Careers and Job Ideas: Manufacturing Supervisors

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  • School Subjects: Business, Mathematics, Technical/shop
  • Personal Skills: Communication/ideas; Leadership/management
  • Work Environment: Primarily indoors, Primarily one location
  • Minimum Education Level: Bachelor’s degree
  • Salary Range: $47,230 to $77,670 to $130,680+
  • Certification or Licensing: None available
  • Outlook: More slowly than the average
  • DOT: 183
  • GOE: 080101
  • NOC: 0911
  • O*NET-SOC: 11 3051 00


Manufacturing supervisors monitor employees and their working conditions and effectiveness in production plants and factories. They ensure that work is carried out correctly and on schedule by promoting high product quality and output levels.In addition to balancing the budget and other bookkeeping duties, super visors are responsible for maintaining employee work schedules, training new workers, and issuing warnings to workers who violate established rules. Manufacturing managers in various industries hold approximately 160,000 jobs.


Manufacturing has been through many technological developments, from innovations in fuel-powered machinery to the assembly line. As these processes became more complex, no single worker could be responsible for the production of particular items. Manufacturing became a long process involving many workers’ contributions. If one worker caused a defect in the product, it was not always easy to track down the source of the problem. The role of the super visor emerged as a means of keeping track of the work of numerous employees involved in the production process, allowing production to run smoothly.


The primary roles of manufacturing supervisors are to oversee their employees and ensure the effectiveness of the production process. They are responsible for the amount of work and the quality of work being done by the employees under their direction. Supervisors make work schedules, keep production and employee records, and plan on-the-job activities. Their work is highly interpersonal. They not only monitor employees, but also guide workers in their efforts and are responsible for disciplining and counseling poor performers as well as recommending valuable employees for raises and promotions. They also make sure that safety regulations and other rules and procedures are being followed.

In monitoring production and output levels, manufacturing super visors must keep in mind the company’s limitations, such as budgetary allowances, time constraints, and any workforce shortages. They must be realistic about the abilities of their employees and set production schedules accordingly. Supervisors may use mathematical calculations and test various production methods to reach high production levels while still maintaining the quality of the product.

Manufacturing supervisors may be employed by small companies, such as custom furniture shops, or large industrial factories, such as automotive plants. Supervisors report to company managers, who direct them on production goals and set budgets. Another important part of the supervisor’s job is to act as a liaison between factory workers and company managers who are in charge of production. Supervisors announce new company policies and plans to the workers in their charge and report to their managers any problems they may be having or other important issues. Supervisors also may meet with other company supervisors to discuss progress toward company objectives, department operations, and employee performance. In companies where employees belong to labor unions, supervisors must know and follow all work-related guidelines outlined by labor-management contracts.

A manufacturing supervisor often discusses the day’s production with a group of workers.


High School

If you are interested in becoming a manufacturing supervisor, take high school courses in business, math, and science to prepare for the demands of the job. In order to balance the budget and determine production schedules, supervisors often use mathematical computations. They also use computers to do much of their paperwork, so take any available classes to become familiar with word processing and spreadsheet programs.

Postsecondary Training

Because manufacturing areas differ, there is no single path to a supervisory position. However, most manufacturing supervisors hold a college degree in business administration or industrial management. College courses in business, industrial relations, math, and computer applications help to familiarize prospective supervisors with the many responsibilities they will have to handle. Interpersonal skills are also highly valuable so classes in public relations and human resource management are also important.

Many supervisors obtain graduate degrees to become more marketable to employers or for a better chance of advancing within a company. As manufacturing processes have become more complex, advanced degrees in business administration, engineering, or industrial management are more and more common among those in higher-level positions.

Other Requirements

Manufacturing supervisors deal with many people on a highly personal level. They must direct, guide, and discipline others, so you should work on developing strong leadership qualities. You will also need good communication skills and the ability to motivate people and maintain morale.


To better gauge your interest and expand your knowledge about manufacturing careers, ask your school’s guidance counselor for advice on setting up a tour of a local production factory or plant. At the factory or plant, you might be able to talk to workers about their jobs or at least see the environment in which they work. Simply reading more about the field of manufacturing and its many different employment opportunities is also a good way to explore this career. Visit your local library or surf the Internet for recent articles and information.

A summer or part-time job in an office or retail setting can give you business experience and expose you to management practices. Depending on the job and industry, perhaps you might even be promoted to an assistant manager position.


There are approximately 160,000 manufacturing supervisors working all over the United States, but the majority of jobs are located in highly industrial areas. Whether it be in a small production facility or a large factory or plant, supervisors are needed to oversee all manufacturing processes. The major employment areas are industrial machinery and equipment, semiconductor and other electronic components, plastics products, transportation equipment, motor vehicle parts, electronic and electrical equipment, metal instruments and related products, printing and related services, and food industries. A small number of these managers are self-employed.


Many supervisors enter their jobs by moving up from factory worker positions. They may also apply for supervisory positions from out side the company. Companies that hire manufacturing supervisors look for experience, knowledge of the job or industry, organizational skills, and leadership abilities. Supervisory positions may be found in classified ads, but for those just looking to get started, part-time or full-time jobs in a factory setting may help provide some experience and familiarity with the work of supervisors.


In most manufacturing companies, an advanced degree in business management or administration along with accumulated work experience is the best method for advancement into higher level supervisory positions. From the position of supervisor, one may advance to manager or head of an entire manufacturing plant or factory.


Salaries for manufacturing supervisors vary depending on the factory or plant in which they work, the area of production that they supervise, and their years of experience in the position. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that the median annual salary for manufacturing supervisors was $77,670 in 2006. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $47,230, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $130,680. Manufacturing supervisors typically receive benefits such as retirement plans, medical and life insurance, and paid holidays and vacations.


Most supervisors work on the manufacturing or factory floor. They may be on their feet most of the time, which can be tiring, and work near loud and hazardous machines. Supervisors may begin their day early so that they arrive before their workers, and they may stay later than their workers. Some may work for plants that operate around the clock and may work overnight shifts, weekends, and holidays. Sometimes the best hours go to those who have been with the company the longest. Plant downsizing and restructuring often leads to fewer supervisors. As a result, manufacturing supervisors may face larger departments to oversee and other increased demands.


To some extent, the future of the manufacturing supervisor job depends on the individual industry, whether it be automobiles or food products. In manufacturing as a whole, employment of supervisors is expected to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations through 2014, as supervisors have begun to oversee more workers. Corporate downsizing and the use of computers for tasks such as producing production schedules and budget plans also require fewer supervisors than before. However, there will be a need to replace job-changing or retiring managers. Job candidates with higher levels of education (especially those with an undergraduate engineering degree and a master’s degree in business administration or industrial management) and related work experience will fare the best in landing a supervisory position.


For information on workplace trends and management and leader ship training, contact:

American Management Association

1601 Broadway

New York, NY 10019-7434

Tel: 212-586-8100

For general information on manufacturing careers, industry news, and training tools, contact:

National Association of Manufacturers

1331 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20004-1790

Tel: 202-637-3000


For useful information on manufacturing careers, contact:

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