Packaging Operative/Manager

The Job and What's Involved

Packing operatives pack products to protect them during transportation, give them an identifiable and desirable appearance for display, and preserve any goods that are perishable.

They wrap and pack a range of products, including food and drink, medicines, clothing and footwear, furniture and furnishings, electronic and electrical equipment, construction materials, engineering equipment and chemicals.

Some operatives pack products by hand into packaging such as bags, cartons and boxes. They use various materials, including paper, cardboard, bubble wrap, polythene and polystyrene, to secure and cushion the goods within their containers. They then seal up the packages, often using tape, staples or straps.

Some packing operatives use a packing machine. This involves loading the machine with goods, packaging materials and labels, and setting the machine so that it can carry out the packing process. Others work on a production line, packing products as they are produced.

Other tasks may include:

  • Selecting suitable packaging.
  • Assembling boxes and crates.
  • Preparing, cleaning, adjusting and maintaining packing machinery.
  • Checking products for faults before packing.
  • Identifying faults with machinery and stopping production if necessary.
  • Placing packed items on to pallets ready for dispatch.
  • Oerating a fork-lift truck.
  • Weighing or counting goods.
  • Labelling packages.
  • Maintaining records of completed work.

If they are packing heavy items, such as car engines, packing operatives use lifting equipment to move the items into place. They may also use hand and power tools to seal containers.

Packing managers run packing operations. The role can include:

  • Drawing up work schedules.
  • Supervising packing operatives.
  • Ensuring that there are always sufficient supplies of products and packaging materials.
  • Making sure that tasks are completed safely, to quality standards and on time.
  • Recruiting, and organising staff training.
  • Dealing with customers.
  • Planning machine maintenance work.
  • Dealing with unexpected incidents, such as machine breakdown.
  • Developing new processes to improve efficiency.

Packing operatives and managers usually work 37 to 40 hours a week. They often work shifts, including evenings, nights and weekends. Part-time work is common and overtime is often available.

Packing staff normally work in manufacturing areas or warehouses. Some environments are clean, light and airy, while others can be hot, cold, dusty or noisy. Managers spend some of their time in an office.

Packing operatives spend most of their working day sitting or standing, and the work often involves bending, lifting, carrying and loading.

Operatives and managers working in factories and warehouses need to wear protective clothing. The type of clothing varies depending on the products being dealt with, but may include overalls, gloves, hard hats and boots.

Starting salaries for packing operatives may be around £9,000 a year. These rates may be increased by working shifts and overtime. Some packing operatives are paid according to the number of items they pack. Others receive an hourly rate.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

The UK logistics sector employs around 73,000 people as storage and warehouse managers, and about 378,000 in other goods handling and storage operations, including packing. The job sector is generally stable and there are good opportunities in the area.

Employers of packing staff include manufacturers, retailers, mail order companies, distribution and storage organisations, shipping companies, removals firms and export companies.

Job vacancies are advertised through local newspapers, Jobcentre Plus offices and employers' websites. A large number of jobs are available through recruitment agencies, including online agencies such as

Education and Training

Entrants do not usually need any educational qualifications to become a packing operative. However, some key skills qualifications, GCSE's/S grades or the equivalent may be useful.

Some jobs may require candidates to have a fork-lift truck licence.

An Apprenticeship in Wholesale, Distribution, Warehousing and Storage may be available. This can lead to NVQ's/SVQ's at Levels 2 and 3.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work, Careers Wales; and for Northern Ireland contact

There is no set route to become a packing manager. It is sometimes possible to work up to a managerial post from the position of packing operative. Some employers may require qualifications such as an HNC/HND, Foundation degree or degree. Useful subjects include engineering, manufacturing and management.

Entry to a degree is usually with a minimum of two A levels/three H grades and five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or the equivalent. Entry to an HNC/HND course is usually with at least one A level/two H grades, or the equivalent.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training is usually on the job, working alongside experienced colleagues. New entrants may also undertake formal training courses in areas such as manual handling, food hygiene, and health and safety. Some employers offer training leading to a fork-lift truck licence.

It may be possible to work towards relevant NVQ's/SVQ's. These include:

  • Packaging Operators (Levels 1 and 2).
  • Distributive Operations at Level 1.
  • Performing Manufacturing Operations at Levels 1 and 2.
  • Distribution, Warehousing and Storage Operations at Levels 2 and 3.

It is possible to work towards an IoP: The Packaging Society/PIABC Certificate in Packaging or Diploma in Packaging Technology. These contain modules relevant for packing managers as well. A range of general management qualifications are also available.

Packing managers are encouraged to keep their skills and knowledge up to date through Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A packing operative should:

  • Be able to follow instructions.
  • Be aware of health and safety regulations.
  • Be good at working with their hands.
  • Be able to work quickly and carefully.
  • Be able to use machinery and packing tools such as knives, tape machines, hammers and screwdrivers.
  • Be willing to carry out repetitive tasks.
  • Be able to work well alone and as part of a team.
  • Be observant.
  • Be physically fit.
  • Be computer literate, in order to operate computerised controls.
  • Have some machine maintenance skills.
  • Have clear handwriting for writing labels.

A packing manager should:

  • Fully understand packing processes.
  • Have good organisational skills.
  • Be able to manage and motivate a team.
  • Be able to solve problems.
  • Have good communication skills.
  • Be able to work to deadlines.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience, packing operatives may progress to supervisory roles. In some cases, it may be possible to gain promotion to a managerial position.

Experienced packing managers may progress into more senior roles or move into other areas of management.

Get Further Information

Improve, Ground Floor, Providence House,
2 Innovation Close, Heslington, York YO10 5ZF
Tel: 0845 644 0448

Richmond House,
Lawnswood Business Park,
Leeds LS16 6RD
Tel: 0113 239 9600

Skills for Logistics,
14 Warren Yard, Warren Farm Office Village,
Milton Keynes MK12 5NW
Tel: 01908 313360

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