Consumer products are made with many metal and plastic parts. Metal and plastic machine workers set up the machines that produce the parts, and operate them during production. Hundreds of thousands of machine workers in the manufacturing industry work in different phases of production: following blueprints, they set up the machinery to produce the correct product. Machine setters prepare the machines before production and perform test runs of the initial batches, making repairs or adjustments as needed to ensure quality control. Then, operators take over, and may have to load the machine with metal or plastic materials or adjust machine controls during production. They periodically inspect the parts and conduct minor maintenance. At completion, they remove and test finished products, then document production numbers. Metal and plastic machine operators may specialize in a particular type of machine, for example: Computer-controlled machine tool operators operate robots to perform functions on workpieces. Computer numerically controlled machine tool programmers—called CNC workers— develop computer programs to control automated processes. They require more training than other machine workers. Extruding and drawing machine workers push out thermoplastic or metal materials in the form of tubes, rods, or hoses. Cutting, punching, and press machine workers run machines to saw, bend, or straighten materials. Molding, coremaking, and casting machine workers run machines to form metal or thermoplastic parts or products. Multiple machine tool setters, operators, and tenders set up or operate more than one type of cutting or forming machine tool or robot. Manufacturing facilities typically employ machine workers full time, usually in shifts that include evenings, weekends, and frequent overtime. With automation, multiple machines may be controlled at the same time, so workers train on different machines and gain a variety of skills. Because these workers operate powerful, high-speed machines, most usually wear protective equipment, such as safety glasses, earplugs, and steel-toed boots. Respirators are common for those in the plastics industry who work near materials that emit dangerous fumes or dust. Employers prefer to hire candidates with high school education, then train machine operators on the job.
What they do:
Operate computer-controlled machines or robots to perform one or more machine functions on metal or plastic work pieces.
On the job, you would:
Measure dimensions of finished workpieces to ensure conformance to specifications, using precision measuring instruments, templates, and fixtures.
Mount, install, align, and secure tools, attachments, fixtures, and workpieces on machines, using hand tools and precision measuring instruments.
Stop machines to remove finished workpieces or to change tooling, setup, or workpiece placement, according to required machining sequences.
Engineering and Technology
Math and Science
arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, or statistics
Manufactured or Agricultural Goods
manufacture and distribution of products
Arts and Humanities
keeping track of how well people and/or groups are doing in order to make improvements
thinking about the pros and cons of different ways to solve a problem
noticing a problem and figuring out the best way to solve it
watching gauges, dials, or display screens to make sure a machine is working
testing how well a product or service works
Hand and Finger Use
keep your arm or hand steady
hold or move items with your hands
change when and how fast you move based on how something else is moving
quickly change the controls of a machine, car, truck or boat
Hearing and Speech
tell the difference between sounds
pay attention to one sound while there are other distracting sounds
pay attention to something without being distracted
People interested in this work like activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions.
They do well at jobs that need:
Attention to Detail
You might use software like this on the job:
Computer aided manufacturing CAM software
Computer aided design CAD software
Kentech Kipware Studio
Analytical or scientific software
CNC Consulting Machinists' Calculator
Kentech Kipware Trig Kalculator
high school diploma/GED or certificate after high school usually needed
Examples of Registered Apprenticeship programs include:
Aircraft Metals Technology (Machinist/CNC/Welder)
Aircraft Metals Technology Specialist
Numerical Control Machine Operator
New job opportunities are less likely in the future.
Green jobs will increase the demand for this type of work.