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Industrial Production Manager Job Description, Career as an Industrial Production Manager, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training College

Salary Median—$73,000 per year

Employment Outlook Fair

Definition and Nature of the Work

Industrial production managers plan, direct, and coordinate the production activities that produce millions of goods every year. They make sure production proceeds smoothly and stays within budget. Depending on the size of the manufacturing plant, industrial production managers may oversee the entire plant or just one area.

One of the main responsibilities of the industrial production manager is to oversee the production process, reducing costs wherever necessary and making sure that products are produced on time and are of good quality. They do this by analyzing the plant's workers, resources, and capital to select the best way of meeting the production goals. Industrial production managers may decide which machines will be used, whether new machines need to be purchased, whether overtime or extra shifts are necessary, and what the order of production should be. They monitor the production process to make sure that it stays on schedule and they correct any problems that may arise.

Part of an industrial production manager's job is to find ways to make the production process more efficient. Traditional mass assembly lines have been replaced by "lean" production techniques, which give managers more flexibility. In a traditional assembly line, each worker is responsible for only a small part of the job, repeating the same task for every product. Lean production uses teams to build and assemble products in stations or cells, so instead of specializing

Industrial production managers supervise the overall production activities of a plant's manufacturing department. (© Martha Tabor/Working Images Photographs. Reproduced by permission.)

in one task, workers can perform all jobs within their team. In this way industrial production managers can more easily change production levels and staffing on different product lines to minimize inventory levels and to react more quickly to changing customer demands.

Industrial production managers also monitor product standards and implement quality-control programs. They make sure the finished product meets a certain level of quality. If the product does not meet that level, they try to find out what the problem is and find a solution. For example, an industrial production manager may implement better training programs or work with an outside supplier to improve the quality of raw materials.

A key part of the work of industrial production managers is to coordinate with different departments in the manufacturing plant. They work closely with other managers to implement the company's policies and goals. They work with the financial departments to come up with a budget and spending plan. They also work closely with the heads of sales, procurement, and logistics. A breakdown in communications between the industrial production manager and other departments can cause slowdowns and a failure to meet production schedules. Just-in-time production techniques have reduced inventory levels, making constant communication among the manager, suppliers, and procurement departments even more important.

Industrial production managers must keep abreast of new technology that can be used in the production process. They must be computer savvy, as computers increasingly play an integral role in the manufacturing process and in the coordination among departments, suppliers, and clients.

Education and Training Requirements

While there is no standard preparation for a career as an industrial production manager, a college degree is helpful. Some employers will train promising apprentices or workers, but applicants with college degrees in industrial engineering, management, industrial technology, or business administration are preferred. Those applicants with undergraduate degrees and master's degrees in business administration or industrial management enjoy the best job prospects. Some industrial production managers are former production-line supervisors who have been promoted and have taken employer-sponsored training. Although many employers prefer candidates with business or engineering degrees, some companies hire well-rounded liberal arts graduates who are willing to spend time in production-related jobs.

As production operations become more sophisticated, increasing numbers of employers are looking for candidates with graduate degrees in industrial management or business administration. Combined with an undergraduate degree in engineering, either of these graduate degrees is considered particularly good preparation. Industrial production managers who do not have graduate degrees often take courses in decision sciences, which provide them with techniques and statistical formulas that can be used to maximize efficiency and improve quality. Companies are also placing greater importance on a candidate's interpersonal skills. Because the job requires the ability to compromise, persuade, and negotiate, successful industrial production managers must be well rounded and have excellent communication skills.

Those who enter the field directly from college or graduate school are often unfamiliar with the firm's production process. As a result, they may spend their first few months in the company's training program. A number of companies hire college graduates as first-line supervisors and later promote them.

Besides formal training, industrial production managers must keep informed of new production technologies and management practices. Many belong to professional organizations and attend trade shows at which new equipment is displayed; they also attend industry conferences and conventions at which changes in production methods and technological advances are discussed. Some take courses to become certified in various quality and management systems.

Getting the Job

The position of industrial production manager requires years of actual production or engineering work in a specific industry, combined with the demonstrated ability to produce results and to lead, supervise, and teach others. College graduates may be able to find companies that offer management training programs. School placement offices and state employment offices list employment opportunities and training programs. Applicants may apply directly to manufacturing plants or at state or private employment agencies. Openings for industrial production managers are often listed in newspaper want ads and at Internet job sites.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Employment of industrial production managers is expected to grow more slowly than average for all occupations through 2014, as overall employment in manufacturing declines. As more manufacturing plants move abroad and others are able to produce more with fewer people, the need for industrial production managers is expected to decrease. Also, new computerized machines are better able to control quality. However, because production managers are so essential to the efficient operation of a plant, they have not been as affected by efforts to reduce levels of management. Nevertheless, this trend has led production managers to assume more responsibilities and has limited the creation of more employment opportunities.

Despite slow growth, a number of jobs are expected to open because of the need to replace workers who retire or who transfer to other occupations. Applicants with college degrees in industrial engineering, management, or business administration, and particularly those with undergraduate engineering degrees and master's degrees in business administration or industrial management, should enjoy the best job prospects. Employers are also likely to seek candidates who have excellent communication skills and related work experience and who are personable, flexible, and eager to enhance their knowledge and skills through ongoing training.

Industrial production managers with a proven record of superior performance may advance to plant manager or vice president for manufacturing. Others transfer to jobs with more responsibilities at larger firms. Opportunities also exist for managers to become consultants.

Working Conditions

Most industrial production managers divide their time between production areas and their offices. While in the production area, they must follow established health and safety practices and wear the required protective clothing and equipment. Time in the office, which is often located near production areas, is spent meeting with subordinates or other department managers, analyzing production data, and writing and reviewing reports.

Most industrial production managers work more than forty hours per week, especially when production deadlines must be met. In facilities that operate around the clock, managers often work late shifts and may be called at any hour to deal with emergencies. This could mean going to the plant to resolve the problem regardless of the hour and staying until the situation is under control. Dealing with production workers and superiors when working under the pressure of production deadlines or emergency situations can be stressful. Corporate restructuring has eliminated levels of management and support staff, thus shifting more responsibilities to industrial production managers and compounding this stress.

Where to Go for More Information

American Management Association
1601 Broadway
New York, NY 10019
(212) 586-8100

APICS—The Association for Operations Management
5301 Shawnee Rd.
Alexandria, VA 22312-2317
(800) 444-2742

Institute of Industrial Engineers
3577 Parkway Lane, Ste. 200
Norcross, GA 30092
(800) 494-0460

Earnings and Benefits

The median annual earnings for industrial production managers were $73,000 in 2004. Industrial production managers in motor vehicle parts manufacturing earned a median of $76,490 per year, while those in plastics products manufacturing earned a median of only $66,880 per year.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesManufacturing & Production