There are many different machine operator jobs, ranging from grinding machines and lathes to milling machine operator. Each of the machine operator jobs requires training and many also require an apprenticeship of any prospective operator. Computer numerical control (CNC) machines, screw machines and printing machines are a few of the other types of machines. From drilling and threading machines to boring and polishing machines, operator jobs can often be learned while onsite, however, many require some type of formal training, such as the type found in vocational education centers.
One of the most commonly required skills of many machine operator jobs is the ability to properly read measuring devices. Rulers, micrometers and dial indicators are tools that are used on many jobs. Failure to accurately read a proper measurement device could potentially result in hundreds of incorrect parts. Most measurement of components manufactured in a machine shop are taken in the hundreds of thousandths of a fractional reading. This requires very good math and measurement reading skills by the machine operator.
Many of the machine operator jobs deal with CNC machines. CNC lathes, grinders and milling machines use a computer to guide the tooling through its journey when machining a part. Instead of using the hand-turned adjustment controls on a lathe or milling machine, the CNC machine depends on a computer programmer to input the proper measurements for machining. Thus, one of the more frequent machine operator jobs is for a CNC operator or programer. Computer programers are highly sought out in the machining business. The better the programmer, the more the detail in the machine work, prompting some shops to actively recruit programmers from the best computer colleges to join their machine shop after graduation.
Quality control is another of the important jobs in a machine shop. Checking and double checking the surface finish of a grinder's production run to make certain the finish roughness is well within tolerance can be an exhausting job. The quality control person is commonly able to operate every machine in the shop in order to understand the correction required for any poorly finished work.
One of the most important of all the machine operator jobs is that of the set-up person. The set-up person is responsible for changing all of the tooling in the machines that will be used on a product run, or job run as it is best known. The set-up person typically comes in early to set up the machines for the daily production run, making sure all of the settings and adjustments are properly locked into the various machines.