Few supply chain roles are more rewarding than turning raw materials into finished products for consumers to purchase and integrate into their lives. From basic assembly to complex manufacturing processes, it’s engaging to play a role in how things are made. Nobody knows this better than a production manager.
An organization’s production manager balances people management with technical processes to oversee the end-to-end operations of producing their products. The production process can vary across companies and industries, from the manual assembly of materials to fully automated technical manufacturing, and the scope of the production manager will vary accordingly.
What Is a Production Manager?
Production managers oversee the people, processes, and technology that convert raw materials into finished products via a specified manufacturing process. They ensure the safe production of high-quality products consistently and at a targeted efficiency level. They will receive requirements from various internal departments such as product design from R&D, specifications from the quality team, and demand from sales (or the planning department). With these, they build ongoing production schedules using the appropriate resources (people, material, etc.) to meet all expectations. Finally, they lead the team to execute this plan and address any identified failures or gaps.
What Does a Production Manager Do?
Production managers oversee all aspects of an organization’s production or manufacturing process. They lead the production team, develop a production strategy for their organization, and optimize processes for maximum efficiency.
They Lead the Production Team
Effectively leading the production team is arguably the most important role of production managers. The organizational chart usually has two or three levels, with production supervisors, leads, and associates/operators reporting to the production manager. Keeping everything on track requires clear communication with the entire department. The production manager ensures each team member understands their role and objectives, which involves coaching and motivation. Finally, production managers need to keep their teams safe, especially if dangerous equipment or machinery is involved in the manufacturing process. As a result, workplace safety is always at the front of their minds.
They Develop a Production Strategy for Their Organization
Production managers must first forecast demand for the products they manufacture. From there, they build a strategy to meet the demand placed on the production department. This strategy includes necessary staffing, calculating materials needed, determining if special equipment or technology will be required, and monitoring performance based on their budget.
They Optimize Processes for Maximum Efficiency
Production departments measure success at a highly detailed and analytical level. Achieving targeted efficiency levels, maintaining minimal quality defects, and keeping employees injury/accident-free are among the most common areas the manager will be judged. These are key performance indicators (KPI), and the production manager will analyze each KPI for potential improvements. They explore every opportunity to drive improvements when they find data suggesting there may be inefficiencies in their department.
Key Responsibilities of a Production Manager
The production manager is accountable for consistently producing products that meet quality specifications in quantities that satisfy sales demands. They typically split their focus between strategic efforts in the office and tactical efforts on the production floor. These elements support each other and, therefore, are critical to manage at all times. Some everyday responsibilities include:
Strategy & Capacity Planning
Production managers work closely with the sales and business teams to understand future production demands. They evaluate the current capabilities of the production process to identify any gaps between future demand and production capacity. This involves creating an organizational chart and adding staff where necessary. Finally, they work with the engineering team to design equipment and a technology plan that allows them to meet expected output.
Production managers typically have multiple staff levels reporting to them, including supervisors and associates. Articulating the department vision to the entire production team is a must. They set clear expectations for all team members and coach for ideal performance. This allows every member of the team to understand how they contribute to the end goals of the department. And as the production department head, they lead all hiring and termination activities as dictated by demand and performance.
Safety & Quality
Safety is a top priority within the production department. The manager must ensure that protocols, controls, and trainings are in place to maintain a safe work environment. By having good quality control processes in place and functioning daily, the staff is safer and able to meet production demands on quality. And, if any safety or quality failures occur, production managers lead investigations into root causes and carry out corrective actions.
Cost & Efficiency
Production managers need to work closely with the finance department to accurately budget production costs. This involves monitoring labor efficiencies and material usage to ensure cost targets are met. They must continuously plan ways to offset rising costs, as increases in materials and labor costs are common. And production managers need to keep a close eye on efficiency, which is directly tied to production costs. They monitor equipment maintenance, ensuring that it performs according to standard operating procedures with maximum efficiency.
How to Become a Production Manager
Production managers can come from a wide range of backgrounds. While many companies expect managers to have a four-year degree, the exact bachelor’s degree is less important than the work experience you bring to the job. Many come with a business degree coupled with experience in a manufacturing setting. This could be a degree in business administration, operations management, supply chain management, or even engineering.
A candidate’s past performance and work history is often the most significant factor in earning a production manager position. It would help if you showed competence in technical environments and people leadership, the foundation of a good production manager. Most production managers have served a previous role within a manufacturing environment, typically as a supervisor, engineer, or in supporting roles such as a quality or distribution manager.
Professional certifications are not required for this position but are beneficial to the candidate who is applying. Professional certifications stand out to hiring managers and provide further insight into your industry, thus making you more knowledgeable and valuable to an organization. Here are a few of the most advantageous professional certifications to acquire as a production manager:
- Manufacturing Management Certification (CTME)
- Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM)
- Certified Product Marketing Manager (CPMM)
- Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO)
- Lean Six Sigma Yellow/Green/Black Belt (LSS)
Since production managers are dedicated to controlling costs and improving the bottom line, lean six sigma certifications are among the top certifications available as they provide the tools needed to locate areas of inefficiency. Other certifications such as CPIM and CPMM will greatly aid in the management of inventory and production, which will only further add to the knowledge and expertise needed to run a facility.
A common path to a production manager role is in the manufacturing field through an engineering discipline – industrial, mechanical, chemical, electrical, etc. You can begin as an entry-level engineer or supervisor before advancing to the role of production manager.
The manager position isn’t the final stop in the career of a production team leader. Once you have had success in the role, you can move your career in various directions. Understanding the production operations to that level provides a great foundation to move upstream or downstream in the supply chain in any number of leadership roles. One natural progression is to grow into a plant manager where you oversee the production department within a manufacturing facility and support departments such as warehousing, quality, engineering, etc.
Important Skills for Working as a Production Manager
The best production managers have strengths in a variety of areas. This role is unique because they need to bring technology and people together to work in consistent harmony with meticulous planning (strategic and hour-by-hour). The best production managers are:
- Natural leaders and clear communicators
- Analytical thinkers who keep an eye on data
- Focused on the technical production processes (equipment, automation, etc.)
- Collaborative, getting input from multiple sources before developing strategies
As you can see, production managers can balance the overall production strategy with the technical requirements of producing products efficiently. This involves soft and hard skills, making the best production managers valued within the organization.
Production Manager Job Description
While specific tasks and duties will vary among each organization, the general role and responsibilities will be the same. The objective of a production manager is to get products out the door in the most efficient, cost-effective manner possible. These roles and responsibilities will include the following:
- Coordinate, plan, and schedule resources to complete quality production
- Evaluate performance and implement solutions to boost output
- Ensure health and safety requirements are followed
- Train and guide employees to follow processes
- Monitor all aspects pertaining to the production facility and control costs
It is important to note that while these general duties are the same, how these goals are obtained will differ among each facility. Each company will have tweaked processes that differ from others within the industry, but all companies will have similar goals and objectives, such as maintaining a competitive advantage and improving the bottom line.
Career Outlook for Production Managers
Demand for products across all sectors is growing. At the same time, there’s a move to increase manufacturing within the US versus abroad. As a result, the demand for production managers is expected to remain strong for the foreseeable future. The recent trend is to build multiple small/medium-sized manufacturing facilities across the country near the point of demand rather than the single “mega factories” of past decades. This trend also encourages growth for the production manager role moving forward. But have realistic expectations – according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the outlook for production managers is a bit weaker than other industries, with only a 5% increase over the next ten years.
How Much Do Production Managers Make?
Production managers earn anywhere from $93,000 and $123,000, depending on their industry, employer, and job location. Smaller facilities may allow first-time managers, while larger operations may require experienced leaders, and the compensation will follow accordingly. According to salary.com, a production manager makes an average of $109,000 annually. Browse job postings close to home to learn more about job requirements and realistic earnings potential for your region.