Production Manager

Production Managers plan, direct, and coordinate the production activities required to produce the vast array of goods manufactured every year in the United States. They make sure that production meets output and quality goals while remaining within budget. Depending on the size of the manufacturing plant, industrial production managers may oversee the entire plant or just one area of it.

Production Managers devise methods to use the plant's personnel and capital resources to best meet production goals. They may determine which machines will be used, whether new machines need to be purchased, whether overtime or extra shifts are necessary, and what the sequence of production will be. They monitor the production run to make sure that it stays on schedule, and they correct any problems that may arise.

Part of an Production Manager's job is to come up with ways to make the production process more efficient. Traditional factory methods, such as mass assembly lines, have given way to “lean” production techniques, which give managers more flexibility. In a traditional assembly line, each worker was responsible for only a small portion of the assembly, repeating that task on every product. Lean production, by contrast, employs teams to build and assemble products in stations or cells. Thus, rather than specializing in a specific task, workers are capable of performing all jobs within a team. Without the constraints of the traditional assembly line, industrial production managers can more easily change production levels and staffing on different product lines to minimize inventory levels and more quickly react to changing customer demands.

Production Managers also monitor product standards and implement quality control programs. They make sure that the finished product meets a certain level of quality, and if it doesn’t, they try to find out what the problem is and solve it. Although traditional quality control programs reacted only to problems that reached a certain significant level, newer management techniques and programs, such as ISO 9000, Total Quality Management (TQM), or Six Sigma, emphasize continuous quality improvement. If the problem relates to the quality of work performed in the plant, the manager may implement better training programs or reorganize the manufacturing process, often on the basis of the suggestions of employee teams. If the cause is substandard materials or parts from outside suppliers, the Production Manager may work with the supplier to improve their quality.

Production Managers work closely with other managers of the firm to implement the company's policies and goals. They also must work with the firm’s financial departments in order to come up with a budget and spending plan. They work the closest with the heads of the sales, procurement, and logistics departments. 

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook