Warehouses, factories, and shipping facilities will all be settings in which a packaging operator may work. This employee is responsible for operating and sometimes maintaining packaging equipment, sorting and labeling various packages, attending to jams or backups in the system, and various tasks that relate directly to packaging and shipping of items. The packaging operator will be trained to use scanners, labelers, sorting machines such as conveyors, and other tools to package goods properly, secure them for shipping, and label them properly. He or she will also do some heavy lifting to help load pallets or transport trucks.
In order to become a packaging operator, one must usually complete a high school education or similar qualification. Basic math skills are required, and efficient communications skills are highly desired. Once hired, the packaging operator will usually undergo a period of job training, during which time he or she will be trained by more experienced workers in proper use of various types of machinery, computer software, and sorting processes. An apprenticeship program may also be in place to accomplish this training; in either case, the operator will generally be paid for his or her time as the learning process is underway.
The packaging operator is likely to spend much of the work day on his or her feet, operating various pieces of packaging machinery and inspecting packages before they are shipped. Sorting machines are often used to help speed up the packaging process, and the operator will need to be familiar with the safe operation of such machines to ensure efficient sorting and packaging. The operator may also make a determination as to what type of packaging is most appropriate for certain items, construct such packaging, and insert items into the packaging in a manner that will protect the items from damage.
Shipping manifests and other documents related to the packaging and transporting of items may be the responsibility of the packaging operator as well. All items that are packaged and shipped must be accounted for, and the information about the shipping destination must be documented, usually in computer systems. Some packaging operator jobs focus solely on managing such information and ensuring detailed records are kept. This process may be done visually by tracking each package's identification or routing number, or it can be done using laser scanners that will read information from a barcode that is printed on a label, which is in turn affixed to the packaging material.