operators tend machines that manufacture a wide range of textile
products. Most people know that textiles
are used to make hosiery, towels, and socks; but many are surprised to
learn that textile products are used in such things as roofs, tires, and
machinery operators play an important part in producing all these
goods, by controlling equipment that cleans, cards, combs, and draws
fiber; spins fiber into yarn; and weaves, knits, or tufts yarn into
textile products. These workers are responsible for numerous machines
that they start, stop, clean, and monitor for proper functioning.
There are many phases in the textile production process,
duties depend on the product and type of machinery used.
The process begins with the preparation of synthetic or natural fibers
for spinning. Fibers are cleaned and aligned through processes called
carding and combing. To prepare the fiber for spinning, very short
fibers and foreign matter are removed, and the fibers are drawn into a
substance called sliver. During this process, different types of fibers
may be combined, to give products a desired texture, durability, or
other characteristics. Operators constantly monitor their machines
during this stage, checking the movement of the fiber, removing and
replacing cans of sliver, repairing breaks in the sliver, and making
minor repairs to the machinery. The full cans of sliver are then taken
to the spinning area, where they are drawn and twisted onto bobbins to
produce yarn. (This is an automated version of the old fashion spinning
In contrast to the process described above, some workers
oversee machinery that makes fibers from wood pulp or chemicals. To
produce this fiber, wood pulp or chemical compounds are melted or
dissolved in a liquid, which is then extruded, or forced, through holes
in a metal plate, called a spinneret. The sizes and shapes of the holes
in the spinneret determine the shape and uses of the fiber. Workers
adjust the flow of fiber base through the spinneret, repair breaks in
the fiber, and make minor adjustments to the machinery. Because this
fiber is created through a chemical process, chemical companies, not
textile mills, employ the majority of these workers.
Whether natural or manufactured, finished yarn is then
taken to be woven, knitted, tufted, or bonded with heat or chemicals.
Each of these processes creates a different type of textile product and
requires a different type of machine. Woven fabrics are made on looms
that interlace the yarn. Knit products, such as socks or women's
hosiery, are produced by intermeshing loops of yarn. Carpeting is made
through the tufting process, in which the loops of yarn are pushed
through a backing material. Although the processes are now highly
automated, these concepts have been used for many centuries to produce
Once the yarn has been woven, knitted, or tufted, the
resulting fabric is ready to be dyed and finished
either at the textile
mill or at a plant specializing in textile finishing. Depending on the
end use of the yarn, it may be dyed before or after it is woven,
knitted, or tufted. Some fabric is treated before it is dyed, to remove
other chemical additives that could affect the quality of the finished
product. Products are often finished by treating them to prevent
excessive shrinkage, provide strength, make them stain-resistant, or
give them a silky luster. In the production of hosiery and socks, for
example, the stocking or sock is placed on a form and then exposed to
steam and heat to give it shape.
operators play a vital role in all of the various processes described
above. In spite of this wide range of processes, operators share many
responsibilities. Most prepare their machinery prior to a production run
and help maintain the equipment, by adjusting the timing on a machine,
threading the harnesses that create patterns in textile goods, and
repairing machinery. Each operator oversees numerous machines,
performing such duties as repairing breaks in the yarn and monitoring
its supply. Because highly automated machinery is used in textile mills,
computers control many of the processes, making it possible for each
operator to monitor a large area or number of machines. The complexity
of many machines often requires operators to specialize in a particular
type of machine.
Most textile machine operators work in textile mills or
chemical plants. Working conditions in these facilities depend on the
age and degree of modernization of the factory. New facilities usually
offer ventilation and climate control that reduce potential problems
caused by airborne fibers and fumes. In a few old facilities, workers in
areas with high levels of airborne materials often use protective
glasses and masks that cover their noses and mouths.
Although some new machinery is relatively quiet, a
number of workers still wear ear protection. Many machines operate at
high speeds, and workers must be careful not to wear clothing or jewelry
that could get caught in moving parts. In addition, many extruding and
forming machine operators wear protective shoes and clothing, when
working with certain chemical compounds.
Most textile machinery operators work a standard 40-hour
week. Night and weekend shifts are common, because many textile and
fiber mills operate 24 hours a day. Employers often use a rotating
schedule of shifts, however, so operators do not consistently work
nights or weekends.
Textile machinery operators held about 277,000 jobs in
1998. Most of these workers were employed in weaving, finishing, yarn,
and thread mills; but knitting mills and manufactured fiber producers
also employed a significant share. Most extruding and forming machine
operators were employed in chemical plants.
North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina were the
leading States in the employment of textile workers. Most of the
remaining workers were employed in other southern States, California,
and the Northeast.
Although not required for all machine-operating
positions, a high school diploma or its equivalent is becoming common
for entry-level positions in many mills. Some mills prefer applicants to
possess a high school diploma and additional technical training. This
training may be obtained, in part, at a formal training institution,
such as a technical school. Experienced workers or representatives of
machinery manufacturers may offer extensive on-the-job training.
As the textile industry becomes more highly automated,
some operators will need to understand complex machinery and be able to
diagnose problems. Because textile machinery is increasingly controlled
electronically, jobseekers will benefit from a basic knowledge of
computers and electronics.
Physical stamina and manual dexterity are important
attributes for these jobs. In addition, self-direction and interpersonal
skills are becoming important for
textile machinery operators, as organizational changes that promote
teamwork and encourage few levels of management are leading operators to
assume increasing responsibility and to take initiative.
Textile machinery operators can advance in several ways.
Some workers become instructors and train new employees. Others advance
by taking positions requiring additional skills and increased
responsibility. A number of experienced operators are promoted to
first-line supervisory positions.
textile machinery operators is expected to decline over the
1998-2008 period. The most important factors influencing the employment
outlook will be increased worker productivity through the introduction
of laborsaving machinery and an open trading environment. In spite of
the projected decline, many openings will be created annually, as
workers change occupations or leave the labor force. Because the textile
industry is highly automated, persons with technical skills and some
computer training will have the best opportunities.
Employment is expected to decline, as textile firms
respond to growing competition in coming years by investing in new
equipment, reorganizing work practices, and consolidating. New
machinery, such as faster air jet looms and computer-integrated
manufacturing technology, will increase productivity and allow each
operator to monitor a large number of machines. Many factories are also
reorganizing production floors to further increase productivity and to
give workers additional responsibility. Also, textile firms are merging
to benefit from economies of scale and to pool resources to invest in
new equipment. Although each of the above practices should make the
textile industry increasingly competitive, these practices will
adversely affect the employment outlook for many machine operators.
Another major uncertainty for textile workers is the
future of trade. Recent trade initiatives, like the North American Free
Trade Agreement and the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing of the World
Trade Organization, will help to open export markets for
produced in the United States. At the same time, they will dismantle
much of the protection that has been provided to the industry for
decades, leading to more textile imports and relocation of textile mills
to other countries. While the textile industry will be able to compete
in many product lines, the labor-intensive U.S. apparel industry will be
more adversely affected by these trade initiatives. This, in turn, will
negatively affect the demand for textile machinery operators, because
the apparel industry is the largest consumer of American-made textiles.
In contrast to other textile machine operating
occupations, extruding machine operators, who produce synthetic fibers
are expected to experience growing employment in coming years. Because
this occupation is small, however, growth is projected to create only a
small number of new openings.
Median hourly earnings of textile draw-out and winding
machine operators, who account for about two-thirds of textile machinery
operators, were $9.37 in 1998. The middle 50 percent earned between
$7.84 and $10.62. The lowest 10 percent had earnings of less than $6.61,
whereas the top 10 percent earned over $12.20.
Median hourly earnings for other textile machinery
operators in 1998 were $13.43 for extruding and forming machine
operators, $10.40 for textile machine setters and set-up operators, and
$9.31 for textile bleaching and dyeing machine operators. In general,
earnings vary significantly, depending on the type of mill, job
specialty, shift, and seniority. In addition to typical benefits, some
firms provide on-site daycare facilities, educational benefits, and
employee discounts in company-owned outlet stores.
Metalworking and plastics-working machine operators perform similar
duties and have many of the same entry and training requirements as
extruding and forming machine operators and tenders, textile machine
operators and tenders, and textile bleaching and dyeing machine
operators. Setters and setup operators in other industries
fabrication and plastics manufacturing, for example
comparable to those of textile machine setters and setup operators.
Information about job opportunities in textile and
synthetic fiber production is available from local employers and local
offices of the State employment service.
For general information on careers, technology, and
trade regulations in the textile industry, contact:
An industry employing textile machinery operators that
appears in the 2000-01 Career Guide to Industries:
Textile mill products
Employment is expected to decline, primarily due to
more productive machinery and open international trade.
Because the textile industry is highly automated,
persons with technical skills and some computer training will have
the best opportunities.
The above information was provided by
the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (powered by The Bureau
of Labor Statistics). Articles was retrieved September 28, 2009
and modified by Apparel Search.