What does a Digital Press Operator do?

Mona D. Rigdon

Modern technology has brought many industries into a more computerized workflow, and this includes the publishing and printing industry. Although offset printing has remained a thriving business, the development of the digital press has brought new possibilities to the industry. A digital press operator is the backbone of the operation. The job of a digital press operator is to operate a digital press in order to produce a variety of printed materials. Other duties often include maintenance, troubleshooting, repair and crew supervision.

A digital printing press can be used to print brochures or other marketing materials.
A digital printing press can be used to print brochures or other marketing materials.

In digital printing, there are no printing plates to be set up. The process is much faster and more efficient than traditional printing processes. Customers expect quick turnaround of a quality product. Digital press operators often work under tight deadlines to produce short runs of a wide variety of print jobs for a wide variety of customers.

A digital press operator oversees the process of printing various types of literature and art. This process begins with the press operator becoming familiar with the specifications for the job at hand. Based on the given specifications for an assignment, the digital press operator adjusts controls and settings as appropriate. The press operator must ensure that the proper paper stock is chosen and properly loaded and that ink is filled. After these things are done, the job is started via computer interface.

The digital press operator ensures that the job is printing properly. This includes monitoring for appropriate ink coverage, color, registration and consistency. When problems are observed, the press operator must interrupt the job and make adjustments, either to the digital file or to the machine. Many designers and graphic artists send "camera-ready artwork," so there sometimes is a compatibility issue. Artwork that is produced or scanned in the RGB — red, green, blue — format will not print true to design if the digital press' format is CMYK — cyan, magenta, yellow, black. The digital press operator must spot these format differences and address them before a job is printed in order to save expense and customer frustration.

The digital press operator is generally responsible to ensure proper maintenance and function of the digital press. Most repairs are done by the manufacturer, but in some cases, small repairs might be the duty of the press operator. A digital press operator manages workflow of jobs and the press crew through the use of appropriate scheduling, inventory and ordering of materials and post-press production. In many small operations, the press operator also might be responsible for some of these processes, including stitching, stapling, binding, folding, cutting and packaging. It also is the job of the press operator to maintain a safe and efficient work environment.

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