If you're interested in working in manufacturing and like to lead projects and people, the role of production manager could be for you

As a production manager, you'll be involved with the planning, coordination and control of manufacturing processes. You'll make sure goods and services are produced efficiently and that the correct amount is produced at the right cost and level of quality.

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 is also referred to as operations manager.

Responsibilities

As a production manager, you'll need to:

  • oversee the production process, drawing up a production schedule;
  • ensure that the production is cost effective;
  • decide what resources are required;
  • draft a timescale for the job;
  • estimate costs and set the quality standards;
  • monitor the production processes and adjust schedules as needed;
  • be responsible for the selection and maintenance of equipment;
  • monitor product standards and implement quality-control programmes;
  • liaise among different departments, e.g. suppliers, managers;
  • work with managers to implement the company's policies and goals;
  • ensure that health and safety guidelines are followed;
  • supervise and motivate a team of workers;
  • review worker performance;
  • 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 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.
  • With a few years of experience you can earn in the range of £30,000 to £40,000.
  • For more senior roles, depending on the level of responsibility, salaries are in the region of £40,000 to £60,000.

Salary will 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.

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

  • In small enterprises you'll spend considerable amounts of time on the shop floor supervising staff, where the environment can be quiet and pleasant, or noisy and dirty, depending on the nature of the organisation.
  • 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.
  • The job can be stressful when there are problems or difficulties in meeting deadlines; though can be satisfying when targets are met.
  • You may be based on one site, but could also be responsible for operations in a number of locations, including sites abroad, meaning you could be required to travel 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:

  • biochemistry;
  • business/management;
  • chemistry;
  • electrical and electronic engineering;
  • food science/technology;
  • materials science/technology;
  • mechanical engineering;
  • physics;
  • process engineering;
  • transport/distribution/logistics.

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 any relevant qualification might be difficult; however it may be possible to work your way up from a very junior role to production manager. You'll need to build experience and show your willingness to develop within the company.

A number of universities offer degree courses that cover production management, with titles such as:

  • design engineering and manufacturing management;
  • food production management;
  • manufacturing engineering;
  • manufacturing management;
  • manufacturing systems engineering.

Postgraduate courses include production management and manufacturing management and are offered at several universities. Search for postgraduate courses in production management.

Skills

You will 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 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 and at the right time;
  • the ability to work under pressure and motivate others to meet tight deadlines;
  • the ability to work in a logical, systematic manner.

Work experience

Pre-entry experience, while not essential, would be very useful whether it takes the form of vacation employment or a work placement in an industrial environment during your course. If formal schemes are not open to you, try to arrange a work-shadowing placement or some temporary work.

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

Employers

Most manufacturing companies, regardless of size, have a production manager, though the actual title will 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;
  • automobiles;
  • 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:

  • jobbing production (the manufacture of small, often single quantities of a large range of products made to order);
  • mass production (a small range of products manufactured in very large quantities);
  • process production (usually involving chemical, rather than mechanical processes);
  • batch production (where products are manufactured neither singly nor continually).

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 just learn on the job from more experienced colleagues.

One favoured route for those working in industry is to study for the professional qualifications offered by the IOM.

These include the:

  • Certificate in Operations Management: which provides a foundation course if you're new to the role or you need to better understand the context of the job;
  • Diploma in Operations Management: which is suitable if you're working at a managerial or supervisory level and are involved with planning and implementation;
  • Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM): a certification route, which is available if you're working in production and operations management. It includes topics such as strategic management of resources, control of operations and detailed scheduling and planning.

Find out more about available qualifications at Institute of Operations Management: Education and Training.

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

Both the IOM and the CMI offer advice on continuing professional development (CPD).

Career prospects

As a graduate, it's likely you'll 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 and, therefore, 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.