Although CNC machines require little human intervention in the process of developing the desired final product, human intervention is still required in terms of programming computer software for CNC machines. A CNC machine programmer must understand programming, so that they are able to accurately tell the machine what to do.

CNC machines are programmed through sentence like structures written in understandable code. Each axis the machine uses, requires instructions for the development of the final project. If you forget to program one of the axes, the product will not come out; in the same terms, if you program it wrong, axes will do what the program tells them to do and not what you want them to do.

A CNC machine operator helps on the other end. The programmer writes the code for the machine, but the operator is responsible for downloading the program into the machine and preparing the machine to do the job properly.

The operator may have to attach the tool to the tool holder for the machine, place the material needed for the job on the machine, and then start the machine. If the CNC machine operator is experienced, they will begin to study the various sounds the machine makes and will be able to tell just from the sound if there is a problem with the machine. A more experienced CNC machine operator is required to perform this type of work.

After the machine completes the program and the work progress is completed, the operator can be switched. At this point in time, less experienced operators can take over from here. Usually CNC machine operators will start at a lower level and gradually increase as they become more experienced in this type of machining.

Experienced CNC machine operators can detect program weaknesses and can usually make modifications to the program themselves. If they see that the final product does not meet the required specifications, they can fix the problem in the program and continue with the work. They don’t have to take the time to contact the programmer and wait for the program to be fixed.

Limited input from the operator is required to operate the CNC machine. It is for this reason that one operator may be able to watch multiple machines. The machine does all the work and only one person is needed to do the machine setup. This allows the company to hire fewer people and saves them in the payroll department.

CNC machine operators must adhere to safety precautions as they would in any other machine shop. Although CNC machines are usually fully enclosed and can limit noise, debris, etc., there are still hazards and operators must adhere to safety rules and precautions. Wearing safety glasses/goggles and earplugs is a good idea and can help protect the operator.