Because of the diversity of manufacturing operations and job requirements, there is no standard preparation for this occupation. However, a college degree is required, 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. Others have a masterís degree in industrial management or business administration (MBA). Some are former production-line supervisors who have been promoted. Although many employers prefer candidates with a business or engineering background, some companies hire well-rounded liberal arts graduates.
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 mathematical 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, however, they must obtain a college degree, must demonstrate leadership qualities, and usually must take company-sponsored courses in management skills and communication techniques.
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 consultants. (For more information, see the statement on management analysts
elsewhere in the Handbook.)