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Manufacturing & Production careers

Manufacturing & production career misconceptions

TV adverts and sci-fi movies have led us to believe that nobody actually works in the manufacturing and production sector anymore. Apparently, the entire industry is run by robots, putting things together with astonishing efficiency and then cheekily scribbling on the side of cars. Well, we hate to disappoint you, but factories do still need people working in them.

You might have heard that careers in manufacturing and production are all about making boxes, packing boxes and moving boxes. Alternatively, you might have heard that a job in a factory requires you to put cherries on cupcakes all day, every day.

Well, that’s not entirely true. So before you make the decision to get a graduate job in manufacturing and production, you should firstly discover what it’s really all about.

The reality of manufacturing & production

It’s all about factories. Since the industrial revolution (18th and 19th century) it’s basically been focussing on making and producing goods in large quantities. However, it’s not just conveyor belts and hair nets – manufacturing and production involves conducting research, testing, developing prototypes, engineering and maintenance.

Without factories, companies would not be able to produce their goods quickly enough or in the volumes that they require. For example, without mass production techniques, Heinz Tomato Ketchup would be handmade in a tiny kitchen somewhere, and rather than producing thousands of bottles an hour, only five or six would be ready for consumption. All humans will consume, use, drive, or wipe their behinds with mass produced goods at some point in their day-to-day lives. Admittedly, the concept of mass production can fall under scrutiny and criticism, but whilst it doesn’t seem essential for some products, it certainly is for others, such as medical supplies.

Manufacturing can be based around handmade crafts and high-tech production; although they work on different scales, both are essentially forms of industrial production in which raw materials or chemicals are turned into finished products.

Careers in this sector range from manual labour and operational jobs to highly-technical and managerial positions.

Careers in manufacturing & production

Careers in this sector are instrumental in manufacturing a huge range of products, including:

First and foremost, all areas of industrial production need factory floor staff, supervisors and managers to carry out and oversee the necessary practical work. These guys are the true core of the industry. Depending on the size of the organisation and the demand for their products, they may work on different shift patterns throughout the night and day.

Within many areas of manufacturing and production, essential work in research, product development, testing and experimentation needs to be carried out before production can occur. For instance, flavour technicians, who work in the food and drink industry, conduct experiments with combinations of chemicals and then carry out taste tests to conjure up new flavours. These are the kinds of genius characters who manage to cram all the flavours from a tasty summer barbecue into one crispy potato snack. Quality control experts are also required to make sure that the finished products are consistently good enough to make it outside of the factory doors.

Handmade production involves a greater risk factor. Because every product is unlikely to be exactly the same, there is a greater margin for error. Incidentally, most technical production is now done by machinery, computers and robots. These machines consistently produce standardised products in a quicker and more efficient manner. Consequently, technical experts, such as computer numerical control engineers, are needed to control, programme and maintain these specialist pieces of equipment.

All manufacturing and production activity needs to be meticulously planned and managed to meet with demands in a timely and efficient manner. This is where careers in production management and planning, purchasing and distribution are majorly important. This lot are in charge of monitoring the delivery of raw materials and the distribution of goods, producing production schedules and making sure supply meets demand.

Factory environments can be particularly difficult to maintain and especially dangerous places to work. Therefore, specialists in maintenance and safety are needed in every single factory environment. After all, nobody wants to be sucked into a machine and turned into a box of human doughnuts.

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George U - Technical Services & Environmental Manager

George U came out of retirement in 2000 to become Technical Services and Environmental Manager for Ulster Carpets Limited. He values education highly - "education really is an absolute must, even more so now than it ever was in my day" and has an Open University degree. George also has a busy life outside of work, keeping a herd of Aberdeen Angus cows and breeding horses for showjumping.