Employment Within the Plastic Mold Industry

There are a number of different types of employees in the plastic industry, with each playing an equally important role in the transformation of plastic into the parts and products that are desired. The three primary positions are: machine setters, machine operators, and tenders.

The Role of the Machine Setter, Machine Operator, and Tender

Machine setters, machine operator, and tender have the responsibility of setting up and tending to the machines that transform plastic compounds, such as pellets, powder, and syrup, inot products such as auto parts, toys, and tubing. Although a variety of methods can be utilized to change the plastic into a useful product, injection molding is the most commonly used method.

A typical injection molding machine has about 25 different controls, all of which can be adjusted. The machine setter is responsible for setting up these machines before they are used to ensure all settings are where they need to be. The setter is also usually responsible for repairing any problems the machinery may have.

After the machine has been set up by the machine setter, the machine operator monitors the gauges. He or she is responsible for making any adjustments that may be necessary to maintain quality, such as changing the inputs, the speeds, and the pressures. After the product has been created and cooled within the injection-molding machine, the tender removes the product and loads it into its packaging.

Work Environment

For the most part, those working within the plastic molding industry enjoy a clean, well-ventilated, and well lit working environment. The job does, however, require standing the majority of the day and can also include moderate to heavy lifting. In addition, the machinery can be quite dangerous and, therefore, strict safety rules must be adhered to.

The majority of workers in the plastic molding industry must wear earplugs and safety glasses to protect themselves from the loud noises created by the machines and from flying pieces of plastic. Most modern machines, however, are enclosed. This minimizes the employee’s exposure to noise and dust. Despite the modern machinery, some workers in the plastic molding industry also must were face masks or special self-contained breathing apparati if the plastic they work with emits dangerous fumes.

Most employees in the plastic molding industry work 40 hour weeks. During periods of increased production, overtime is also common. Most plastics shops work more than one shift. Therefore, shift work or working evenings or nights is also common.


For the most part, there are no special educational requirements for a person to become employed as a plastics machine setter, machine operator, or tender. Most employees in the industry learn on the job. This is usually accomplished by having the trainee oberve and assist experienced workers. Formal training programs, however, are also sometimes used to train new employees. Generally, the tender is the entry-level position, followed by the operator, and then the setter. Ultimately, the employee may become responsible for all aspects of the machine.


The amount of money earned by an employee within the plastic molding industry depends largely on the size of the company, the person’s experience, and whether or not the company is unionized. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the median hourly salary in May 2004 for model makers was $21.28. Rolling machine operators and tenders earned $14.33 per hour, while heat treating operators and tenders earned $14.26, and multiple machine setters, operators, and tenders earned $14.06 Molding setters, operators, and tenders earned $11.63 during that same timeframe.