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NOC Code: NOC Code: 7381 Occupation: Printing press operators
Occupation Description: Occupation Description:
Printing press operators set up and operate sheet and web-fed presses to print text, illustrations and designs on a wide variety of materials such as paper, plastic, glass, leather and metal. They are employed by commercial printing companies; newspapers, magazines, and other publishing companies; and establishments in the public and private sectors that have in-house printing departments. Printing press operators set up and operate sheet and web-fed presses to print text, illustrations and designs on a wide variety of materials such as paper, plastic, glass, leather and metal. They are employed by commercial printing companies; newspapers, magazines, and other publishing companies; and establishments in the public and private sectors that have in-house printing departments.

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Table will display the Skill Level for the Noc specified
Essential Skills Essential Skills Levels
Reading Reading 1 2 3 4
Writing Writing 1 2 3
Document Use Document Use 1 2 3 4
Digital Technology Digital Technology 1 2
Oral Communication Oral Communication 1 2 3
Scheduling or Budgeting and Accounting Scheduling or Budgeting and Accounting 1 2
Measurement and Calculation Measurement and Calculation 1 2 3
Data Analysis Data Analysis 1 2
Numerical Estimation Numerical Estimation 1 2
Job Task Planning and Organizing Job Task Planning and Organizing 1 2
Decision Making Decision Making 1 2 3
Problem Solving Problem Solving 1 2 3
Finding Information Finding Information 1 2 3
Critical Thinking Critical Thinking 1 2 3

  • The skill levels represented in the above chart illustrate the full range of sample tasks performed by experienced workers and not individuals preparing for or entering this occupation for the first time.
  • Note that some occupational profiles do not include all Numeracy and Thinking Essential Skills.

If you would like to print a copy of the chart and sample tasks, click on the "Print Occupational Profile" button at the top of the page.

  • Review safety procedures on warning labels on presses. The text may consist of a few brief sentences. (1)
  • Consult suppliers' guides to find suitable products. For example, a press operator may consult a guide to locate an alternative stock when a substrate is not working well with a particular ink. (2)
  • Read extensive notes left by previous shifts to learn about the status of various jobs and about any equipment problems and specification changes that require attention. (2)
  • Read sections in printing press manuals to troubleshoot problems. For example, a press operator reads several sections in a manual to learn how to adapt a press to work with another piece of equipment or to learn different ways to stop smudging. (3)
  • Read technical bulletins to understand the characteristics of various products. For example, a press operator may read a bulletin to learn how various pigmentations and coatings interact with stock acidity. (3)
  • Read reports explaining industry standards such as the Specifications for Web Offset Publications and the Specifications for Newspaper Advertising Printing. The reports are highly technical and require specialized knowledge of colour management technology. (4)
  • Study lengthy technical manuals to gather information about the capabilities of new presses. Read and comprehend detailed explanations of press features and operating procedures so that all functions can be tested and evaluated before delivery signoff. The text may present the additional complexity of having been poorly translated from another language. (4)
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  • Write reminder notes of concerns or questions that need to be addressed, or to record how particular jobs were done for future reference. For example, a printing press operator may keep notes which specify the inking amounts and sequences used on each job. (1)
  • Write comments on finished job dockets to note any unusual occurrences during the run. For example, a press operator may report that a run is short a certain amount of finished product or explain why there is an idiosyncrasy with the finished ink colour. In addition to serving as a production record, the information also helps to alert sales staff to anomalies before orders are delivered to clients. (1)
  • Enter codes, numerical data and phrases on report forms such as web break detail, water purification and ink consumption forms. (1)
  • Write short emails or letters to suppliers requesting further information about products. (2)
  • Write logbook entries describing complex tasks or problems. For example, in an entry requesting that a service representative be called in, a press operator explains the problem and the troubleshooting steps that have been taken. The entry is in sufficient detail that the service representative can proceed without the press operator being present. (2)
  • Write several paragraphs of text in hazard identification forms to describe the dangers posed, to outline any immediate corrective actions taken, and to make recommendations for further action. (3)
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Document Use
  • Read duty assignment sheets that list maintenance tasks to be performed and special sequences or specifications to be followed. (1)
  • Scan labels on stock packaging for information about the length, width, weight and type of paper or film rolls. (1)
  • Maintain daily press reports or timesheet by gathering and recording production data such as start and finish times, operational levels, paper wastage and downtime. Refer to activity codes, write short explanations for work stoppages and note any corrective actions taken. (2)
  • Integrate information on press run change forms with information on original dockets to ensure jobs are printed correctly. (2)
  • Use a collection of colour swatches called a Pantone Matching System to identify colours and their corresponding three digit codes. These codes are used to set colour levels on print jobs and to create custom colours. (2)
  • Consult colour proofing system tables and vendor input value tables to determine industry proofing standards. (2)
  • View line graphs to see how far ink levels are deviating from pre-set values during runs as presses generate moisture and heat. The readings guide adjustments of ink flow to prevent problems such as smudging, scumming and streaking. (3)
  • Synthesize information from several sections in work orders to determine job specifications, task sequencing and timelines. For example, a press operator skims bindery specifications to ensure the product prototype incorporates the specified folds and that the shipping deadline can be met. Some familiarity with printing terminology is required to understand the specialized codes and abbreviations used on the forms. (3)
  • Examine test samples to evaluate the quality of printed products. Check the registration and quality of each colour and the alignment of images on products. View different detailed images of samples captured by strobe cameras and displayed on TV monitors as the printing is in progress. Fold pre-cut test sheets containing multiple book pages into dummies to ensure the pages will be in numerical sequence after being cut and bound. (3)
  • Refer to and integrate information from several types of documents in technical manuals to troubleshoot press problems. For example, to troubleshoot malfunctioning inking units, consult troubleshooting lists that refer to exploded diagrams and related parts tables. (3)
  • Refer to complex production plans for large print jobs. For example, newspaper printers consult daily rotation production plans to learn the inking specifications and plate positions for each page of that day's newspaper. The plan for a large daily newspaper may consist of 7-8 pages of tables, diagrams and codes that present overviews and detailed diagrams of the hundreds of plates required to produce a daily newspaper. Use of the plan involves cross-referencing different sections and applying specialized knowledge of the press equipment and processes. (3)
  • Integrate information from a variety of documents to set up and monitor print jobs. Read specifications on job dockets or production plans, then use computer control screens or console dial displays to enter the specifications as set-up levels for press components such as inking, water and pressures. This may involve consulting other documents such as roller train diagrams to look up appropriate contact points, roller size and stripe width. While jobs are running, look at schematics to monitor ink and dampness levels on each plate and roller as appropriate. Compare the data on screens and control displays with the effect on sample printed product to determine adjustments for maintaining job quality. (4)
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Digital Technology
  • Search suppliers' websites to locate product information. (2)
  • Use word processing software. For example, write short letters to suppliers to request information about products. (2)
  • Use spreadsheets. For example, enter production data into timesheets in which formulae and fields have been programmed. (2)
  • Use databases. For example, access press control system databases to read, enter and adjust job specifications. (2)
  • Exchange email messages and attachments with graphic designers to discuss graphics proposed for a job. (2)
  • Use computer and software applications. For example, use printing press maintenance management systems to consult preventive maintenance schedules, verify equipment repairs and create work orders. (2)
  • Use computer-assisted design, manufacturing and machining. For example, use press process control systems to monitor and adjust a variety of functions such as the inking on rollers, water-to-ink balances and positioning of cylinders. (2)
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Oral Communication
  • Seek clarification of docket information with supervisors or job planners before proceeding with large orders. For example, an operator will confirm job docket instructions that omit or appear to contradict what the operator has done for a client in the past. (1)
  • Exchange information with co-workers when coordinating adjustments to equipment. For example, a newspaper printer may inform other ink setters in the crew that he or she has been bringing up the water to fight scum on a particular colour so that they can make their water and ink adjustments accordingly. (1)
  • Seek advice about the quality of equipment or products. For example, an operator asks a supervisor for a second opinion about whether printing plates are correct. This can be a sensitive topic if the supervisor proofed the plates. (2)
  • Communicate with feeder assistants during the set-up, running and take down of jobs to coordinate tasks, streamline equipment operations and ensure safety. (2)
  • Discuss job orders with sales staff. For example, an operator explains to sales staff that a client has chosen paper stock that does not work well with the type of perforation requested. The printing press operator explains the problem and recommends alternatives. (2)
  • Participate in meetings with clients and designers to analyse design requirements, express opinions about press limitations and reassure clients that the job can be accomplished as they wish. If layout and press limitations are not clearly addressed, clients will be dissatisfied. (3)
  • Instruct trainees how to operate and maintain press equipment. Miscommunication can result in costly errors or injuries. (3)
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Scheduling or Budgeting and Accounting
  • Fit in preparation tasks while jobs are running based on how long each stage of printing takes and how long the presses can be safely left unattended. (1)
  • Calculate the quantity of stock required for jobs as the first step in preparing a price estimate. For example, a press operator calculates the number of boxes of paper required to complete a job based on the number of items required, the dimensions of printed items, the size of raw stock plus a percentage for waste. (2)
  • Calculate the number of hours or shifts jobs will take based on the number of copies required and the average speed of the press. Factor in time for preparation and stoppages. (2)
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Measurement and Calculation
  • Set levels on press equipment such as the oven temperature for baking and drying inks on printing stock. (1)
  • Calculate the area of images to determine the best layout and total amounts of stock required. (2)
  • Prepare ink colours by calculating and measuring quantities of each primary colour ink according to the percentages specified in pantone colour formulae and the total quantity of ink desired. In some cases, calculate the amount of pigment to add to a quantity of ink to adjust its colour by a desired percentage. (2)
  • Use specialized instruments to take precise measurements. For example, a printing press operator uses a micrometer to measure the thickness of paper stock in order to adjust press rollers accordingly, or uses a zahn cup and stop watch to measure the viscosity of ink in seconds. (3)
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Data Analysis
  • Monitor various production levels to assess press performance, detect possible problems and make needed adjustments. For example, monitor press speed in feet per minute to assess equipment performance, and compare densitometer readings on different segments of printed products to assess evenness of inking. (1)
  • Calculate spoilage rates using counter readings for the total number of copies and the number of good copies printed. (2)
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Numerical Estimation
  • Estimate numerous operational adjustments required to produce optimum results. For example, a press operator may estimate the fraction of a millimetre to move a cylinder to correct a registration problem, estimate the number of weights to add to a press dancer to adjust web tension and estimate the quantity of alcohol to add to adjust ink viscosity. These estimates require an understanding of, and experience with, the interplay of various press functions. Poor estimation can compromise image quality and increase spoilage. (2)
  • Estimate the amount of ink required for runs by considering many factors such as the quantity and type of stock to be used and room humidity. The press operators' estimates may be used to price jobs. (2)
  • Estimate how long the assigned runs will take to determine whether additional runs can be accommodated from other presses without disrupting the production schedule. Although the factors are routine, the uncertainties of mechanical performance can significantly affect estimates. Estimation errors can result in missed deadlines. (2)
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Job Task Planning and Organizing
  • Printing press operators plan and organize their own tasks to complete jobs assigned by their supervisors. They may run a number of different jobs in one shift, run a large job that takes several shifts to complete, or, as in daily newspaper plants, run one type of job day after day. They generally have discretion to sequence tasks for maximum efficiency; for example, they may group jobs that use the same colours, rollers and cylinders to minimize the time needed for cleaning and set-up between jobs. Problems such as web breaks, equipment breakdowns and the discovery of plate errors sometimes interrupt their schedules. Press operators usually coordinate their tasks with a feeder helper or trainee, and in some plants coordinate their tasks with larger crews of ten or more operators. Senior operators may have the responsibility of organizing the work of their press team and ensuring that their teams' tasks are coordinated with the schedules of other departments such as sales, pre-press, bindery and shipping. (2)
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Decision Making
  • Make ink selections when job dockets lack or do not specify ink types. For example, a press operator in a plastic bag manufacturing company chooses the type of ink to use based on the type of polyfilm images being printed and past job runs for the same client. (1)
  • Decide whether to attempt difficult equipment adjustments during a run or to wait until regular maintenance staff is available. For example, an operator decides whether to adjust roller settings according to how poor the product quality is and to what extent the adjustment would slow production. The operator can consult a supervisor for advice. (2)
  • Decide at what speeds to maintain presses during job runs in order to meet production timelines and minimize waste. For example, on a smaller job an operator may keep the press speed down because the percentage of waste could get high quickly before defects are detected. On longer runs, however, the operator can afford to increase press speed for faster production knowing that even if some wastage accumulates it will not constitute a large percentage of the whole job. (2)
  • Decide how to adjust ink colours for a job. For example, an operator decides to manually add a particular colouring to ink that was poorly mixed for a specialty order. If the operator chooses the wrong colouring to add, it may make the colour worse. (2)
  • Decide to improve paper feed by adjusting air flow levels on presses. Consider factors such as the paper's weight, moisture content and possible static build-up. (2)
  • Decide which are the likely causes of printing problems from among numerous possibilities. For example, if an image is bridging, that is the screened dots are filling in, an operator decides to check if there is too much ink on the plate and to add alcohol to thin the ink. Quick and accurate decisions based on thorough understanding of printing processes are critical for product quality and production efficiency. (2)
  • Make scheduling and task assignment decisions. For example, press operators may decide what tasks to assign helpers depending on the helpers' experience and how accustomed they are to working together. They may, as union representatives, collaborate with management to schedule workers for shifts based on union regulations such as seniority and vacation time. (2)
  • Decide whether to proceed with job runs when proofs, signed off by clients, contain errors, such as typographical errors. Quickly decide whether to stop the presses or carry on to meet delivery deadlines. It may not always be possible, for instance in night shifts, to have the designer and client validate the spelling. (3)
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Problem Solving
  • Run out of stock in the middle of press runs. For example, a press operator may run out of a specialty paper during a rush job. The operator checks all in-plant sources for the stock before arranging with the front desk to send someone to the paper supplier for more. (1)
  • You experience web breaks during production. Check press settings and examine the paper or film web to identify the causes of the break. This fault finding is complicated by time pressures and the number of potential locations and reasons for breaks. Document the symptoms and causes in web break reports, noting breaks that are due to stock defects for which credit can be claimed from manufacturers. (2)
  • You find that completing jobs in the order assigned will not allow you to meet delivery deadlines. Develop alternate work plans and persuade supervisors that the new sequencing will be more efficient. (2)
  • The wrong ink colours are received from the supplier. For example, an operator receives a specialty colour that is not according to job specifications. The operator must match the incorrect colour to colour strips to locate the formula for that colour, determine the percentage of colour that it lacks, locate the formula for the colour the ink should be and calculate the difference in the formulas to produce the correct colour. (2)
  • Deal with a variety of defects in printed images such as poor registration and alignment, poor colour density, hair and hickey impressions, dot gain and ink smudging. Examine the stock, ink and equipment to determine if plate imperfections, poor cylinder adjustments, incorrect ink settings or sequencing, inaccurate roller pressures, poor water-to-ink balances or incorrect ink drying temperatures are responsible. Operators try likely solutions and run tests until the faults have been corrected. (3)
  • You experience unexpected or unusual press stoppages. If possible, check press control systems for automated diagnostic information. Otherwise, use a decision tree approach to identify the most likely causes from among hundreds of possibilities. Review procedures and consult technical manuals to determine if the problems are due to operator errors or mechanical failures. (3)
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Finding Information
  • Ask sales staff or job planners to clarify incomplete or ambiguous information in job dockets. (1)
  • Look at production schedule overviews for information about the status of orders. For example, a printing press operator in a manufacturing plant checks a central production board displaying all the stages of every order from sales through shipping to determine if certain orders are ahead or behind schedule in order to make decisions about printing procedures. (1)
  • Find information about upcoming press runs from production schedules, press databases and press supervisors. Analyze information from various sources to prioritize tasks and ensure appropriate materials and equipment are available. (2)
  • Find information about the use of products such as specialized inks by consulting product brochures, trade magazines or manufacturers' websites. (2)
  • Gather information by attending manufacturers' seminars and reading industry publications to locate suitable products and reputable suppliers. (3)
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Critical Thinking
  • Judge the safety of working conditions by considering safety policies and operating procedures. For example, judge if ink dripping on a press room floor or employees wearing jewellery pose serious enough safety violations to warrant asking for immediate corrective actions. (1)
  • Assess the tensions on the web or stock going through presses. For example, a plastic bag press operator judges web tension by patting the web like a drum. Optimal tension varies depending on the thickness of the film. Too much tension on thin film causes stretching, making the web guides less effective. This affects the quality and alignment of printed images. (1)
  • Evaluate the clarity, completeness and reasonableness of job docket instructions. These evaluations involve understanding industry terminology, recognizing when others may be using terminology incorrectly and envisioning the products that would result by following job instructions. Also consider whether problematic requests are intentional or the result of error. (2)
  • Assess the complexity of print jobs in order to schedule print runs efficiently. For each job, consider the delivery deadline, type of equipment needed, stock and colours required and the degree of similarity between jobs. (2)
  • Assess the condition of equipment based on how the machines handle, sound and perform in terms of outputs. For example, rattling bearings may indicate an oil leak and potential damage to equipment. (2)
  • Assess the quality of printing plates and plate designs. Evaluate plate flaws such as scratches to determine if they will affect the final products. Also assess plate designs; for example, on some designs suggest using two plates instead of one to reduce the potential for colour gaps. (2)
  • Evaluate the quality of test copies to determine if press adjustments are needed. Use measurements to check things such as image alignment, colour densities, and cut-offs. Also make subjective judgments of colour quality. Some job dockets specify quality levels using terms such as 'information' or 'prestige' quality, but these terms are also subject to interpretation and global judgments. Operators must balance the need for quality with the costs involved in making improvements. (3)
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