The aim of a manufacturing systems engineer is to make a production process as efficient as possible, so factories can make goods and products on time and on budget
As a manufacturing systems engineer, you'll work as part of a team to design, install, monitor and develop manufacturing equipment and assembly lines in factories.
You may also be involved in the design and building of new manufacturing plants.
Manufacturing systems engineers work to integrate the entire manufacturing process. This ranges from production and supply right through to sales. The aim is to allow the maximum volume of high-quality product to be produced at the lowest cost and in the shortest time.
You'll use the latest computer technology and employ a systematic approach to finance, methods, materials and technology across traditional departmental boundaries.
Generally, a manufacturing systems engineer is responsible for a project from start to finish, rather than focusing on one particular part of the process. Tasks vary but typically include:
- designing the layout of the plant using computer-aided design/manufacturing (CAD/CAM) software to build 3D models
- designing, developing and installing plant control systems
- liaising with designers, researchers and engineering consultants
- attending production meetings and forecasting production requirements
- calculating production costs that include equipment, time and labour
- overseeing effective use of resources, such as raw materials, equipment and staff
- producing maintenance schedules
- testing systems are working correctly and identifying, investigating and repairing any system faults
- discussing and evaluating systems failures with plant managers and non-technical personnel
- supervising the work of manufacturing engineers, trainee engineers and support staff
- overseeing the installation, repair and re-assembly of equipment
- demonstrating new and existing equipment to systems engineers, support staff and production managers
- investigating environmental hazards as well as conducting safety tests and removing potential hazards
- meeting with managers to discuss methods of improving the productivity of existing systems, taking into consideration the use of the latest technology
- sourcing new suppliers of industrial equipment
- testing, monitoring and evaluating new mechanical equipment
- establishing and implementing a quality culture within the manufacturing environment
- visiting other production sites.
- Starting salaries for manufacturing engineers range between £22,000 and £27,500, but this varies depending on the location, size and nature of the organisation. Relevant work experience may increase the level of your starting salary.
- Experienced manufacturing systems engineers earn around £25,000 to £40,000 depending on length of experience and level of expertise.
- Salaries for chartered engineers can range from £40,000 to £60,000+.
Higher salaries are possible, depending on your employer, role and responsibilities. Additional benefits may also be offered by some employers, such as pensions and healthcare plans.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours can vary and may involve working 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, or include early starts, late finishes and weekend work on a rota basis.
Jobs can involve shift work, especially early in your career, if there is continuous production.
Part-time and flexible work may be possible, but this will be dependent on the nature of your work and employer.
What to expect
- The working environment varies according to duties and can include a plant floor, office, workshop or laboratory.
- Most manufacturing systems engineers spend most of their time in the production area, where working conditions are dictated by the type of product being manufactured. The area may be clean, bright and airy, or noisy and dirty.
- Depending on your duties, you may need to wear protective gear, including a safety helmet and glasses.
- Opportunities for self-employment and freelance work are sometimes available for those with considerable experience.
- Jobs are mainly available in traditional industrial towns and cities and, increasingly, in newer industrial estates in most areas of the country.
- Women are currently under-represented in this profession. Initiatives such as WISE aim to encourage more women into the industry.
- Travel within a working day and overseas work or travel is common for senior engineers, particularly for those working for multinational companies.
To get into manufacturing systems engineering you'll need to have a degree. Relevant subjects include engineering and physical, mathematical or applied sciences.
The following subjects in particular may be helpful:
- computer aided or computer systems engineering
- electrical or electronic engineering
- mechanical and/or manufacturing engineering
- mechanical design engineering
- production and manufacturing engineering.
It's possible to enter the career as a trainee with an HND or foundation degree. Relevant subjects include engineering and mechanical engineering.
A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not necessary, but it can be useful, particularly if your first degree is not in a directly-related subject. Masters are available in subjects such as:
- manufacturing systems engineering
- production or control engineering.
To help you to achieve the status of chartered engineer at a later date, it's useful if your degree or Masters is accredited by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) or Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). Details of accredited courses are available at Engineering Council - Accredited Course Search.
You could become an engineering technician without a degree or HND but would need to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge (and possibly take higher qualifications) to work up to the role of manufacturing systems engineer.
You'll need to show:
- technical ability, including strong science, maths and IT skills
- a practical and logical approach to problem solving
- interpersonal, presentation and communication skills
- teamworking skills
- self-motivation and the ability to motivate others
- a flexible and adaptable approach to work
- the ability to work well under pressure and take on new challenges
- the determination to overcome problems
- organisation and time management skills
- project management skills and the ability to work to tight project deadlines
- an awareness of health and safety issues.
Work experience is valuable, and many large employers offer structured internship programmes and summer placement schemes. These provide an excellent insight into the nature of the work and are often hands-on.
Some degree courses offer a year in industry, which really helps to demonstrate what the career will be like, as well as making some good contacts for future job prospects.
Employers might prefer you to have several years of experience in an industrial environment in order to build your technical ability before you move into this position. You may therefore need to look into other roles in engineering or manufacturing first. However, don't let this put you off applying for graduate opportunities, as every employer has different entry criteria.
Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.
Many manufacturing companies employ manufacturing systems engineers, though the actual job title varies depending on the company.
In very small companies, which are often privately owned, the job may be combined with other functions.
Opportunities for employment are found mostly in medium and large manufacturing companies, in industries such as:
- food and drink
- information technology
- ship building.
Manufacturing systems engineers also work in chemical and heavy engineering, textiles and the printing industry.
Opportunities are increasing in specialist engineering and management consultancies. Engineers who move into consultancy usually need a good honours degree and several years' experience in an engineering environment.
Look for job vacancies at:
It's increasingly common for vacancies to be handled by specialist recruitment agencies.
If you enter the engineering industry through a graduate training scheme you will generally follow a structured course of training, which usually lasts around two years. You'll get the chance to work in a variety of disciplines so that you gain experience and knowledge in a number of areas.
Entrants going into the role of manufacturing systems engineer will usually have had prior experience of a number of different roles in the manufacturing process and so employers will expect you to possess broad technical knowledge.
You'll still receive on-the-job training that will be specific to the role and employers will encourage the continued development of your knowledge and skills.
It is likely that you will work towards gaining chartered engineer status (CEng), which is an internationally-recognised qualification awarded by the Engineering Council. With CEng status you have higher earning potential and improved career prospects.
You'll need to be a member of a professional institution to be able to apply through them for professional registration. Relevant bodies include:
- Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE)
- Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET)
- Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE)
The process of becoming chartered is more straightforward if you have an accredited undergraduate degree along with a Masters or an accredited integrated MEng degree. Some employers will offer opportunities to study for a part-time MSc in a relevant subject.
You will also need to demonstrate that you have the required professional competencies and commitment, as set out in the UK Standard for Professional Engineering Competence (UK-SPEC).
Throughout your career you'll be expected to carry out continued professional development (CPD) to enhance your skills and knowledge. This can be aided by joining one of the professional bodies listed above who offer support through structured CPD programmes. They run events, short courses and conferences, which can all count towards CPD.
Working alongside maintenance engineers and plant managers, and with newer colleagues such as engineering technicians and trainee engineers, also provides opportunities to acquire a greater variety of skills.
Progressing in your career largely depends on the size, type and activity of your employer. For example, the company may wish to expand, increase its productivity or change/increase the range of products it manufactures.
Working for a multinational company may lead to opportunities on overseas contracts.
Typically, as your career develops, you'll be expected to take on a more active role in the non-technical aspects of the job. This could involve negotiating prices of materials and working with plant and senior managers to improve the manufacturing efficiency.
There are also opportunities to get involved in training, supervising and assessing the work of trainee systems engineers and engineering technicians. You're likely to take part in training courses designed to improve your people and team-building skills.
Opportunities to progress into engineering or manufacturing management or into general management, marketing or sales are normally available. It may be possible to become a partner in an engineering firm or become self-employed as a consultant.
Gaining chartered status (CEng) is a significant help to career progression. It's proof that you have met a UK and international standard of experience and knowledge in the engineering profession.
For those with experience there are some opportunities to work as a lecturer and undertake academic research in a higher education institution.