Industrial Production Management Career and Job Highlights
Industrial Production Management Career Overview and Job Description
Industrial production managers organize the resources and services necessary to producing millions of goods each year in the United States. Managerial duties vary by plant, but many major responsibilities are nearly the same for all industrial production managers, including production scheduling, staffing, procuring and maintaining equipment, overseeing quality and inventory control, and coordinating production activities among departments.
Industrial production managers have numerous responsibilities, but their primary function is to lay out the production schedule so that production quotas are met but financial and time constraints are respected. These managers use mathematical formulas and other means to analyze and coordinate the plant’s personnel and capital resources. They decide which machines to use, what new machines, if any, need to be purchased, whether overtime or extra shifts will be required, and what the sequence of production will be. Once the production run commences, they monitor it to ensure that it stays on schedule and to fix any complications that may arise.
Production techniques have progressed from traditional mass assembly lines to modern “lean” production techniques, and industrial production managers have had to adapt accordingly. While some manufacturers combine lean and mass production techniques, many others emphasize lean production systems. Workers in traditional assembly lines perform one task on every product and are responsible for only a small part of the assembly. In lean production, teams work in stations or cells to assemble products. In this system of stations, a single, independent worker completes an entire section of the assembly process. Workers can perform all jobs within a team instead of completely focusing on one process. The advantage of a lean production system is that companies avoid the constraints of the traditional assembly line and therefore enjoy more flexibility in their production process. As a result, they can more easily modify production levels on different product lines.
With this increased flexibility, industrial production managers can explore ways to enhance the assembly and manufacturing process. For example, manufacturing cells and stations can quickly react to changes in customer demand; this flexibility helps businesses striving to limit their stock of finished products make sure that inventories will not get too low.
Monitoring product quality is another responsibility of industrial production managers. They inspect samples of finished goods, noting any defects in order to create statistical analyses of quality control problems. Conventional quality control programs respond only to problems once they reach a specified level of significance, but some modern management techniques and programs like ISO 9000, Total Quality Management (TQM), and Six Sigma stress quality improvement at all stages. When problems arise, manages have several options. When quality of work in the plant becomes an issue, the manager may improve or add training programs or restructure the manufacturing process, often based upon the suggestions of employee teams. When outside suppliers provide substandard materials or parts, managers and their company will need to work with their suppliers to improve their quality.
Because many departments work on the same projects, industrial production managers regularly consult with directors of other departments to prepare and execute company goals, guidelines, and operations. For example, the production manager and the procurement department collaborate to maintain optimal levels of plant inventories. This type of cooperation is essential to a company’s efficient operation; maintaining adequate production supplies taxes a company’s financial resources, but an inadequate inventory will impair production. Communication problems between the production manager and the purchasing department can further slow down production, which in turn throws off production schedules. Just-in-time production techniques, which have proved to be very efficient because they reduce inventory levels, make regular interdepartmental communication even more important. Computers, with their ability to provide constant updates on inventory, the status of work in progress, and quality standards, are central to such coordination.
In most organizations, production managers are directly accountable to the plant manager or the vice president for manufacturing, and they sometimes serve as liaison between executives and first-line supervisors. A single production manager frequently directs all aspects of production in a plant. Large, multi-operational plants like aircraft assembly facilities have managers to oversee each operation, such as machining, assembly, or finishing.
Industrial Production Management Training and Job Qualifications
Job requirements for manufacturing operations are so diverse that this occupation has no standard preparation. The one absolute requirement is a college degree, even for candidates who work their way up through a company. Degrees in management, business administration, industrial engineering, or industrial technology are common for industrial production managers. Master’s degrees in industrial management or business administration (MBA) are also useful. Some managers worked as production-line supervisors before being promoted. In general, employers seek candidates with training and experience in business or engineering, but some companies will hire well-qualified liberal arts graduates.
Companies want candidates who are capable of working with increasingly complex production operations. As a result, a graduate degree in industrial management or business administration, combined with an undergraduate degree in engineering, is looked upon very favorably by the industry. Managers without graduate degrees can still learn techniques and mathematical formulas that can be used to improve efficiency and quality by taking courses in decision sciences. Production managers, who regularly compromise, persuade, and negotiate, also need excellent interpersonal and communication skills.
Because of their lack of experience with the company’s production process, those coming straight out of college or graduate school may have to pass through the company’s training program. These programs acquaint trainees with the production process, company policies, and their job requirements. Larger companies may also assign new hires to work in other departments, such as purchasing and accounting. Recently hired college graduates in many firms initially work as first-line supervisors before advancing to managerial positions.
Some industrial production managers begin in lower-level positions and advance through the company. The advantage of working up through the ranks, starting perhaps as a first-line supervisor, is a thorough knowledge of the firm’s production process and organization. Promotion for such workers, however, requires that they earn a college degree, exhibit leadership capabilities, and, many times, complete company-sponsored training in management and communication techniques.
While formal training is necessary for industrial production managers, it is not sufficient; managers need to stay abreast of the latest production technologies and management practices. Membership in a professional organization is common, and many production managers attend trade shows, industry conferences, and conventions to learn about changes in production methods, new equipment, and technological advances. Some managers complete certification programs for various quality and management systems.
Industrial production managers have several possibilities for career development. Those with a record of exceptional performance may be promoted to plant manager or vice president for manufacturing. Some move to larger firms to work in positions with more responsibilities. Consulting is also an option.
Production Management Job and Employment Opportunities
Through 2012, the employment rate for industrial production managers is forecasted to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations. The need to replace workers who change occupations or leave the labor force will create a number of job openings. Job prospects will be brightest for candidates with a college degree in management, industrial engineering, or business administration, and especially for applicants with an undergraduate degree in engineering and a master’s degree in business administration or industrial management. Employers will be most interested in qualified candidates who have outstanding communication skills, who work well in teams, and who want to enhance their knowledge and abilities through continuing training.
Despite projections of increased manufacturing output, employment growth for industrial production managers will be limited by improvements in production efficiency among industrial production managers and their workers. Productivity advancements among managers will result from the expanding use of computers by these managers and their companies. Productivity advancements among workers will translate into fewer workers and less need for supervision. Moreover, the growing importance of producing quality products has shifted some of the production manager’s oversight duties to supervisors and workers on the production line. Production managers are essential to the efficient operation of a plant. The practical implications of this condition are twofold: while production managers have avoided heavy casualties from recent efforts to flatten management structures, they have had to expand their responsibilities. As a result, fewer job opportunities are created.
Historical Earnings Information
In 2002, industrial production managers reported median annual earnings of $67,320. The range of earnings for the middle 50 percent was from $50,710 to $88,880. The earnings of the lowest 10 percent were under $38,980, while the earnings of the highest 10 percent exceeded $114,750. In 2002, industrial production managers in the industries employing the most of these managers reported the following median annual earnings: