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Industrial production managers coordinate the resources and activities required to produce millions of goods every year in the United States. Due to the wide variety of these goods and differences among factories, managers' duties vary from plant to plant. In general, industrial production managers share many of the same major functions, regardless of the industry. These functions include responsibility for production scheduling, staffing, equipment, quality control, inventory control, and the coordination of production activities with those of other departments.
The primary mission of industrial production managers is planning the production schedule within budgetary limitations and time constraints. This entails analyzing the plant's personnel and capital resources and selecting the best way to meet the production quota. Industrial production managers determine which machines will be used, whether overtime or extra shifts are necessary, and the sequence of production. They also monitor the production run to make sure that it stays on schedule and correct any problems that may arise.
Industrial production managers also monitor product standards. When quality drops below the established standard, they must determine why standards aren't being maintained and how to improve the product. If the problem is poor work, the manager may implement better training programs, reorganize the manufacturing process, or institute employee suggestion or 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 maintained at their optimal level. This is vital to a firm's operation because maintaining the inventory of materials necessary for production ties up the firm's financial resources, yet insufficient quantities of materials cause delays in production. A breakdown in communications between these departments can cause slowdowns and a failure to meet production schedules.
Because the work of many departments is dependent upon others, managers work closely with heads of other departments such as sales, purchasing, and traffic to plan and implement companies' goals, policies, and procedures. Production managers also work closely with, and act as a liaison between, executives and first-line supervisors.
Production managers usually report to the plant manager or the vice president for manufacturing. (Information about these workers can be found in the statement on general managers and top executives elsewhere in the Handbook). In many plants, one production manager is responsible for all production. In large plants with several operations-aircraft assembly, for example-there are managers in charge of each operation, such as machining, assembly, or finishing. Computers play an integral role in the coordination of the production process by providing up-to- date data on inventory, work-in-progress, and product standards. Industrial production managers analyze these data and, working with upper management and other departments, determine if adjustments need to be made.
As the trend toward a flatter management structure and worker empowerment continues, production managers will increasingly perform the role of facilitators. Instead of independently making decisions and giving and taking orders, production managers will review and discuss recommendations with subordinates and superiors in the hopes of improving productivity. Because of the additional duties resulting from corporate downsizing, production managers are delegating more authority and responsibility to first-line supervisors.
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 the required 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 may have to work shifts or 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 as well as superiors when working under the pressure of production deadlines or emergency situations can be stressful. In addition, restructuring has eliminated levels of management and support staff. As a result, production managers now have to accomplish more with less, and this has greatly increased job-related stress.
Industrial production managers held about 206,000 jobs in 1994. Although employed throughout manufacturing industries, about one-half are employed in industrial machinery and equipment, transportation equipment, electronic and electrical equipment, fabricated metal products, and food products manufacturing. Production managers work in all parts of the country, but jobs are most plentiful in areas where manufacturing is concentrated.
Because of the diversity of manufacturing operations and job requirements, there is no standard preparation for this occupation. Many industrial production managers have a college degree in business administration or industrial engineering. Some have a master's degree in business administration (MBA). Others are former production line supervisors who have been promoted. Although many employers prefer candidates to have a degree in business or engineering, some companies hire liberal arts graduates.
As production operations become more sophisticated, an increasing number of employers are looking for candidates with MBA's. This, combined with an undergraduate degree in engineering, is considered particularly good preparation. Companies also are placing greater importance on a candidate's personality. Because the job demands technical knowledge and the ability to compromise, persuade, and negotiate, successful production managers must be well rounded and have excellent communication skills.
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, they may also include ssignments to other departments, such as purchasing and accounting.
Blue-collar worker supervisors who advance to production manager positions already have an intimate knowledge of the production process and the firm's organization. To be selected for promotion, these workers must have demonstrated leadership qualities, and often take company-sponsored courses in management skills and communications techniques. Some companies hire college graduates as blue-collar worker supervisors and then promote them.
Once in their job, industrial production managers must stay abreast of new production technologies and management practices. To do this, they belong to professional organizations and attend trade shows where new equipment is displayed; they also attend industry conferences and conventions where changes in production methods and technological advances are discussed.
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. Various certifications are 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, and materials 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. (For more information, see the statement on management analysts and consultants elsewhere in the Handbook.)
Employment of industrial production managers is expected to decline slightly through the year 2005. Although manufacturing output is expected to rise significantly, the trend towards smaller management staffs and the lack of growth in production worker employment will limit demand for production managers. The widening use of computers for scheduling and planning is also making production managers more productive, allowing fewer of them to accomplish the same amount of work. Nevertheless, some openings will result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force. Many of these openings, however, may be filled through internal promotions.
Opportunities should be best for those with college degrees in industrial engineering or business administration, and those with MBA's and undergraduate engineering degrees. Employers also are likely to seek candidates who have excellent communication skills, and who are personable, flexible, and eager to participate in ongoing training.
Salaries of industrial production managers vary significantly by industry and plant size. According to Abbott, Langer, and Associates, the average salary for all production managers was $63,000 in 1994. In addition to salary, industrial production managers usually receive bonuses based on job performance.
Benefits for industrial production managers tend to be similar to those offered many workers-vacation and sick leave, health and life insurance, and retirement plans.
Industrial production managers oversee production staff and equipment, insure that production goals and quality standards are being 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:
National Management Association, 2210 Arbor Blvd., Dayton, OH 45439.
American Management Association, 135 W. 50th St., New York, NY 10020.
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