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Press Operator Job Description

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The bulk of the hands-on production work in the printing industry is done by press operators. The job is a manufacturing position that requires skills related to quality control, monitoring machine operation and complex problem solving. Press operators set up and run machines that produce a variety of printed products, including lithographic, digital, letterpress, flexographic and offset printing presses.

Training for the Job

In many plants, the press operator receives on-the-job training from an experienced press operator. You can improve your chances of landing a position, however, with training at a community college that offers a certificate program for press operators. Organizations such as the Gravure Association of the Americas also offer certification programs for press operators that provide credentials employers seek. The short training programs can give you an edge over other job candidates for positions that, in 2013, paid a median hourly wage of $16.89, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Preparation for the Run

The press operator is required to inspect the tools, ink, and machines to make sure they are operating efficiently and loaded with the correct ink and paper. A number of variables are specific to each job and must be checked before the presses start, including everything from colors and stock specifications to length of run and special instructions. The press operator inspects the details to ensure the success of each job.

Regular Checks during the Run

Once all the variables are checked and set, the press operator then turns on the presses. While the machinery may be primarily computer-operated, the press operator still plays a vital role during the process. Samples must be chosen at random throughout the press run to ensure accuracy. The press operator may need to halt operations and make corrections and adjustments, relying on experience and critical-thinking skills to make those decisions, which could range from adjusting the flow of ink to tweaking feeder controls.

Maintenance and Other Tasks

Press operations don’t usually rely on different employees to operate and maintain the presses. They should take the initiative to clean the machinery after each run to ensure the next job is clean and efficient. Part of the expected duties of a press operator include cleaning and oiling the presses, making minor repairs, maintaining dye levels, making quick changes and cleaning the plates, ink fountains and unit cylinders after each run. Press operators may be required to keep the work area clean and free of excess debris, as well as maintain safety procedures and follow company rules and guidelines.

Printing Press Operators Employment and Labor Information 2023

Printing Press Operators Employment Brief:

Set up and operate digital, letterpress, lithographic, flexographic, gravure, or other printing machines. Includes short-run offset printing presses.

Printing Press Operators Job Description

Here is a Job Description an employer might post for potential Printing Press Operators.

Printing Press Operators Responsibilities and Duties:

  • Start presses and pull proofs to check for ink coverage and density, alignment, and registration.
  • Monitor inventory levels on a regular basis, ordering or requesting additional supplies, as necessary.
  • Load presses with paper and make necessary adjustments, according to paper size.
  • Collect and inspect random samples during print runs to identify any necessary adjustments.
  • Adjust ink fountain flow rates.
  • Maintain time or production records.
  • Download completed jobs to archive media so that questions can be answered or jobs replicated.
  • Verify that paper and ink meet the specifications for a given job.
  • Change press plates, blankets, or cylinders, as required.
  • Control workflow scheduling or job tracking, using computer database software.

Typical Daily Tasks of Printing Press Operators:

  • Controlling Machines and Processes: Operate cutting equipment. Operate photographic developing or print production equipment.
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems.
  • Getting Information: Monitor environmental impacts of production or development activities. Read work orders or other instructions to determine product specifications or materials requirements. Review blueprints or other instructions to determine operational methods or sequences.
  • Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work.
  • Scheduling Work and Activities.
  • Handling and Moving Objects: Adjust equipment controls to regulate flow of production materials or products. Collect samples of materials or products for testing. Feed materials or products into or through equipment. Install mechanical components in production equipment. Mount materials or workpieces onto production equipment.
  • Monitoring Processes, Materials, or Surroundings: Monitor equipment operation to ensure proper functioning.
  • Repairing and Maintaining Mechanical Equipment: Lubricate production equipment.
  • Operating Vehicles, Mechanized Devices, or Equipment.
  • Training and Teaching Others.

Printing Press Operators Skills and Requirements:

  • NavigationUsing scroll bars, a mouse, and dialog boxes to work within the computer's operating system. Being able to access and switch between applications and files of interest.
  • Technology Design Generating or adapting equipment and technology to serve user needs.
  • Systems Analysis Determining how a system should work and how changes in conditions, operations, and the environment will affect outcomes.
  • Active Learning Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Repairing Repairing machines or systems using the needed tools.
  • Persuasion Persuading others to change their minds or behavior.
  • DatabasesUsing a computer application to manage large amounts of information, including creating and editing simple databases, inputting data, retrieving specific records, and creating reports to communicate the information.
  • Writing Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
  • Science Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems.
  • Instructing Teaching others how to do something.

Printing Press Operators Salary and Wages:

Average Salary: 58,450. Education: typical education requirements include High school diploma or equivalent.

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United States Advertising Sales Agents data

Data from May 2023 courtesy of U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program.


Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."

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