A production manager is involved with the planning, coordination and control of manufacturing processes. They ensure that 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:
- batch production.
Many companies are involved in several types of production, adding to the complexity of the job. Most production managers are responsible for both human and material resources.
The job role is also referred to as operations manager.
The exact nature of the work will depend on the size of the employing organisation. However, tasks typically involve:
- overseeing the production process, drawing up a production schedule;
- ensuring that the production is cost effective;
- making sure that products are produced on time and are of good quality;
- working out the human and material resources needed;
- drafting a timescale for the job;
- estimating costs and setting the quality standards;
- monitoring the production processes and adjusting schedules as needed;
- being responsible for the selection and maintenance of equipment;
- monitoring product standards and implementing quality-control programmes;
- liaising among different departments, e.g. suppliers, managers;
- working with managers to implement the company's policies and goals;
- ensuring that health and safety guidelines are followed;
- supervising and motivating a team of workers;
- reviewing worker performance;
- identifying training needs.
A production manager is involved in the pre-production (planning) stage as well as the production (control and supervision) stage.
A large part of production management involves dealing with people, particularly those who work in your team.
Production managers are also involved with product design and purchasing. In a small firm you may have to make many of the decisions yourself, but in a larger organisation planners, controllers, production engineers and production supervisors will assist you.
In progressive firms, the production manager's role tends to be more closely integrated with other functions, such as marketing, sales and finance.
- Average salaries for production managers with a few years of experience range from £30,000 to £40,000.
- For more senior roles, 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 pay higher salaries than those in more traditional industries.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
This is not a nine-to-five job and you may well have to work shifts and unsocial hours, especially in the early stages of your career. You may also need to work extended hours, particularly if there are tight deadlines to be met or new systems to be introduced. You could be on call at weekends or public holidays to deal with problems.
What to expect
- In small enterprises you will 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 people with considerable expertise in production management are sometimes engaged as consultants to help industries implement new manufacturing and production systems.
- Opportunities are available all over the UK.
- Dress code is usually business casual, but you will need to dress more formally when meeting suppliers, managers or business people.
- The job can be stressful when there are problems or difficulty in meeting deadlines; though can be satisfying when targets are met.
- Most production managers tend to be based on one site, but some are responsible for operations in a number of locations, including locations abroad, and will be required to travel and spend time away from home.
Although this area of work is open to all graduates, a degree in the following subjects may increase your chances:
- mechanical engineering;
- food science/technology;
- process engineering;
- electrical and electronic engineering;
- materials science/technology;
However, a qualification in other disciplines (e.g. civil engineering, business studies), would not preclude a person from working in production management given sufficient motivation and a willingness to study for the relevant professional qualifications.
Entry without a degree or any relevant qualification might be difficult; however, you may progress from a very junior role to production manager if you are able to demonstrate your motivation and willingness to develop within the company.
A number of universities offer degree courses in production management, with titles such as:
- manufacturing engineering;
- design engineering and manufacturing management;
- manufacturing systems engineering;
- food production management;
- manufacturing management.
Postgraduate courses include production management and manufacturing management and are offered at several universities, such as:
- Liverpool John Moores;
- London South Bank.
You will need to have:
- planning and organising skills;
- ability to act decisively;
- capacity to grasp concepts easily;
- problem-solving capabilities;
- ICT literacy;
- attention to detail;
- ability to communicate clearly and persuasively;
- strong negotiating skills;
- excellent time management;
- ability to work under pressure and meet tight deadlines;
- good physical health;
- ability to motivate others;
- ability to work in a logical, systematic manner.
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.
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:
- food processing;
- aerospace and defence sector;
- electronics and electrical consumer goods;
- chemical engineering;
- heavy engineering;
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:
- The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) UK - also has lots of general careers advice including about training.
- The Engineering Job
- National and regional press, e.g. Guardian Jobs
Recruitment agencies commonly handle vacancies.
When starting a new job, you may have to pass through a company's training programme. These programmes acquaint trainees with the production process, company policies, and their job requirements.
Larger companies may also assign new employees to work in other departments, such as purchasing and accounting in order to get a broader picture of the organisation.
Certain degree and HND courses include industrial placements.
One favoured route for those working in industry is to study for the professional qualifications offered by The Institute of Operations Management (IOM).
These include the:
- Certificate in Operations Management, which provides a foundation course for those progressing to the Diploma;
- Diploma in Operations Management, which is aimed at young professional managers working in the field and which help develop knowledge and understanding of the practical areas of production management, as well as increase awareness of the human and financial issues found in modern organisations;
- Advanced Diploma in Operations Management, which helps develop research, analytical and reasoning skills, as well as skills for operating at a fully strategic, and fully responsible level.
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 is offered by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).
Both the IOM and the CMI offer advice on continuing professional development (CPD).
Graduates often start off as trainees and gain experience in a number of different aspects of production management (such as materials management, inventory control, configuration analysis, production control, purchasing management) before moving on to become production supervisor or shift manager.
Some production managers eventually pursue a more strategic role and become involved with long-term planning rather than day-to-day operations. There are often opportunities to move into general management. In larger organisations a production manager may well be responsible for production on a number of sites, and opportunities to set up and manage operations overseas may arise with multinational firms.
There is no one tried-and-tested way of moving up in the profession. This 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.
Many who are new to the profession find that they are encouraged by their employers to acquire a professional qualification, and it may well prove advantageous to do so. In any case, managers need to continually update their knowledge and experience as new systems and processes become available.