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Industrial production managers.

Industrial Production Managers

Products made by American industry range from automobiles to zippers, but many of the factories they come from are organized along the same lines. In all of them, industrial production managers hold central positions. These managers coordinate all activities related to production. They direct the work of blue-collar worker supervisors--who supervise the production workers--and report to the plant manager or the vice president for manufacturing.

Nature of the Work

In many plants, one production manager is responsible for all production. In large plants, different managers are in charge of each operation, such as machining, assembly, or finishing.

Although specific duties vary from plant to plant, industrial production managers generally have the same major functions. These include production scheduling, staffing, equipment purchasing, quality control, inventory control, and coordinating activities with other departments.

Industrial production managers plan the production schedule to ensure that the production goal set by higher level management will be reached. Scheduling entails analyzing the plant's personnel and capital resources and selecting the best way to meet the production quota. Production managers determine which machines will be used, whether overtime or extra shifts are necessary, the sequence of production, and related matters. They also monitor production to make sure that it stays on schedule. When problems occur, the industrial production manager must resolve them with the shortest interruption possible. In addition, quotas must be reached within budget limitations. In most organizations, the ability to keep costs low is critical.

Meeting production schedules within budgetary constraints requires an adequate and well-trained work force. At various times, this can mean hiring and training workers, approving overtime, or laying off workers. When employment is cut, industrial production managers may work with other departments in the company to reassign workers or may make suggestions to their workers about finding a new job or selecting a training program. Regardless of whether they are hiring or releasing employees, they must work closely with the human resources department.

When firms purchase machinery and equipment, production managers are usually involved in their selection and installation. Although they do not make the final decision as to what will be purchased, they recommend equipment based on its efficiency, cost, training requirements, and other factors. They also ensure that all the machinery is well maintained and meets all safety requirements, regardless of its age or type.

Industrial production managers also monitor product standards. When quality drops, they determine why standards aren't being maintained and how to meet them. If the problem is poor workmanship, the manager may implement training programs, reorganize the manufacturing process, or institute employee involvement programs. If the cause is substandard materials, the manager works with the purchasing department to improve the quality of the product's components.

Working with the purchasing department, the production manager ensures that plant inventories are optimal. Maintaining too large an inventory ties up the firm's financial resources needlessly. Yet insufficient quantities of materials delay production. The use of "just-in-time" inventory management systems by more and more firms has increased the importance of this job function. In these systems, stock is ordered only when it is needed. Because materials are not stockpiled, a breakdown in the system can cause a failure to meet production schedules.

In addition to their responsibilities on the shop floor, production managers routinely meet with managers of other departments--such as sales, industrial engineering, or traffic--to discuss production goals, policies, procedures, and other areas of mutual concern. Production managers regularly write reports and present summaries of production performance to upper level managers. They may also visit trade shows or meet with manufacturers' representatives to learn what type of machinery is available. In addition, several times a year, they may participate in management workshops and seminars.

Earnings and Working Conditions

Industrial production managers are usually paid a salary. In addition, many of these workers receive bonuses based on job performance, participate in profit-sharing plans, and may have the use of company equipment, such as automobiles. Salaries and bonuses vary greatly by industry and plant size. Median salaries for industrial production managers ranged from $35,000 to $48,000, according to the Middle Management Report, 37th edition, 1988/89, published by the Executive Compensation Service, a Wyatt Data Services company. Other benefits for industrial production managers are similar to those offered most workers: Vacation and sick leave, health and life insurance, and retirement plans.

Most industrial production managers divide their time between the shop floor and their office. While on the floor, they must follow established health and safety practices and wear protective clothing and equipment. The time in the office--often located on or near the production floor--is usually spent meeting with subordinates or other department managers, analyzing production data, and writing and reviewing reports.

Most industrial production managers work more than 40 hours a week, especially when production deadlines must be met. In facilities that operate around the clock, managers work shifts or may be called at any hour to deal with emergencies. Occasionally, this requires going to the plant to resolve the problem, regardless of the hour, and staying until the situation is under control.

In large corporations with several facilities, production managers may be transferred between plants. This can often mean relocation to different areas of the country or even abroad, as many U.S. manufacturers have facilities in other countries.

Qualifications and Advancement

Because of the diversity of manufacturing operations and job requirements, there is no standard preparation for this occupation. Some industrial production managers are former blue-collar worker supervisors (production line supervisors). Increasingly, however, employers--especially large firms--are looking for candidates with a college degree. Many industrial production managers have a college degree in business administration or industrial engineering, although some companies hire liberal arts graduates. As production operations become more and more sophisticated, an increasing number of employers are looking for candidates with master's degrees in business administration (MBA'S). The combination of an MBA with an undergraduate degree in engineering is considered particularly good preparation.

No matter what their education, industrial production managers must be able to speak and write effectively. Because they regularly meet with other department managers and may be responsible for personnel matters in their department, they must be able to deal with people diplomatically. Leadership skills and the ability to work with or supervise people with varying educational backgrounds and experience and the ability to work well under pressure are also very important.

The training provided industrial production managers depends in part on their background. Blue-collar worker supervisors who advance to these positions have an intimate knowledge of the production process and the firm's organization. Often, however, they have to take company-sponsored courses in management skills and communication techniques. Those who enter the field directly from college or graduate school often are unfamiliar with the firm's production process. As a result, they may spend their first few months on the job in the company's training program. These programs familiarize trainees with the production line, company policies and procedures, and the requirements of the job. In larger companies, training may also include assignments to other departments, such as purchasing and accounting. During this time, trainees may also take company-sponsored courses such as production planning, personnel management, and inventory control.

Although certification in production management and inventory control is not required for most positions, it demonstrates an individual's knowledge of the production process and related areas. Certification is available through the American Production and Inventory Control Society. To be certified in production and inventory management, candidates must pass a series of examinations that test their knowledge of inventory management, just-in-time systems, production control, capacity management, materials planning, and master planning.

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

Employment and Outlook

Industrial production managers held about 217,000 jobs in 1988 throughout manufacturing. Nearly one-quarter were found in plants that manufacture machinery. Other large employers were manufacturers of transportation equipment, fabricated metal products, food products, and chemicals, as well as printing and publishing. Although production managers work in all parts of the country, jobs are most plentiful in areas where manufacturing is concentrated.

Employment of industrial production managers is expected to increase as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2000. Employment growth will be fueled by increasing demand for consumer and industrial products. In addition, many openings will occur as these managers advance to become plant managers, transfer to other occupations, or leave the labor force.

As the economy expands and more goods are produced, additional production managers will be needed. However, some industries will offer better opportunities than others due to changing consumer and industrial demand, industrial reorganization, and foreign competition. For example, as plastics continue to replace steel and other metals in many products, demand for managers in the plastics industry will increase. In the steel industry, on the other hand, obsolete plants are expected to be replaced by fewer, more productive plants. As the number of plants declines, fewer production management positions will be available.

In recent years, many domestic industries have faced fierce competition from foreign producers. Some firms have gone out of business, some have moved their production facilities overseas, and others have decreased the size of their U.S. operations. As a result, few opportunities are expected in these industries. More information about industry employment is available in the section on Tomorrow's Jobs in the Occupational Outlook Handbook, which is available in counselors' offices and most libraries.

To combat increasing domestic and foreign competition, firms are expected to continue to automate their facilities. Automation often reduces the number of production workers needed, although it has little impact on production managers. Even in a highly automated factory, production managers are needed to oversee the flow of materials, the capital stock, and quality control. However, because of the increasing sophistication of production technology, opportunities are expected to be best for those with college degrees in business administration or industrial engineering and MBA's with undergraduate engineering degrees.

Related Occupations and

Additional Information

Industrial production managers oversee production staff and equipment, ensure that production goals and quality standards are met, and implement company policies. Individuals with similar functions include materials, operations, purchasing, and traffic managers.

Other occupations requiring similar training and skills are sales engineer, manufacturers' sales representative, and industrial engineer.

Information on industrial production management can be obtained from

American Production and Inventory Control Society 500 West Annandale Road Falls Church, VA 22046-4274.

Martha White is a labor economist in the Division of Occupational Outlook, BLS.
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Author:White, Martha
Publication:Occupational Outlook Quarterly
Date:Dec 22, 1989
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