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Case Study: Engineering Machine Operator - Barry

What do you do?

I work as an engineering machine operator for a major car manufacturer. I operate metalworking tools like lathes and milling machines to cut, remove and shape metal to specific measurements.

What is your background?

I've worked as a machine operator for a number of years, operating a variety of metalworking tools, including lathes, grinders, polishers, drills, boring mills and electrical discharge machines.

What characteristics do you need to be successful in your job?

Engineering machine operators rely heavily on their technical skills. They have to be able to shape metal parts to meet very specific measurements. If they make even small mistakes, they can cost their companies lots of money.

Lots of metalworking machines have fast-moving parts, so you have to be very careful in this job. I have to have strong organisational skills. I'm often given a set task along with a set of blueprints. It will be up to me to plan how the work will be done.

What other jobs could you do using the skills from this job?

Most engineering machine operators stay in this line of work. Some people go on to become maintenance fitters, maintaining and repairing the machines.

What changes will there be in the future?

The future demand for engineering machine operators all depends on the economy, and how well our manufacturing sector is doing. The computer-assisted machine technology that I see in engineering is amazing, but it does tend to reduce the need for machine operators.

Are there many opportunities to enter this career?

There are opportunities, although the number of vacancies is decreasing because of automation.

What do you like about your job?

I really enjoy working with my hands. I also find working to extremely precise measurements - sometimes within five hundreds of an inch - really challenging and satisfying.

What do you dislike about your job?

Not very much at all. I dislike standing all day. Engineering machine operators are constantly doing physically demanding work.

People think that there's a lot of repetition in this work. That's true to some extent, but I have several different tasks every day.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?

You must pay strict attention to health and safety issues in this job.

A day in the life

8.00 am - 8.30 am

Arriving, putting on protective work clothes.

8:30 am - 10.30 am

Looking at parts to work on, checking blueprints for specifications and tolerances, positioning parts in the machine, starting to use the machine.

10.30 am - 10.45 am

Coffee break.

10.45 am - 11.30 am

Continuing to work on parts, removing excess metal from motors.

11.30 am - 11:45 am

Washing up.

11:45 am - 12:15 pm


12:15 pm - 1:30 pm

Repairing a damaged lathe.

1:30 pm - 1:45 pm

Coffee break.

1:45 pm - 3:00 pm

Removing excess metal from motors.

3:00 pm - 3:30 pm

Cleaning up my workstation.

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