The daily operations of a manufacturing plant are carried out in a carefully coordinated dance requiring all members of staff to perfectly execute their steps. While everyone from the factory floor to the customer service offices plays an important role, none is more important than the plant manager.
Plant managers are responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of their manufacturing facility (or several facilities) and are the final say in decisions big and small.
Charged with the ‘big picture’ of an operation, plant managers are excellent multi-taskers, highly knowledgeable about their industry, and strong but likable leaders. If you have ever thought you might be right for a position as a plant manager and are wondering what it takes, here’s what you need to know and what you need to do to start your career:
Job Description: Plant Manager
In the simplest terms, the responsibility of a plant manager is to design, coordinate, and oversee the production process. Where the process falls short, a plant manager re-designs and makes improvements; when the process succeeds, a plant manager learns to replicate those results. Plant managers work to make their manufacturing plants as efficient, safe, and productive as possible at the lowest possible cost to the company.
At OnePointe Solutions, we have worked with countless project managers by providing them with our packing stations, custom workbenches, and other industrial furniture to improve the efficiency of their plants.
While the job description of plant manager may seem broad, that is because plant manager oversees virtually everything and their day-to-day responsibilities are endlessly changing. A portion of your day will almost always be spent walking the factory floor, interacting with employees, testing equipment, and ensuring that proper procedures are being followed throughout the facility.
When not on the floor, plant managers are typically in their office, working diligently to improve methods of production, respond to emails and questions from staff, review complaints or requests, oversee hiring, manage purchasing, and much more. Some specific responsibilities of a manufacturing plant manager include:
- Interviewing possible new hires
- Overseeing the onboarding of new employees and ensuring they settle in
- Manage, create, and provide training materials – these may be onboarding materials, signage throughout the facility, specific course material, etc.
- Assess equipment for damage or malfunction
- Coordinate repairs/service for equipment
- Purchasing/ordering new or replacement industrial furniture
- Coordinating purchasing with various department heads
- Reviewing management performance
- Keep employees accountable for wearing PPE
- Meet with employees to hear complaints, take requests, or address interpersonal issues – problems between members of staff are your responsibility
- Sharing company-wide information – memos, safety info, scheduling, etc.
- Reviewing accounting materials and budget
- Firing staff
Because a plant manager is directly responsible for coordinating all of a manufacturing facility’s daily operations and all employees involved in making things run smoothly, the job is often demanding. Most plant managers work more than 40 hours a week, often starting at extremely early hours or going late into the evening.
Plant managers are charged with motivating their employees to meet goals and be productive even in stressful circumstances, which requires a plant manager to thrive in a fast-paced, constantly moving work environment.
In addition to working long hours and keeping an upbeat attitude, some things you can expect from a job as a plant manager include:
- Sitting or standing for hours at a time
- Regularly doing paperwork and using administrative equipment
- Wearing PPE and safety gear
- Working long shifts, irregular hours, weekends, or holidays
- Taking back to back meetings on short notice
- Quickly learning the ins and outs of various pieces of equipment
- Being available to answer questions or come in in case of an emergency – you are always on call
Qualifications to Become a Plant Manager
If you’ve read the job description and looked through some of the daily duties and activities of a plant manager and think you could be a good fit for the job, you’ll need to meet a few qualifications. While some people become plant managers by working their way up through the ranks at a specific manufacturing plant, most plant managers are people that have intentionally gained the education and skills needed to be a successful leader.
Unlike jobs like ‘doctor’ or ‘lawyer’, there are no legal education requirements for plant managers, but most companies will favor individuals with at least a bachelor’s degree. Undergraduate degrees in engineering or business management are appropriate examples of the typical minimum education requirements for plant managers, though some employers may require a master’s degree to qualify for upper management positions.
If you want to go to graduate school to qualify to be a plant manager, consider a Master of Business Administration or something similar. If you aim to work in a specific sector of manufacturing, your degree should focus on some related area.
While again not technically a requirement, holding pertinent certifications can increase your chances of being selected for a position as a plant manager. Certifications prove that you have dedicated time to learning the skills and tools needed to succeed in manufacturing, and are qualified to make the important decisions that will be left up to you in a role as a plant manager. Some common certifications plant managers hold include:
No matter how qualified you are, hiring decisions often come down to those special skills an individual can bring to a leadership role. As a plant manager, you will need to keep multiple balls in the air at all times, which requires some special skills and personality traits if you hope to thrive in the position. Some skills that are desirable if you are applying for positions as a plant manager include:
- Excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate with people of every background
- Strong leadership and motivational skills
- An ability to organize and prioritize
- Confident decision making
- A strong working knowledge of administrative technology
- An interest in a specific type of manufacturing
- Good financial records and an understanding of math and business finance
Average Plant Manager Salary & Benefits
If you can meet the rigorous requirements and standards of a plant manager, you’ll be rewarded with a comfortable salary, substantial benefits, and longevity as a leader in your industry. If you work hard to do your job well, you could find yourself making six figures early in your management career.
In North America, the average manufacturing plant manager salary is between $40K and $200K per year. In a position as a plant manager, you will also typically enjoy full health benefits, paid leave and vacation time, a retirement plan, and other company perks like discounts, a company car, etc.
The Path To Becoming a Plant Manager
If you felt like that was a lot to take in and are wondering where you should even begin, consider this simple path to becoming a plant manager:
1. Basic Education
If you have any hope of qualifying for an upper management position like plant manager, you will need to have a degree of some kind. Ideally, you will have a bachelor’s or higher degree in a related field like business, finance, engineering, etc.
2. Entry Level Manufacturing Experience
Once you have achieved a degree, it’s time to get some practical experience in manufacturing to find out whether or not you enjoy the work environment. Low-level administrative positions are a great place to get your feet wet, and showing that you have previous experience working in manufacturing will look good on your resume.
3. Get Certified
Once you have some professional experience, you’ll be able to start collecting certifications. Don’t worry about gathering every certification right away – you have a whole career to earn all the credentials you possibly can. Stick to the basics to make yourself shine to potential employers.
4. Make Connections
Even entry-level positions offer plenty of networking opportunities, so before you set your sights on one job, do your best to make connections with professionals in various areas of manufacturing. Making connections could open doorways you otherwise would never have heard of, and now that you have some education and experience under your belt, you may impress the right people.
5. Apply, Apply, Apply!
Once you feel confident that your resume can hold its own in a stack of other qualified applicants, it is time to apply! Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get interviews right away, or even if you have to apply for months before getting positive feedback – if you have prepared appropriately and show that you are passionate about your work, the right opportunity will come your way.
Tips for a Successful Career As a Plant Manager
If you do become a plant manager, you will need to overcome countless obstacles throughout your career, navigate complicated financial situations, mediate difficult interactions, and encounter endless learning opportunities. While you will find your own path to success, we have a few simple tips to help you along the way:
Reward Success & Productivity
Many managers get stuck in the rut of motivating their employees, focusing their energy on infusing energy into their team and encouraging them to constantly improve. While this is the spirit that will help you to grow your business, your team can’t survive on motivation alone.
Rewarding successful work and productivity is a great way to build team loyalty, and give your employees the morale they’ll need to push through the difficult days.
Learn to Adapt
While you will likely inherit plenty of operating procedures from the plant manager before you, it is important to be able to adapt to this role and accept new ways of doing things if they prove to be more efficient.
Find Reliable Suppliers with Quality Products
As a plant manager, it will be up to you to find high-quality solutions at reasonable prices from trustworthy suppliers. Once you find suppliers you can rely on to deliver the same high-quality products on time and in good condition, you’ll be amazed at how smoothly your company operates. OnePointe Solutions, for example, is trusted by countless manufacturers and industrial businesses to provide high-end custom industrial furniture that optimizes the efficiency and safety of your facility without breaking the budget.
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