Industrial Production Managers

Nature of the Work | Working Conditions | Employment | Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement | Job Outlook | Earnings | Related Occupations | Sources of Additional Information

Significant Points
  • The projected decline in employment reflects increasing productivity and organizational restructuring.
  • Applicants with college degrees in industrial engineering, management, or business administration, and particularly those with an undergraduate engineering degree and a master’s degree in business administration, enjoy the best job prospects.
Nature of the Work [About this section] Index

Industrial production managers coordinate the resources and activities required to produce millions of goods every year in the United States. Although their duties vary from plant to plant, industrial production managers share many of the same major responsibilities. These include 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 to select the best way of meeting 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 must also monitor product standards. When quality drops below the established standard, they must determine why standards are not 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.

Because the work of many departments is interrelated, managers work closely with heads of other departments such as sales, purchasing, and traffic to plan and implement company goals, policies, and procedures. For example, the production manager works with the purchasing department to ensure 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 cause delays in production. A breakdown in communications between the production manager and the purchasing department can cause slowdowns and a failure to meet production schedules. Computers are important in this coordination, and also in providing up-to-date information on inventory, work-in-progress, and quality standards.

Production managers usually report to the plant manager or the vice president for manufacturing, and may act as liaison between executives and first-line supervisors. (Information about these workers can be found in the statements on general managers and top executives, and blue-collar worker supervisors, elsewhere in the Handbook). In many plants, one production manager is responsible for all aspects of 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.

Working Conditions [About this section]  Index

Most industrial production managers divide their time between the shop floor and their offices. 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, which is 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 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. Restructuring has eliminated levels of management and support staff, which shifts more responsibilities to production managers and compounds this stress.

Employment [About this section]  Index

Industrial production managers held about 208,000 jobs in 1998. Although employed throughout the manufacturing sector, about one half are employed in firms that produce industrial machinery and equipment, transportation equipment, electronic and electrical equipment, fabricated metal products, instruments and related products, and food products. Production managers work in all parts of the country, but jobs are most plentiful in areas where manufacturing is concentrated.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement [About this section]   Index

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, management, or industrial engineering. Others have a master’s degree in 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, an increasing number of employers are looking for candidates with MBAs. Combined with an undergraduate degree in engineering, this is considered particularly good preparation. Companies also are placing greater importance on a candidate’s personality. 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 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 the requirements of the job. In larger companies, they may also include assignments to other departments, such as purchasing and accounting. A number of companies hire college graduates as blue-collar worker supervisors and later promote them.

Some industrial production managers have worked their way up the ranks, perhaps after having worked as blue-collar worker supervisors. These workers already have an intimate knowledge of the production process and the firm’s organization. To be selected for promotion, they must have demonstrated leadership qualities and usually have taken 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 where new equipment is displayed; they also attend industry conferences and conventions where changes in production methods and technological advances are discussed.

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 elsewhere in the Handbook.)

Job Outlook [About this section]  Index

Employment of industrial production managers is expected to decline slightly through 2008. However, a number of job openings will stem from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force. Applicants with a college degree in industrial engineering, management, or business administration, and particularly those with an undergraduate engineering degree and a master’s degree in business administration, enjoy the best job prospects. Employers also are likely to seek candidates who have excellent communication skills, and who are personable, flexible, and eager to enhance their knowledge and skills through ongoing training.

Although manufacturing output is projected to rise, growing productivity among production managers and organizational restructuring will limit the demand for these workers. Productivity gains will result from the increasing use of computers for scheduling, planning, and coordination. Scheduling or planning has become less important as manufacturers have become more responsive to changing demand. In addition, a growing emphasis on quality in the production process has redistributed some of the production manager’s oversight responsibilities to supervisors and workers on the production line. Because production managers are so essential to the efficient operation of a plant, they have not been greatly affected by recent efforts to flatten management structures. Nevertheless, this trend has led production managers to assume more responsibilities and has discouraged the creation of more employment opportunities.

Earnings [About this section]  Index

Median annual earnings for industrial production managers in 1998 were $56,320. The middle 50 percent earned between $41,300 and $79,830. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,790 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $97,310. Median annual earnings in the manufacturing industries employing the largest numbers of industrial production managers in 1997 were

Motor vehicles

Electronic components and accessories 59,700
Miscellaneous plastics products, not elsewhere classified  48,500
Fabricated structural metal products 46,400
Commercial printing 45,800

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 $50,400 in 1998. In addition to salary, industrial production managers may receive bonuses based on job performance.

Related Occupations [About this section]  Index

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 transportation managers. Other occupations requiring similar training and skills are sales engineer, manufacturer’s sales representative, materials engineer, and industrial engineer.

Sources of Additional Information [About this section]  Index

Disclaimer: Links to other Internet sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.

Information on industrial production management can be obtained from:

  • National Management Association, 2210 Arbor Blvd., Dayton, OH 45439. Internet: http://www.nma1.org
  • American Management Association, 1601 Broadway, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10019. Internet: http://www.amanet.org
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