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Industrial Production Managers

Key Points

  • While there is no standard preparation, a college degree is helpful.
  • 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 structures.
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 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, 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.

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. 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 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 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 communication skills.

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 systems.

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.


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.

Job 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, 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 opportunities.

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 training.

Productivity gains that are occurring throughout the manufacturing secto

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 were:

Management of companies and enterprises $90,140
Motor vehicle parts manufacturing 76,490
Printing and related support activities 69,210
Plastics product manufacturing 66,880

Related Occupations

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


Links to non-BLS Internet sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.

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


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