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Press Brake Operator Duties and Responsibilities

Daily work duties for press brake operators vary based on the manufacturing projects they work on and the various metals they use to make items. These core job tasks, however, are common across most work environments:

Shape Metal Press brake operators use the press brake machine to shape multiple types of metal, primarily sheet metal. To do so, the operators load pieces of metal into the machine for shaping or straightening, aligning and positioning the material to achieve specific shapes.

Maintain Press Brake Press brake operators set up and maintain the press brake machine to keep it in good working order. This includes changing the machine's oil and filters and degreasing various parts of the press brake.

Read Blueprints Press brake operators read and follow detailed blueprints and schematics.

Inspect Sheet Metal Press brake operators monitor sheet metal as it's being shaped, inspecting pieces of fresh sheet metal for imperfections and overall quality.

Follow Safety Regulations Press brake operators follow company, state, and federal safety regulations. This includes wearing proper protective equipment and keeping their work areas clean and well organized.


Press Brake Operator Skills and Qualifications

Press brake operators load and run press brake machines to shape metal to exacting specifications, following precise calculations using their talents for mathematics and measuring. Employers seek press brake operators who have the following essential job skills:
  • Physical fitness - press brake operators work with their hands, lifting and moving large pieces of metal, and stand for hours at a time, all of which requires physical strength and stamina
  • Analytical thinking - press brake operators use analytical skills to monitor work processes and inspect various types of metal
  • Mathematics - press brake operators use math skills to read and interpret blueprints that contain precise measurements and to make the calculations necessary to shape metal to match these specific designs
  • Communication skills - press brake operators use verbal communication skills to work in a collaborative environment with other manufacturers and factory workers
  • Measuring - press brake operators work with multiple measuring tools and make precise measurements using metric and US measuring systems, which requires strong measuring skills
  • Time management - press brake operators use time management skills to work within deadlines and complete tasks efficiently
  • Computer skills - because the press brake machine accepts programmed instructions and many companies use digital work order systems, some knowledge of industry software and basic computer skills are a necessity

Press Brake Operator Education and Training

Many companies require candidates to have a high school diploma or GED. A majority of employers also seek press brake operators who have previous manufacturing or press brake experience. Some training is provided to press brake operators, but this is not usually considered an entry-level job. Many employers expect press brake operators to have the necessary skills and knowledge to operate the press brake successfully, so training is typically brief. While in training, press brake operators are closely monitored by shift supervisors and may work with a senior press brake operator before performing tasks alone.

Press Brake Operator Salary and Outlook

PayScale data shows that press brake operators earn $15.53 in median hourly pay. Assemblers and fabricators earn $31,850 in annual median income, or $15.31 hourly, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Press brake operators are fabricators and assemblers who use tools and machines to manufacture pieces and parts of all sorts. BLS projections show that employment in this field will decline 14 percent by 2026. Press brake operators typically receive health and dental insurance coverage. Life insurance and retirement benefits are usually standard as well. Some employers offer a hiring or sign-on bonus to press brake operators, some of which is paid out initially, while the remainder is added to paychecks over time.

Helpful Resources

Explore these helpful resources to find jobs, education opportunities, training programs, networking events, and career strategies and techniques for press brake operators:

Fabricators & Manufacturers Association - search for manufacturing jobs at the FMA website, discover training and education resources, and look for professional events for people in all manufacturing and fabrication careers

Manufacturing (Career Launcher) - learn how to plan a successful career in manufacturing with this guide that provides tips, strategies, and helpful information for professionals in all manufacturing jobs

The Fabricator - this online magazine is published by the FMA to provide helpful content and news updates about tools, machines, and other developments in the manufacturing industry

Fundamentals of Press Brake Tooling: The Basic Information You Need to Know in Order to Design and Form Good Parts - learn to master all the fundamentals of operating a press brake with this book that covers tooling, calculations, and lots of other concepts press brake operators need to know

National Tooling and Machining Association - machining professionals of all types can use this website to find training programs, search networking opportunities, and explore content about current happenings in the manufacturing industry

Manufacturing Processes: Materials, Productivity, and Lean Strategies - learn more about manufacturing processes of all types with this book, which covers automatic manufacturing systems and the five major types of manufacturing materials

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