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Sawmill Machine Operator

Sawmill machine operators operate, monitor and control automated machines and equipment that process logs into lumber, shingles and shakes.

  • Avg. Salary $64,461.00
  • Avg. Wage $30.56
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook N/A
  • Employed 1,700
  • In Demand Medium
Also Known As

Log Processing Machine Operator, Lumbermill Machine Operator, Planermill Machine Operator, Production Worker

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Sawmill Machine Operators (9431) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Sawmill Machine Operators (J141) 
  • 2011 NOC: Sawmill machine operators (9431) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

N/A
Average Wage
Starting
Overall
Top
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 20 kg
Interest Codes
The Sawmill Machine Operator is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Sawmill Machine Operators
OBJECTIVE

Interest in operating front end loaders and stationary deck cranes to feed logs into sawmill, machines to saw, trim and plane rough lumber into dressed lumber of various sizes, to saw and split shingles and shakes and automated equipment to convey logs through laser scanners which determine the most productive and profitable cutting patterns; and in moving stacks to storage areas and drying kilns

METHODICAL

Interest in compiling information while examining logs and rough lumber to determine size, condition, quality and other characteristics in order to decide what cuts are required

innovative

Interest in setting up and adjusting saw equipment, and replacing blades and bands using wrenches, gauges and other hand tools

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Duties
Updated Sep 29, 2014

Sawing logs into boards and planks of varying widths and thicknesses requires a fairly standard series of operations but the processes used vary from one sawmill to another. In some sawmills, the work of sawmill machine operators is labour intensive. In other mills, technological advances have decreased the amount of manual labour required.

Sawmill machine operators may use various types of automated and/or mobile equipment to:

  • move logs from storage yards onto transfer decks
  • convey logs through laser scanners that determine the most profitable cutting patterns for each log
  • send logs through cut off saws that cut logs to optimum lengths
  • debark logs
  • feed logs through various types of saws, edgers and trimmers to produce rough lumber
  • sort and stack lumber according to length, width and thickness
  • move stacks of lumber to storage yards and, later, to and from drying kilns
  • feed rough lumber through planers to give it a smooth (dressed) surface
  • wrap or strap lumber into packages and label packages for shipment
  • create specialty products such as fence posts, treated posts or remanufactured wood products
  • perform quality control checks (lumber grading).

In general, sawmill machine operators:

  • use front end loaders, stationary deck cranes or gantry cranes to feed logs into the sawmill
  • operate equipment from consoles or control rooms to scan logs for size and quality; convey logs and lumber to and from saws; saw logs into rough lumber; saw, trim, sort, stack, put in dry kiln and plane rough lumber into dressed lumber of various sizes and saw or split shingles and shakes
  • monitor logs and lumber movement to ensure cuts satisfy customer requirements
  • clean and maintain equipment
  • attend regularly scheduled safety meetings.
Working Conditions
Updated Sep 29, 2014

Sawmill machine operators work shifts that depend on production requirements. The working environment may be hot or cold, noisy or dusty, although technical advancements are improving these conditions.

Safety equipment such as hard hats, safety boots, safety glasses, gloves, high visibility vests and ear protection are required to reduce the risk of injury. Depending on the mill, machine operators may be required to lift items weighing over 20 kilograms.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 20 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Sep 29, 2014

Sawmill machine operators need the following characteristics:

  • the ability to lift heavy items often
  • good spatial perception
  • manual dexterity
  • the ability to remain alert while performing repetitious tasks
  • the ability to work as part of a team.

They should enjoy operating and monitoring equipment, having clear parameters and organized methods for their work, and working with others to solve problems.

Educational Requirements
Updated Sep 29, 2014

Employers generally prefer to hire high school graduates but may hire people who have less education if they have experience operating machinery or equipment.

Sawmill machine operators are trained on the job. They usually start in entry level labouring positions and are offered machine operating positions as they become available. With experience and satisfactory performance operating one type of machine, they advance to more complex tasks.

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Sep 29, 2014

Certification is not required, as there is currently no legislation regulating this occupation.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Sep 29, 2014

Sawmill machine operators are employed in sawmills and planing mills. In some sawmills, union membership is a condition of employment.

Machine operators may move into electrician or millwright apprenticeship positions (for more information, see the Electrician and Millwright occupational profiles). Advancement to head sawyer or planer operator positions requires years of experience in various sawmill machine operating positions with the same company. Without further education such as Advanced First Aid, Lumber Grading and power engineering certification (see the Power Engineer profile), advancement opportunities are limited. Post-secondary education is a definite asset for advancement to leadership positions such as planer supervisor or sawmill supervisor.

In Alberta, 77% of people employed as sawmill machine operators work in the Manufacturing (PDF) industry.

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the Manufacturing industry)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

The employment turnover rate in many sawmills is low so jobs may not be available often. However, employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Sep 29, 2014

Wages and benefits vary considerably from one employer to another.

Sawmill machine operators

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $20.00 $36.11 $28.23 $27.82
Overall $23.00 $36.11 $30.56 $31.27
Top $26.00 $40.08 $31.91 $32.04

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

B: Good Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Good Reliability, represents a CV of between 6.01% and 15.00% and/or fewer than 30 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 50% of all estimated employment for the occupation.


Industry Information
Manufacturing
ALL INDUSTRIES

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

14%
14%

Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties

N/A

Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months

2%
2%

Vacancy Rate

1%
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Trades, Industrial and Related Training
Other Sources of Information
Updated Sep 29, 2014

Alberta Forest Products Association (AFPA) website: www.albertaforestproducts.ca

Work Wild website: www.workwild.ca

For more information on career planning, education and jobs call the Alberta Supports Contact Centre toll-free at 1-877-644-9992 or 780-644-9992 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

Updated Jan 04, 2013. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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