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Cutting, Punching, and Press Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic
SOC Code: 51-4031.00

Set up, operate, or tend machines to saw, cut, shear, slit, punch, crimp, notch, bend, or straighten metal or plastic material.

Sample of reported job titles: Die Setter, Fabrication Operator, Machine Operator, Machine Setter, Operator, Press Operator, Punch Press Operator, Saw Operator, Set-Up Operator, Slitter Operator


  • Examine completed workpieces for defects, such as chipped edges or marred surfaces and sort defective pieces according to types of flaws.
  • Measure completed workpieces to verify conformance to specifications, using micrometers, gauges, calipers, templates, or rulers.
  • Set stops on machine beds, change dies, and adjust components, such as rams or power presses, when making multiple or successive passes.
  • Start machines, monitor their operations, and record operational data.
  • Set up, operate, or tend machines to saw, cut, shear, slit, punch, crimp, notch, bend, or straighten metal or plastic material.
  • Test and adjust machine speeds or actions, according to product specifications, using gauges and hand tools.
  • Install, align, and lock specified punches, dies, cutting blades, or other fixtures in rams or beds of machines, using gauges, templates, feelers, shims, and hand tools.
  • Read work orders or production schedules to determine specifications, such as materials to be used, locations of cutting lines, or dimensions and tolerances.
  • Position guides, stops, holding blocks, or other fixtures to secure and direct workpieces, using hand tools and measuring devices.
  • Position, align, and secure workpieces against fixtures or stops on machine beds or on dies.
  • Load workpieces, plastic material, or chemical solutions into machines.
  • Adjust ram strokes of presses to specified lengths, using hand tools.
  • Clean and lubricate machines.
  • Mark identifying data on workpieces.
  • Clean work area.
  • Plan sequences of operations, applying knowledge of physical properties of workpiece materials.
  • Operate forklifts to deliver materials.
  • Lubricate workpieces with oil.
  • Turn controls to set cutting speeds, feed rates, or table angles for specified operations.
  • Scribe reference lines on workpieces as guides for cutting operations, according to blueprints, templates, sample parts, or specifications.
  • Place workpieces on cutting tables, manually or using hoists, cranes, or sledges.
  • Turn valves to start flow of coolant against cutting areas or to start airflow that blows cuttings away from kerfs.
  • Thread ends of metal coils from reels through slitters and secure ends on recoilers.
  • Grind out burrs or sharp edges, using portable grinders, speed lathes, or polishing jacks.
  • Remove housings, feed tubes, tool holders, or other accessories to replace worn or broken parts, such as springs or bushings.
  • Replace defective blades or wheels, using hand tools.
  • Set blade tensions, heights, and angles to perform prescribed cuts, using wrenches.
  • Select, clean, and install spacers, rubber sleeves, or cutters on arbors.
  • Hand-form, cut, or finish workpieces, using tools such as table saws, hand sledges, or anvils.
  • Preheat workpieces, using heating furnaces or hand torches.
  • Sharpen dulled blades, using bench grinders, abrasive wheels, or lathes.
  • Hone cutters with oilstones to remove nicks.

Technology Skills

  • Computer aided design CAD software - Autodesk AutoCAD
  • Computer aided manufacturing CAM software - Striker Systems SS-Punch
  • Enterprise resource planning ERP software - SAP
  • Industrial control software - Computerized numerical control CNC software
  • Inventory management software - Automated inventory software
  • Office suite software - Microsoft Office
  • Spreadsheet software - Microsoft Excel
  • Word processing software - Microsoft Word

Tools Used

  • Abrasive drums - Abrasive wheels
  • Adjustable wrenches - Adjustable hand wrenches
  • Anvils
  • Bending machines - Crimping machines
  • Blow torch - Hand torches
  • C clamps
  • Calipers - Dial calipers; Vernier calipers
  • Claw hammer - Claw hammers
  • Cleaning scrapers
  • Cold chisels - Metal chisels
  • Cutting die - Metal cutting dies
  • Cutting machines - Notching machines; Power guillotine cutters; Slitting machines; Thermal cutting machines
  • Double ended stud - Shims
  • Drill press or radial drill - Multiple punch presses; Punch presses; Shear presses; Turret presses
  • Ear muffs - Protective ear muffs
  • Feeler gauges
  • Forklifts - Lift trucks
  • Gage block set - Gauge blocks
  • Gear cutting tool - Gear-cutting machines
  • Grease guns
  • Hand trucks or accessories - Handtrucks
  • Hex keys - Allen wrenches
  • Hoists - Hoisting equipment
  • Horizontal turning center - Speed lathes
  • Hydraulic press brake - Forming presses; Hobbing presses; Power press brakes; Toggle presses
  • Hydraulic press frames - Hydraulic presses
  • Induction heaters - Heating furnaces
  • Label making machines - Labeling machines
  • Level sensors or transmitters - Transit levels
  • Locking pliers - Locking hand pliers
  • Mainframe console or dumb terminals - Computer terminals
  • Metal shearing machine - Blanking presses; Shearing machines
  • Micrometers - Digital micrometers
  • Multi-tasking or universal machining center - Multi-axis computerized numerical control CNC machines
  • Nibblers - Hand nibblers
  • Open die forging press - Computerized numerical control CNC turret punching machines; Die cutting presses
  • Pallet trucks - Pallet jacks
  • Personal computers
  • Power grinders - Bench grinders; Portable grinders
  • Power saws - Table saws
  • Precision file - Precision files
  • Pressure or steam cleaners - Steam cleaning equipment
  • Protective gloves - Safety gloves
  • Protractors
  • Punching pliers - Core cutters
  • Rulers - Precision rulers
  • Sawing machines
  • Saws - Handsaws
  • Scales - Layout scales
  • Screwdrivers - Straight screwdrivers
  • Scribers - Metal scribers
  • Sharpening stones or tools or kits - Honing stones
  • Shears - Power shears
  • Sledge hammer - Sledgehammers
  • Squares - Combination squares
  • Straight edges - Straightedges
  • Templates - Layout templates
  • Tongs - Sheet metal hand tongs
  • Tracer or duplicating or contouring lathe - Bench lathes
  • Track cranes - Overhead cranes
  • Tube bending machine - Tube benders
  • Utility knives
  • Wire brushes


  • Mechanical - Knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.
  • Production and Processing - Knowledge of raw materials, production processes, quality control, costs, and other techniques for maximizing the effective manufacture and distribution of goods.
  • Mathematics - Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.


  • Operation Monitoring - Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
  • Operation and Control - Controlling operations of equipment or systems.
  • Monitoring - Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
  • Quality Control Analysis - Conducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance.
  • Active Listening - Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Critical Thinking - Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Speaking - Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  • Troubleshooting - Determining causes of operating errors and deciding what to do about it.


  • Arm-Hand Steadiness - The ability to keep your hand and arm steady while moving your arm or while holding your arm and hand in one position.
  • Control Precision - The ability to quickly and repeatedly adjust the controls of a machine or a vehicle to exact positions.
  • Near Vision - The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
  • Manual Dexterity - The ability to quickly move your hand, your hand together with your arm, or your two hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble objects.
  • Problem Sensitivity - The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.
  • Reaction Time - The ability to quickly respond (with the hand, finger, or foot) to a signal (sound, light, picture) when it appears.
  • Information Ordering - The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
  • Multilimb Coordination - The ability to coordinate two or more limbs (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while sitting, standing, or lying down. It does not involve performing the activities while the whole body is in motion.
  • Selective Attention - The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.
  • Trunk Strength - The ability to use your abdominal and lower back muscles to support part of the body repeatedly or continuously over time without 'giving out' or fatiguing.
  • Deductive Reasoning - The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
  • Finger Dexterity - The ability to make precisely coordinated movements of the fingers of one or both hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble very small objects.
  • Perceptual Speed - The ability to quickly and accurately compare similarities and differences among sets of letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns. The things to be compared may be presented at the same time or one after the other. This ability also includes comparing a presented object with a remembered object.
  • Rate Control - The ability to time your movements or the movement of a piece of equipment in anticipation of changes in the speed and/or direction of a moving object or scene.
  • Written Comprehension - The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
  • Depth Perception - The ability to judge which of several objects is closer or farther away from you, or to judge the distance between you and an object.
  • Far Vision - The ability to see details at a distance.
  • Inductive Reasoning - The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
  • Oral Comprehension - The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  • Oral Expression - The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
  • Speech Recognition - The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
  • Static Strength - The ability to exert maximum muscle force to lift, push, pull, or carry objects.
  • Visualization - The ability to imagine how something will look after it is moved around or when its parts are moved or rearranged.


  • Interest code: RC
    • Realistic - Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.
    • Conventional - Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.

Work Context

  • Wear Common Protective or Safety Equipment such as Safety Shoes, Glasses, Gloves, Hearing Protection, Hard Hats, or Life Jackets - 98% responded “Every day.”
  • Spend Time Standing - 76% responded “Continually or almost continually.”
  • Spend Time Using Your Hands to Handle, Control, or Feel Objects, Tools, or Controls - 69% responded “Continually or almost continually.”
  • Importance of Being Exact or Accurate - 53% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Freedom to Make Decisions - 47% responded “A lot of freedom.”
  • Sounds, Noise Levels Are Distracting or Uncomfortable - 65% responded “Every day.”
  • Exposed to Contaminants - 69% responded “Every day.”
  • Face-to-Face Discussions - 62% responded “Every day.”
  • Exposed to Hazardous Equipment - 70% responded “Every day.”
  • Time Pressure - 43% responded “Every day.”
  • Structured versus Unstructured Work - 42% responded “A lot of freedom.”
  • Exposed to Minor Burns, Cuts, Bites, or Stings - 51% responded “Every day.”
  • Impact of Decisions on Co-workers or Company Results - 42% responded “Very important results.”
  • Spend Time Bending or Twisting the Body - 40% responded “Continually or almost continually.”
  • Indoors, Not Environmentally Controlled - 58% responded “Every day.”
  • Spend Time Making Repetitive Motions - 34% responded “Continually or almost continually.”
  • Duration of Typical Work Week - 63% responded “40 hours.”
  • Pace Determined by Speed of Equipment - 32% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety - 29% responded “Very high responsibility.”
  • Frequency of Decision Making - 47% responded “Every day.”
  • Contact With Others - 31% responded “Constant contact with others.”
  • Consequence of Error - 29% responded “Extremely serious.”
  • Spend Time Walking and Running - 34% responded “More than half the time.”
  • Very Hot or Cold Temperatures - 36% responded “Every day.”
  • Work With Work Group or Team - 23% responded “Important.”
  • Importance of Repeating Same Tasks - 23% responded “Important.”
  • Responsibility for Outcomes and Results - 28% responded “High responsibility.”
  • Coordinate or Lead Others - 23% responded “Very important.”
  • Deal With Unpleasant or Angry People - 23% responded “Once a year or more but not every month.”
  • Physical Proximity - 37% responded “I work with others but not closely (e.g., private office).”


Percentage of RespondentsEducation Level Required
67%High school diploma or equivalent
16%Post-secondary certificate
9%Less than high school diploma

Work Styles

  • Attention to Detail - Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
  • Dependability - Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
  • Independence - Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
  • Initiative - Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
  • Integrity - Job requires being honest and ethical.
  • Self Control - Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
  • Innovation - Job requires creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas for and answers to work-related problems.
  • Adaptability/Flexibility - Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
  • Cooperation - Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
  • Persistence - Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
  • Achievement/Effort - Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
  • Concern for Others - Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
  • Analytical Thinking - Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
  • Stress Tolerance - Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high stress situations.
  • Leadership - Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.

Work Values

  • Support - Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees. Corresponding needs are Company Policies, Supervision: Human Relations and Supervision: Technical.
  • Relationships - Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment. Corresponding needs are Co-workers, Moral Values and Social Service.
  • Achievement - Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment. Corresponding needs are Ability Utilization and Achievement.

Wages & Trends

  • Median wages (2017)
    • $15.90 hourly, $33,060 annual
  • Employment (2016)
    • 193,000 employees
  • Projected growth (2016-2026)
    • Decline (-2% or lower)
  • Projected job openings (2016-2026)
    • 18,900

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