Working as a printing machine operator involves the preparation, operation and maintenance work involved with a printing press. The operator might work on a traditionally based press, or use more advanced technology that does not require the use of plates. The preparation for a traditional press starts with the installation of the plate with the image to be printed in the machine. The individual also changes the pressure level for printing. The press is then coated with ink and loads the paper, making any necessary changes to ensure that the process runs correctly. Currently technology has made this process more efficient by making many of these steps automatically handled by the machine itself. This makes it important for the worker to be well-versed in new technology and software programs.
Printing Machine Operator Job Responsibilities
Throughout the printing process, the machine operator ensures that things run smoothly and fills the printer with paper as needed. They also take a sample sheet out periodically to check that color and other details are printing correctly. Keeping the machines working and maintenanced is part of the operator’s job. This involves repairing any worn out or broken parts, cleaning the machine and oiling it as necessary. This job requires that an individual is able to work well under pressure and to be very efficient in doing the job. There is a lot of standing and moving around, especially when reloading machine and doing repairs. Being mentally alert and quick on your feet are also important attributes, as the process has to be carefully monitored and quick changes to the machine have to be made to avoid mistakes and waste of materials. The average work week for a printing machine operator is around 40 hours. The job can be physically and mentally demanding, requiring someone who is in good physical condition and can keep focused under stress.
Printing Machine Operator Training and Education Requirements
When first entering this job, new employees are involved primarily in a support role. They work at loading and unloading machine is necessary while also helping to keep the presses clean. On-the-job training is provided as the machine operator advances in skill and experience until they are deemed fit to do the job on their own. They may also gain training on a variety of printing machines while in the field, which can make them a more diverse employee. Employers are more likely to hire an individual who has training and experience on a variety of machinery. This is an important consideration that new printing machine operators need to keep in mind as they began their career.
Even experienced print operators will receive continual education and will need to have their skills updated with the advances in new technology. If the company buys a new printing machine that has a completely different operational layout than the previous one, everyone will have to be retrained in how to use it. This field is not using apprenticeships to train new machine operators as much as in the past. More often, interested individuals go through a formal program of study at a technical school or local community college. These programs are often offered at the university level as well. These individuals can receive an associate’s degree in these cases.
Printing Machine Operator Salary and Wages
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2018 this job field will show a medium level of decline in available positions. Newer technology is making it easier for a machine to run without as many operators monitoring it. New positions may often, though, as older workers retire and others choose to leave this profession. Positions are most likely to be open with smaller businesses that run smaller presses in order to do their business. The average hourly wage for printing machine operator is approximately $15.46, with the highest pay at or above $24.98 and the lowest at or below $9.13. Hourly wages for printing machine operators can vary according to the skill level of the individual, the diversity of training, the size and complex nature of the printing machine the area in which the worker is employed.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Printing Machine Operator Certifications
Gaining a certificate or an associate’s degree are the most common methods of entering the field. As the worker gains experience, is trained on various machines and attains the right skill level they can advance to higher positions of authority in the company. They can also receive training from their employer or the manufacturer that certifies them to work on various equipment types.
Printing Machine Operator Professional Associations
The National Association of Printing Leadership gives members the opportunity to find valuable advice on the business, management practices and educational opportunities. They also give members access to key research that shows trends and new advances in the industry.