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What does a Printing Machine Operator do?

Donn Saylor
Donn Saylor

A printing machine operator's foremost responsibility is the proper operation and upkeep of the printing press. Printing machine operators set up and adjust the printing plate, ready the ink, and prepare the pressure rolls within the press. Those in this position also ensure the material to be published meets the required specifications of the job at hand. They double-check factors such as ink color, paper dimension, and the alignment of margins on the page.

A key part of the printing machine operator job description is the examination of work orders. Each job to be printed will have its own unique requirements, and it's up to the printing machine operator to guarantee the end product fulfills those requirements. This entails a thorough assessment of the needs stipulated by each particular work order. The printing machine operator readies the press for the number of copies to be made, sets up colors and the sequences in which those colors will be applied, and determines how long it will take to produce a particular job. He or she also makes sure there are enough supplies, such as paper and ink, to successfully meet the specs of the work order.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

Printing machine operator jobs are highly detail-oriented. The machine operator oversees all aspects of the printing process in the pressroom and must constantly keep an eye on the press, making certain it's running smoothly and printing properly. He or she will have to adjust the level of pressure put out by the pressure rolls, fine-tune the positions of the printing plates, set up the paper-feed guides, and clear out paper jams that could waste valuable printing time.

Printing machine operator duties also include the routine upkeep and maintenance of the printing press. Using specialized knowledge and skill, the operator keeps tabs on the ink levels of the press, refilling when necessary, and adjusting the levels of control, including thickness or thinness, to create the appropriate printing effect. The operator also keeps the paper feed well-stocked with paper and orders any supplies on which the pressroom may be running low.

Those seeking a printing machine operator job should also be prepared to maintain records surrounding the printing press and the publishing process. The operator keeps a log of all materials produced, the supplies used in any given job, and the details of any maintenance to the press. This helps the company determine production cost and plan accordingly for future publications.

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