Manufacturing Career Field Structure
Manufacturing covers a wide range of industries, including food, beverage, pharmaceuticals, iron and steel, textiles, lumber, tobacco, automobiles, aerospace, and petrochemicals. In manufacturing, there are two categories of goods produced: durable and nondurable. Durable goods have a long life span and hold up over time; examples of durable goods are cars, airplanes, and washing machines. Nondurable goods have a shorter life span and include such products as food, cosmetics, and clothing.
Manufacturing employs workers with an equally wide range of skill levels, education, and interests. Administrative staff includes presidents, CEOs, accountants, sales and marketing workers, order processors, customer service workers, secretaries, and others who plan, organize, and manage operations.
Engineers are an important part of the manufacturing workforce. Their work focuses on research, development, analysis, planning, surveying, application, facility evaluation, and more. Some engineers work on the design and refinement of the products to be manufactured, while others work on the design and assembly of the machines and tools that make these products. They may manage a staff or manage projects from start to finish. They are responsible for research and development to refine the production process and make recommendations to their companies based on their research. Computer science is becoming increasingly important in manufacturing industries because of the development of robotics and automated processes. Engineers also work on environmental concerns, including regulatory compliance, traffic patterns within the plant, hazardous waste control, and ergonomic issues.
Technicians, who work closely with and assist engineers in manufacturing, help to execute various projects by conducting research, running tests, repairing and maintaining equipment, monitoring production, and keeping records.
Manufacturing plants are overseen by department managers, supervisors, and forepersons, who are the liaisons between administrative staff and production workers. These employees usually have a great deal of experience as production workers and are responsible for such areas as worker productivity, product quality, safety and health, and plant and machine maintenance.
Production workers, by far, make up the largest segment of manufacturing employment. They operate, tend to, and adjust machines, tools, and equipment; assemble parts; and package products. They cut, drill, mold, stamp, cook, stir, measure, glue, wrap, and perform the millions of other tasks required by manufacturing processes. Manufacturing provides good jobs for low- and semiskilled workers, with higher wages and better benefits than nonmanufacturing jobs.