Robot Operator

What is a robot operator?

A robot operator is a person in charge of the operations, monitoring, and performance of a single robot or fleet that can perform their functions both remotely and on-site. A robot operator might oversee the operation of an industrial robotic arm on the manufacturing floor of an automobile plant. Or you might find a robot operator managing the daily operations of a heterogeneous fleet of warehouse robots. Regardless of location or type of robot managed, what does it take to be a robot operator?

Education and training

The robot operators of today are the production line workers of yesteryear. Instead of operating industrial machinery themselves, robot operators oversee one or more robots doing work that in the past was done by humans. 

Similar to production line workers, robot operators most typically have a high school diploma or a general education degree (GED). Qualifications vary by employer, however, many employers provide apprenticeship opportunities or on-the-job learning opportunities for workers. 

Certificate or associate’s degree programs in robotic welding or industrial controls can give aspiring robot operators a leg up. Finally, FANUC—a Japanese robotics conglomerate—offers a professional certification for robot operators in the U.S.

Job responsibilities, requirements, and compensation

There is a wide range of benefits for teleoperation, and they include:

  • Increased safety for human workers
  • Ability to explore unknown or dangerous environments
  • Cost-savings
  • Increased productivity

Examples of Teleoperated Robots

Robot operators are typically involved in the maintenance and operation of robots. Robot operators are carrying out prescribed procedures and processes to ensure the robot works as expected. This may include connecting or disconnecting various attachments to the robot, as well as doing routine set-up and upkeep.

It is not uncommon for robot operators to also be responsible for inspecting the output of the robots in their charge or, in the case of autonomous mobile robots, to assist devices that have become stuck or are otherwise inoperable without human intervention. Below are some job responsibilities of this role from various job sites:

  • Develop proactive management activities to identify the root cause(s) of cell/robot performance with countermeasures.
  • Support process associates by moving carts and setting up the zone for type change-over.
  • Ensure that good information is included in reports for follow-up.
  • Coordinate with department management to complete all downtime reports to ensure accuracy and countermeasure follow-up.
  • Conduct regular welding equipment preventative maintenance activity.
  • Support engineering with project implementation.
  • Understand how robot head assemblies, water flow, and shunts work.
  • Understand how to manually operate all processes in the area of responsibility.
  • Follow up with a department quality group whenever changes are made to equipment.
  • Responsible for the incidental maintenance of the machine such as cone/tip cleaning and maintenance, weld wire replacement, and machine area cleaning. 
  • Responsible for properly loading parts, using the agreed-upon sequence, and identifying good welds or bad welds.
  • Responsible for various reports and data collection ie: FTQ, work gen, and scrap reports.
  • Keep accurate day-to-day maintenance logs of robot operation. 
  • Maintain good housekeeping practices. 
  • Must be able to touch up welds that need minor repairs. 
  • Able to perform multiple work processes as necessary with or without reasonable accommodation.

While the educational requirements are minimal, below are some things employers are looking for in prospective candidates:

  • GED/High School Diploma desired, not required.
  • High school and/or technical school completion.
  • Ability to technically investigate, derive conclusions from observations/data, and analytically approach problem-cause phenomena.
  • Ability to use gauges, fixtures, hand tools, and measuring devices.
  • 1-3 years in a manufacturing environment.
  • Basic shop math skills.
  • Ability to work any shift.

According to Glassdoor, robot operator base pay ranges from $37,000 to $51,000 annually, with another $2,000 to $4,000 in bonus compensation, with an average total salary of $43,477. For an entry-level employee who has not chosen a four-year college degree, a job as a robot operator can position you to begin your career working with robots.