Roles in Manufacturing: Operators

A detailed explanation of the duties, responsibilities, and education levels of operators in a manufacturing facility.

Hello again đź‘‹.

Welcome back to the Roles in Manufacturing series where I am giving you an introduction to the different job roles that exist in manufacturing companies.

In the previous parts of the series, I introduced you to the series by defining the job roles that we will talk about in this series.

In this part of the series, we will learn what operators do in a manufacturing plant and what training or education is required to work as an operator.

Before we move on, I would like to take a moment to introduce myself to anyone who might be new to the blog.

My name is Ken Bourke and I have worked as an automation professional for almost a decade. During this time, I have worked on large global projects in different industries around the world.

In the last year, I have started producing content online to share my knowledge through free blog posts and free or very reasonably priced courses.

If you get some value out of this post then consider checking out my courses, joining the mailing list using the form at the bottom of this page, or, if you’re feeling very generous, buying me a coffee using the Buy Me a Coffee widget on this page.

With that bit of shameless self-promotion out of the way, let’s get back to talking about operators in manufacturing facilities.


If you have not spent a lot of time in manufacturing facilities, you might be surprised to learn that even in highly automated industrial systems, many people are needed to run the process.

These people are usually referred to as operators. Operators are usually responsible for:

  • Staging materials for a process,
  • Loading materials and components into machines and unloading processed materials and parts from machines,
  • Controlling machines by starting, stopping, and jogging the machines,
  • Recording production statistics, and
  • Monitoring machines during operation
Irish factories record steep drop in production as inflation hits record  levels

You might also hear operators being referred to as machine operators, or assembly line workers depending on the terminology used in different companies.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

The Key Performance Indicator for an operator is usually focussed on production. Typically, an operator’s performance will be evaluated based on the number of products produced in a shift.

Their performance may also be evaluated on other measures of efficiency such as the time it takes to changeover from producing on type or product to another.

In some companies, operators receive bonuses for meeting their KPIs. In these facilities, you will see operators aggressively aiming to hit their targets.

Education and Training

Operators typically have at least a high-school diploma.

Some operators are more technical than others. Technical operators who look after complex, automated processes will usually have an associate’s degree from something like an electronics technician program.

In addition to formal education, most operators receive additional on-the-job training by shadowing more experienced operators at a company and following internal training programs.

Wrap Up

In this post, I introduced you to operators in a manufacturing facility as part of my Roles in Manufacturing series.

I explained what operators do, what their KPIs are, and what education and training is usually required to get a job as an operator.

In the next part of the series, I’ll introduce you to maintenance staff. These are the technicians who are responsible for maintaining and repairing equipment on the plant floor.


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