Production managers plan, coordinate and control manufacturing processes so that products are delivered on time and within budget

As a production manager, you'll make sure goods and services are produced safely, cost-effectively and on time and that they meet the required quality standards.

The scope of the job depends on the nature of the production system. Many companies are involved in several types of production, adding to the complexity of the role. It's likely that you will be responsible for both human and material resources.

The job may also be referred to as operations manager.

Responsibilities

As a production manager, you'll oversee the production process, coordinating all production activities and operations. You'll need to:

  • plan and draw up a production schedule
  • decide on and order the resources that are required and ensure stock levels remain adequate
  • select equipment and take responsibility for its maintenance
  • set the quality standards
  • ensure that the production will be cost effective by estimating costs and negotiating and agreeing budgets with both clients and managers
  • monitor the production processes and adjust schedules as needed
  • monitor productivity rates and product standards and implement quality control programmes
  • organise the repair of any damaged equipment
  • liaise with different departments, teams and companies, e.g. suppliers, managers, clients
  • ensure that health and safety guidelines are followed at all times
  • ensure customer orders are completed on time and to budget and that quality standards and targets are met
  • work with managers to implement the company's policies and goals
  • collate and analyse data, putting together production reports for both factory managers and customers
  • supervise and motivate a team of workers
  • review worker performance and identify training needs.

You'll be involved in the pre-production (planning) stage as well as the production (control and supervision) stage. A large part of the job is dealing with people and resource management.

You may also be involved with product design and purchasing. In some larger firms, planners, controllers and production engineers and supervisors will assist you. The role may be integrated with other functions, such as marketing, sales and finance.

Salary

  • Starting salaries within a trainee role may be around £25,000.
  • Experienced production managers can earn in the region of £35,000 to £45,000.
  • In more senior roles, depending on the level of responsibility, salaries are in the region of £40,000 to in excess of £60,000.

Salaries vary according to the size of the organisation, the type of business and its geographical location. Hi-tech companies tend to pay higher salaries than those in more traditional industries.

Additional benefits may include bonuses for productivity, as well as a pension and private health care.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

You can expect to work around 40 hours per week. The role may involve shift work and unsocial hours to make sure there's cover throughout the production process. Extended hours may be required to meet deadlines or to introduce new systems. You could be on call at weekends or public holidays to deal with problems.

What to expect

  • You may be based on one site but could also be responsible for operations in a number of locations, including sites abroad. In small enterprises you'll spend considerable amounts of time on the shop floor supervising staff.
  • Opportunities for self-employment are limited, but if you have considerable expertise in production management you may be engaged as a consultant to help businesses implement new manufacturing and production systems.
  • Dress code is usually business casual, but you'll need to dress more formally when meeting suppliers, managers or business people.
  • You may need to travel between sites during the day and spend time away from home.

Qualifications

A foundation degree, HND or degree in the following subjects may increase your chances of securing a job:

  • aerospace engineering
  • business or management
  • chemistry/chemical engineering
  • electrical and electronic engineering
  • food science and technology
  • materials science and technology
  • mechanical engineering
  • manufacturing engineering
  • physics
  • process engineering
  • transport, distribution or logistics.

Some employers may ask for a specific degree or background in, for example, food management, chemistry or engineering.

Some large companies have production/operations management graduate training schemes open to graduates with a range of degree subjects.

If you have an unrelated degree, it's still possible to become a production manager if you have sufficient motivation and a willingness to study for the relevant professional qualifications. You may also need to demonstrate that you have an interest and skills in the industry.

Entry without a degree or relevant qualification is possible in a more junior role, such as engineering technician or quality control officer. You may be able to work your way up to production manager by gaining experience and undertaking further training on the job.

A postgraduate degree isn't a requirement. However, postgraduate courses that include production and manufacturing management are offered at several universities. Search for postgraduate courses in manufacturing management.

Skills

You'll need to have:

  • planning and organisation skills to be able run and monitor the production process
  • the ability to act decisively and solve staff or equipment-related problems
  • the capacity to grasp complex concepts easily
  • ICT literacy to deal with various technologies and programmes
  • attention to detail to ensure high levels of quality
  • the ability to communicate clearly and persuasively with your team, managers and clients
  • strong negotiation skills for getting materials within budget at the right time
  • the ability to work under pressure and multitask
  • leadership skills and the ability to motivate others to meet deadlines
  • a results-driven approach to work
  • the ability to work in a logical, systematic manner.

Work experience

Relevant pre-entry experience, such as a work placement or summer internship in industry, is useful. Some courses provide the opportunity to take a year out in industry, which can provide the opportunity to gain practical experience and build up a network of contacts.

If you aren't able to find work experience, try to arrange to work shadow a production manager to gain an insight into the role.

You could also consider getting student membership with a related professional body such as the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT). This can provide useful resources and help you to keep up to date with news in the industry.

Employers

Most manufacturing companies have a production manager, although the actual job title may vary. In very small companies, which are often privately owned, the job may be combined with other functions.

Manufacturing companies can be found in numerous and varied industries, including:

  • aerospace and defence
  • automobile
  • chemical engineering
  • electronics and electrical consumer goods
  • food processing
  • heavy engineering
  • pharmaceuticals
  • printing
  • textiles.

Many companies are involved in several types of production, which may include:

  • flow (mass) production - products are mass-produced on an assembly line and are identical and standardised
  • batch production - groups of products are manufactured together and one batch is finished before the next one starts
  • job production - items are made individually to the customer's specific requirements and are often unique or one-offs
  • process production - usually involving chemical, rather than mechanical, processes.

Look for job vacancies at:

Recruitment agencies commonly handle vacancies.

Professional development

Some employers have a formal training scheme that will cover the production process, company policies and the job requirements. Large companies may offer graduate programmes which provide experience in different areas before you specialise. In smaller firms, you may learn on the job from more experienced colleagues.

You should keep your skills and knowledge up to date throughout your career by undertaking continuing professional development (CPD). One way to do this is to study for professional qualifications offered by a range of organisations, including CILT. They provide qualifications such as the:

  • Level 3 Certificate in Operations Management - provides an introduction to production and operations management if you're new to the role or you need to better understand the context of the job
  • Level 5 Certificate in Operations Management - suitable if you're working at a managerial or supervisory level and are involved with planning and implementation
  • Level 6 Advanced Diploma in Operations Management - aimed at managers aspiring to move to a strategic role or if you already work at a high level within management.

A range of qualifications in management, including general and specific management and leadership qualifications, as well as the opportunity to achieve chartered management status, is offered by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).

Both CILT and the CMI offer advice on CPD.

Career prospects

As a graduate, you'll typically start off as a trainee and will gain experience in a number of different aspects of production management, such as materials management, inventory control, configuration analysis, production control and purchasing management. You can then move on to become production supervisor or shift manager before becoming a production manager.

You may decide to eventually pursue a more strategic role and become involved with long-term planning rather than day-to-day operations. There are also opportunities to move into general management.

In larger organisations you may be responsible for production on a number of sites, and opportunities to set up and manage operations overseas may arise with multinational firms.

Progression depends on your personal motivation and interest, as well as your career choices. The role varies significantly among different sectors, meaning you may end up specialising in one sector.

You may find that you're encouraged by your employer to complete a professional qualification, which can help with career prospects. You'll also need to continually update your knowledge and experience as new systems and processes become available.

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