Otherwise known as industrial production managers, manufacturing managers are perhaps best described by first situating them in the role that they play for an industrial company. Their primary responsibility is to oversee production, which involves the people and machines that are producing the final products of the company. This entails decisions regarding hiring and firing practices in general, whether employees should work overtime or not, as well as which machines are to be used, shut down, replaced, or whether new technologies should be implemented in the production process. Their main goal, in all of these functions, is to run the plant in the most efficient way possible.
Manufacturing as an industry was changed in a revolutionary way by the advent of the assembly line. Ford Motors was most famous for hiring a number of employees, teaching them one element of the assembly process, and then overseeing their implementation of that one, very specific skill. For example, one worker would put the driver’s side back tire on, while another would attach the passenger’s side back tire. Their functions would not change, which resulted in making the work extremely boring. Plenty of art was produced to vilify supervisors and the industrial production managers in these plants.
Since then, there have been some important changes to the model, which should make anyone looking at the industrial production manager as one of their possible business careers a bit more at ease. For instance, instead of assembling the product in a line, where one worker performs one function at each stopping point in the line, now there are cells, where a team of workers coordinates their efforts to bring the product to the next level of assembly. Each worker in the cell is taught to perform any of the functions in the cell, which makes the work more socially engaging, more interesting, and therefore more satisfying.
But in addition to making sure that workers, machines, and techniques are working as effectively as possible to create products that meet quality standards, industrial production managers also coordinate with heads of other departments, particularly logistics, procurement, and sales. Logistics distributes the product; procurement maintains inventory, in order to ensure continuous production, while sales communicates clients’ needs and wants regarding the quality of the product.
As a result, industrial production managers divide their time between the industrial plant and their offices, and it means that the skills required for their aggregate function within the company are divided between soft skills – needed for communication and coordination with other department heads – and hard skills – needed to ensure the efficiency of the production process.
That also makes it stand to reason that most manufacturing managers would have a degree representative of knowledge in one of these two areas: either business –business administration or management – or in engineering – industrial technology, and industrial engineering. The other main requirement for the position entails some experience with an aspect of production. In the future, it is thought that a graduate level of education may become more necessary to adequately perform the job function, due to the increasing level of sophistication of production operations. Manufacturing managers can also expect, in addition to their educational background, additional certifications to continue their training, such as Certified in Production and Inventory Management credential, Six Sigma, and so on.
The average salary of manufacturing managers was $83,290 in 2008. Employment in this field is expected to decline by 8% by the year 2018. In 2008, 156,100 industrial plant managers were employed; in 2018, 144,100 are expected to be employed.