The title of production operator encompasses a broad range of jobs, which generally include production workers and first line supervisors. Production workers or line operators typically work performing assembly or packaging operations such as sorting, stacking, sewing or gluing parts together as they pass along an assembly line. Production operators and first line supervisors direct and supervise production workers and the production line.
Preparation for a position as a production worker or operator may begin at the high school level with basic courses in mathematics, machine shop, general business, computer technology, language arts and science. The educational requirements vary in production jobs because of the wide range of possible duties, but most employers prefer applicants with at least a high school diploma. Individuals with a bachelor’s degree or higher are best suited for supervisory or management positions. On-the-job training provides the primary skills needed for a career as a production worker, and many companies promote experienced workers to supervisor or manager positions.
Depending on the level of responsibility assigned to the production operator, the job tasks may vary and can include assembly work or maintaining and replacing machines and equipment. The ultimate goal of a production operator is to maintain the production process so work continues in a safe and productive manner. These duties may include staging materials for an assembly line, recording production statistics, monitoring equipment operation or assigning tasks to production staff. First line supervisors also work to reduce safety risks for workers, oversee the production line and record accurate information on a daily basis.
Individuals with a bachelor’s degree in business administration or industrial management typically advance to supervisory positions more rapidly. Upper level management looks for employees with strong interpersonal skills and proven performance records to advance to team leaders, first line supervisors and production or plant managers.
According to the website O*Net Online, employment opportunities in manufacturing industries will decline at a slow to moderate rate by approximately 3 to 9 per cent between 2008 and 2018. The site projects that there will be 91,900 new jobs available during the same reporting period.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), over 90 per cent of employees work in manufacturing industries. May, 2008 records from the BLS list 20 specific machine operator jobs in the metal and plastic classification alone; the hourly wage for these occupations range from £8.50 to £12.70 and vary based on union status, skill level, experience, company size and seniority. According to the website PayScale, first line supervisors, manager of production and operating workers with less than one year of experience earn a median annual wage in the range of £20,923 to £32,655.