of capacity, periodic maintenance and upkeep are vital. This includes large and small repairs and replacing mechanical components.
Troubleshooting Equipment Issues
Aside from preventative maintenance, printing presses may stop working and need repairs. Operators need to know enough about the machine to effectively troubleshoot the issues.
Printing Press Operator Skills and Qualifications
Printing press operators are committed to operating the press safely and according to regulations. Employers also desire applicants with the following skillset:
- Reading Comprehension Skills – to read and understand various work orders, and also to catch possible printing errors during production
- Critical Thinking Skills – to troubleshoot problems if the press stops working correctly
- Time Management Skills – printing press operators work on a production schedule, estimating how much time each job will take to avoid missing deadlines
- Physical Stamina – printing press operators have to keep the machine going and prepare the ink, rollers, and images for the different papers to be pressed
- Interpersonal Skills – because printing press operators may work as part of a team or assume a supervisory role, the ability to interact professionally with others when speaking or listening is important
Tools of the Trade
In addition to the tools associated with the machinery, printing press operators may also need to use the following tools:
- Boxes and packing materials
- Hand truck or hoist
- Cutting, folding, or binding equipment
- Brushes, rags, hoses
Printing Press Operator Education and Training
As a minimum educational requirement, a high school diploma or the equivalent is required. Some employers may prefer operators who have already completed an apprenticeship program. For training as a printing press operator, seek out vocational school programs or employers who offer on-the-job-training.
Printing Press Operator Salary Information
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists the national median annual salary for a printing press operator as $35,760 with a median hourly wage of $17.19. A printing press operator in the 10th percentile earns approximately $21,820 a year (or $10.49 an hour), while the highest paid in the field make $58,090 a year ($27.93 hourly).
According to the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook, 171,130 printing press operators are employed in the United States. Projected employment growth for this sector is 10.8 percent through 2026.
Printing Press Operator Helpful Resources
To make a decision about whether a career path as a printing press operator is for you, it helps to look at industry resources. Here are some of the best ones for printing press operators that we found:
Printing Industries of America – The leader in the industry for printing education, training, and certifications. Certifications, which are created by industry experts, are designed to test expertise in different industry segments.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration: Printing Industry – Learn helpful information about avoiding occupational illness and injury related to the different segments of the printing industry.
How the Printing Press Changed History – Written by Nelson Yomtov, this book details the invention and development of the printing press and its impact on history.
Printing Presses: History and Development from the Fifteenth Century to Modern Times – Author James Moran gives readers a comprehensive guide to the history and development of the printing press.