Improve processes and efficiencies as a production manager
Career spotlight: Production manager
A production manager typically works in a manufacturing or industrial setting, directing internal processes and ensuring the successful completion of a project. This professional might bring products to market or assemble tools and machinery for industrial use. Whatever the project's goal, a production manager takes responsibility for each resource and process.
What is a production manager?
From vehicles and consumer electronics to garments and energy production, nearly all industries need production managers to direct a plant's or facility's projects. The production manager oversees each project from start to completion and makes changes to meet budgetary restrictions and respond to the employer's needs. As a production manager, you might perform the following duties:
- Find ways to source materials less expensively.
- Decide when and how to use equipment and machinery.
- Allocate human resources to specific tasks based on skill level and project demand.
- Hire and terminate employees.
- Train newly hired employees for specific tasks.
- Ensure each employee knows and respects the company's safety protocols.
- Develop budgets for each project, often with feedback from senior management.
- Communicate and negotiate with vendors.
- Ensure quality control at every stage of production.
- Create and execute production schedules.
- Set and meet production targets.
- Create cost-control rules to reduce overall spending.
- Meet regulatory guidelines, such as those created by OSHA.
- Monitor product quality and make adjustments as needed.
- Collaborate with marketing, advertising, and purchasing staff to meet production targets.
Production managers might work part of the time in offices, but they also spend much time on the floor in the manufacturing plant or industrial facility. These managers monitor their employees' output and check production rates based on established targets. In the office, they might focus on other administrative tasks. In addition, production managers also call vendors, clients, suppliers, and other third parties to arrange meetings and negotiate terms for service.
While working on the floor or in a production area, production managers have to follow the same guidelines that their employees follow. For instance, manufacturing plants often create somewhat dangerous conditions, so management staff must wear hard hats, safety glasses, and other gear to protect themselves and set a positive example for their employees.
In most facilities, the production manager maintains an office next to the plant or facility floor. This location can reduce transit time and allows the manager to respond to emergency situations quickly. The work can prove stressful, especially when working under tight deadlines, and production managers must realize that they're responsible for their employees' safety.
Depending on the facility, the work environment can prove hot, humid, and dangerous. In chemical plants, for example, production managers must protect themselves from exposure to harmful substances. Staying hydrated and taking breaks can help managers and other staff members deal with hot work environments.
Most production managers work full-time, regular business hours. However, during peak production periods or when facing deadlines, they might have to work overtime or take administrative work home to complete. Additionally, manufacturing facilities often stay open long after regular business hours, so management team members occasionally must work swing shifts and weekends to make sure they don't fall behind.
Additionally, if something goes wrong on the production floor, the manager must respond, especially during overnight hours. Setbacks such as machinery breakdowns and emergencies, including worker injuries, need immediate attention. In some cases, however, companies hire production managers and production assistants, in which case the manager can sometimes delegate after-hours tasks.
What qualifications are required to become a production manager?
The education requirements for production managers vary from one company to another. Smaller manufacturers and industrial companies might hire managers with bachelor's degrees or significant industry experience, while bigger companies often look for professionals with master's degrees and more work experience. Most companies don't specify a specific type of degree, but you might get a job faster if you focus on specific concentrations, such as the following:
- Business administration
- Production and operations management
- Industrial design
- Industrial engineering
- Business management
A Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree can help you secure more high-level jobs. Additionally, some schools now offer degrees in specific types of production management, such as fashion, agriculture, and electronics.
You might receive on-the-job training to learn about your employer's specific production goals. Training helps you acclimate to the workplace and gain process or product knowledge.
Few production managers start their careers with a management title. They often work as assistants, buyers, materials clerks, or production area specialists before they get promoted. Advanced education can speed up this process and earn you a management job after graduation, but you might have to start with a smaller company, fewer employees, and less autonomy.
What does a production manager do to get hired quickly? You can broaden your job search to include companies in niche markets and use your online network to find out about opportunities that haven't been advertised publicly. If you've recently graduated from school, consider using your alma mater's career services office to help you look for job openings.
You'll need several skills to succeed as a production manager, whether you're applying to a new employer or seeking a promotion from within your current company. Each employer will look for different skill sets, but employers who hire production managers share expectations in many areas. To increase your chances of getting hired, focus on learning the following skills:
- Budgeting: You'll prepare, analyze, and oversee the budget for each project.
- Communication: Your great ideas won't matter unless you can help other people understand them. Additionally, you have to give clear orders to your staff.
- Problem-solving: When a problem occurs on the production floor, you must find a solution quickly to make sure your production stays on time and on budget.
- Product and process knowledge: Your in-depth understanding of manufacturing quality standards, regulatory requirements, and other information will help you manage production more efficiently.
- Negotiation: To stay on budget, you'll negotiate with vendors, clients, and other third parties.
- Time management: If you can't meet deadlines and manage staff effectively, you'll fall behind on deliverables.
- Information technology: You'll need a working knowledge of product management software.
- Flexibility: You must make quick decisions and adapt to changes on the production floor.
- Motivation: Inspiring your staff to meet production targets and improve their output quality can improve your performance.
- Presentation: The best production managers deliver clean, inspiring presentations on suggested changes to the production team and production processes.
- Math: If you can perform complex mathematical equations, you might excel more rapidly in this career.
- Attention to detail: Whether you're walking the production floor or reviewing proposals in your office, you must spot potential problems and areas for improvement, even with the smallest details.
How much does a production manager make? According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), industrial production managers can expect to earn about $93,940. Certain industries, such as chemical and transportation equipment manufacturing, offer greater salary potential, and the top 10 percent of product managers earn about $162,240. If you're starting out in this career, your salary might begin at around $60,000.
Since production management is highly results-based, your employer might create a bonus structure to inspire you to meet specific benchmarks. A bonus can increase your take-home pay, although employers often offer a lower base salary when they give bonuses.
Job outlook for production managers
The BLS expects careers in production management to decline by 4 percent between 2014 and 2024. Manufacturing processes and equipment have become far more advanced and efficient, which decreases the need for management professionals on the production floor. Re-shoring, the process of moving manufacturing and industrial initiatives back to the United States from foreign countries, could help curtail this decline, and you might garner more job opportunities if you have significant experience or advanced education.
You can apply for a job as a production manager as soon as you graduate from college or a trade school. However, you might have to work up to this position by proving your skills and abilities in a role with less responsibility. For example, if you're a foreman on the production floor or if you take a job as a production assistant, you can fully learn the requirements of the job and apply for a promotion later.
You'll gain supervisory experience as a production manager, which can create new advancement opportunities. The most successful professionals in this field can become chief operating officers (COOs), an advancement which leads to greater job security and salary potential.
A career in production management could create financial security and a sense of accomplishment. While you might face declining job opportunities depending on your location and other factors, many manufacturers and other industrial employers will still need production managers to staff their facilities. If you have the necessary skills and education, start searching for your next job in production management today.