Fiber Cutting Machine Operator Careers: Salary & Job Description

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Learn about a fiber cutting machine operator's job description, salary and training requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a fiber cutting machine operator career.
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Pros and Cons of Being a Fiber Cutting Machine Operator

Fiber cutting machine operators manage, maintain and run machinery that incise or carve materials made of fiber, such as paper or insulation. Find out the pros and cons of being a fiber cutting machine operator and see if it is the right career choice for you.

Pros of a Fiber Cutting Machine Operator Career
Can find a position with just a high school diploma or equivalent*
Opportunity to mentor and train other employees*
Positions can be found around the country**
All work is done indoors and work spaces are not impacted by the elements***

Cons of a Fiber Cutting Machine Operator Career
Decline in employment predicted (-8% from 2012-2022)**
Risk of injury due to working with dangerous machines***
Pressure to be precise with all measurements***
Can strain eyesight by examining small details*

Sources: *O*NET OnLine, **U.S. Bureau Labor Statistics (BLS), ***Federal Student Aid.

Career Information

Job Duties

Fiber cutting machine operators follow the cutting process of fiber materials from start to finish. Job responsibilities include analyzing blueprints, adjusting machine alignment and running the machinery. Operators often have to fix or replace broken machine parts to keep production flowing.

In addition to overseeing the cutting process, operators also keep track of materials used during production. Operators often interact with other employees as well as customers to ensure accuracy of the finished product. Some operators are called upon to train new hires and serve in a mentoring role.

Career Prospects and Salary

The BLS predicts a decline in employment for all cutting workers in the production operator industry, including fiber machine technicians. It is estimated that opportunities in the field will see a -8% job growth from 2012-2022. As of May 2014, the BLS reports the states that offer the greatest employment possibilities for operators are California, Texas, Ohio, North Carolina and Wisconsin.

The BLS reports that salaries for all cutting and slicing machine setters, operators and tenders range from about $20,000 to $47,000. In the same report from 2014, the BLS stated that the annual mean wage is around $33,000. According to the BLS, the highest paying states for this position were Maine, Virginia and Louisiana, where the annual mean wage ranged from $39,000-$42,000.

What Are the Requirements?

A fiber cutting machine technician needs a high school diploma or equivalent; however, some positions may require vocational training at a junior or technical college. Once employed, much of the training is done on the job. Technicians should be familiar with quality control techniques and general machine maintenance. Experience with computers is also important.

What Employers Are Looking for

Employers usually advertise positions that are fiber or material specific. Most jobs are shift work and look for candidates who can work nights and weekends. Below is a sample of job postings as of May 2012:

  • A company in Tennessee is looking for a full-time laminator machine operator. Candidates should be familiar with cutting paper to specified lengths and using measuring tapes. Preference is given to applicants with previous experience.
  • A paper manufacturing company in Kentucky is seeking a paper machine operator with at least two years of related experience. Applicants should have a high school diploma or equivalent. Relocation assistance is available.
  • A manufacturer in Tennessee is looking for paper machine technicians and lead operators to work in their paper mill. The openings are for shift positions. Applicants should posses a high school diploma or equivalent, be able to lift 50 pounds and be computer literate.

Standing out in the Field

Successful fiber machine technicians stand out because of their attention to detail, consistency in producing accurate work and commitment to safety. Some technicians take on mentoring or training roles to boost their profile in a company.

Joining a professional organization is another way to bolster your resume. For example, the International Association of Diecutting and Diemaking (IADD) offers membership to individuals and companies in the die-cutting and diemaking industry. Through the organization, members can take advantage of educational and networking opportunities. In addition, the IADD bestows awards on individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the industry.

Other Careers to Consider

Forest and Conservation Worker

If you enjoy working in the paper industry, but would like a career that involves working outdoors, consider a job as a forest or conservation worker. Like a fiber cutting machine technician, workers in this field can secure a job with just a high school diploma. Slow job growth is predicted for this career path. The BLS estimates that opportunities in this field will only grow by 1% in the 2010-2020 decade. The mean annual wage for forest and conservation workers was around $27,000, according to the BLS in May 2011.

Sheet Metal Worker

If you enjoy working with machinery, but would like a career path with a better job growth forecast, consider becoming a sheet metal worker. Sheet metal workers can secure a job with a high school diploma. The BLS predicts that job opportunities in this field will grow by 18% in the 2010 to 2020 decade, much more favorable than the estimate for fiber cutting machine technicians. Some sheet metal workers may also enjoy higher salaries than fiber cutting machine technicians. As of May 2011, the annual salary range for sheet metal workers in the 10th-90th percentile was about $26,000 to $74,000, and the annual mean wage was around $47,000.

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