While there is no standard preparation, a college degree
Applicants with a college degree in industrial engineering,
management, or business administration, and particularly those
with an undergraduate engineering degree and a masterís degree
in business administration or industrial management, enjoy
the best job prospects.
Employment of industrial production managers is expected
to grow more slowly than average as overall employment in
manufacturing declines; however, because production managers
are so essential to the efficient operation of a plant, they
have not been as affected by efforts to flatten management
Nature of the Work
Industrial production managers plan, direct, and coordinate
the production activities required to produce millions of goods
every year in the United States. They make sure that 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 possible and making sure products are produced on time
and are of good quality. They do this by analyzing the plantís
personnel and capital resources to select the best way of meeting
the production goals. Industrial production managers may determine
which machines will be used, whether new machines need to be
purchased, whether overtime or extra shifts are necessary, and
what the sequence of production will be. They monitor the production
run to make sure that it stays on schedule and correct any problems
that may arise.
Part of an industrial production managerís job is to come up
with ways to make the production process more efficient. In
recent years, traditional mass assembly lines have given way
to ďleanĒ production techniques, which gives managers more flexibility.
In a traditional assembly line, each worker is responsible for
only a small portion of the assembly, repeating that task on
every product. Lean production employs teams to build and assemble
products in stations or cells, so rather than specializing in
a specific task, workers are capable of performing all jobs
within a team. Without the constraints of the traditional assembly
line, industrial production managers can more easily change
production levels and staffing on different product lines to
minimize inventory levels and more quickly react to changing
Industrial production managers also monitor product standards
and implement quality control programs. They make sure the finished
product meets a certain level of quality, and if not, they try
to find out what the problem is and find a solution. While traditional
quality control programs reacted only to problems that reached
a certain significant level, newer management techniques and
programs, such as ISO 9000, Total Quality Management (TQM),
or Six Sigma, emphasize continuous quality improvement. If the
problem relates to the quality of work performed in the plant,
the manager may implement better training programs or reorganize
the manufacturing process, often based upon the suggestions
of employee teams. If the cause is substandard materials or
parts from outside suppliers, the industrial production manager
may work with the supplier to improve their quality.
Industrial production managers work closely with the other
managers of the firm to implement the companyís policies and
goals. They also must work with the financial departments in
order to come up with a budget and spending plan. In particular,
though, production managers work most closely with the heads
of sales, procurement, and logistics. Sales managers relay the
clientís needs and the price the client is willing to pay to
the production department, which must then fulfill the order.
The logistics, or distribution department, handles the delivery
of the goods, which often needs to be coordinated with the production
department. The procurement department orders the supplies that
the production department needs to make its products. It is
also responsible for making sure that the inventories of supplies
are maintained at their optimal levels in order for production
to proceed without interruption. A breakdown in communications
between the production manager and the procurement department
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.
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. The
time in the office, which often is located near production areas,
usually is spent meeting with subordinates or other department
managers, analyzing production data, and writing and reviewing
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 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 as well as 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 production managers and compounding this stress.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
Because of the diversity of manufacturing operations and job
requirements, there is no standard preparation for this occupation.
Some employers require a college degree, while other employers
train promising apprentices or workers. However, most employers
would prefer a college degree, even for those who have worked
their way up through the ranks. Many industrial production managers
have a college degree in business administration, management,
industrial technology, or industrial engineering. Some are former
production-line supervisors who have been promoted and have
taken employer-sponsored training classes. Although many employers
prefer candidates with a business or engineering background,
some companies hire well-rounded liberal arts graduates, who
are willing to spend time in a production-related job.
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.
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 also are placing greater importance
on a candidateís interpersonal skills. Because the job requires
the ability to compromise, persuade, and negotiate, successful
production managers must be well-rounded and have excellent
Those who enter the field directly from college or graduate
school often are unfamiliar with the firmís production process.
As a result, they may spend their first few months in the companyís
training program. These programs familiarize trainees with the
production process, company policies, and the requirements of
the job. In larger companies, they also may include assignments
to other departments, such as purchasing and accounting. A number
of companies hire college graduates as first-line supervisors
and later promote them.
Some industrial production managers have worked their way up
through the ranks, perhaps after having worked as first-line
supervisors. These workers already have an intimate knowledge
of the production process and the firmís organization. To be
selected for promotion, workers can expand their skills by obtaining
a college degree, demonstrating leadership qualities, or by
taking company-sponsored management and communication courses.
In addition to 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
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
Industrial production managers held about 160,000 jobs in 2004.
Almost all are employed in manufacturing industries, including
the plastics product manufacturing, printing and related support
activities, motor vehicle parts manufacturing, and semiconductor
and other electronic component manufacturing industries. Production
managers work in all parts of the country, but jobs are most
plentiful in areas where manufacturing is concentrated.
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, there will be less need for industrial production
managers. 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 flatten management structures.
Nevertheless, this trend has led production managers to assume
more responsibilities and has limited the creation of more employment
Despite slow growth, a number of jobs are expected to open
due to the need to replace workers who will retire or who will
transfer to other occupations. Applicants with a college degree
in industrial engineering, management, or business administration,
and particularly those with an undergraduate engineering degree
and a masterís degree in business administration or industrial
management, will enjoy the best job prospects. Employers also
are likely to seek candidates who have excellent communication
skills, related work experience, and who are personable, flexible,
and eager to enhance their knowledge and skills through ongoing
Productivity gains that are occurring throughout the manufacturing
will also impact industrial production managers. With the
increasing use of computers for scheduling, planning, and coordination
among departments, their work is made much easier. In addition,
more emphasis on quality in the production process has redistributed
some of the production managerís oversight responsibilities
to supervisors and workers on the production line.
Median annual earnings for industrial production managers were
$73,000 in May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between $55,700
and $94,850. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $43,660,
and the highest 10 percent earned more than $123,010. Median
annual earnings in the manufacturing industries employing the
largest numbers of industrial production managers in May 2004
Management of companies and enterprises
Motor vehicle parts manufacturing
Printing and related support activities
Plastics product manufacturing
Industrial production managers oversee production staff and
equipment, ensure that production goals and quality standards
are being met, and implement company policies. Other managerial
occupations with similar responsibilities are general and operations
managers, construction managers, and sales managers. Occupations
requiring comparable training and problem-solving skills are
engineers, management analysts, and operations research analysts.
See the Careers Database
for more information.
Sources of Additional Information
For more information on industrial production management, contact
local manufacturers or schools with programs in industrial management.
Source: Bureau of Labor
Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook
Handbook, 2006-07 Edition