Manufacturing systems are mechanical, electrical or computer-driven systems which replace manual activities in order to improve the overall manufacturing process. When it comes to designing and installing these systems, the emphasis is on maximising production with optimal efficiency and quality – without a significant increase in costs.
Manufacturing systems engineers’ responsibilities stretch across the total production cycle, from design and development to marketing and business development. Planning, budgeting and resource allocation are also part of the role.
If you enter this profession, you’ll be responsible for the design, installation and maintenance of the plant’s various pieces of equipment and manufacturing systems. Furthermore, you’ll be planning production targets, controlling costs and managing the allocation of resources.
Your job will also involve liaising with personnel from other functions and units within the organisation, ensuring adherence to internal and external requirements with regards to quality control and health and safety.
You may also be in charge of other tasks which revolve around monitoring systems and machinery used in automated production, such as investigating incidents, breakdowns and delays in the manufacturing system.
You’ll also need to be constantly on the ball and keep up to date with the latest developments in the manufacturing industry, identifying any technological advances which could enhance productivity.
Salary & benefits
Annual salaries for manufacturing systems engineers in the early stages of their careers fall between £22,000 and £27,000, while senior engineers with a wealth of experience can earn between £30,000 and £60,000 per annum.
Typical work schedules are shift-based, often including weekends and holidays. The majority of jobs are available in industrial areas, usually located outside of urban centres. You will spend the vast majority of your time on the production floor, working alongside factory floor staff, technicians and other engineers.
An undergraduate or postgraduate degree in an engineering, maths or scientific subject is the basic entry requirement for new starters. Employers also prefer candidates who’ve completed specific accredited degree programmes in subjects such as manufacturing engineering, mechanical engineering, computer science and electrical engineering.
Alternatively, you can enter this line of work as a lower-level technician via an apprenticeship programme or with a relevant vocational qualification.
Gaining prior work experience through vacation schemes or industrial training programmes will also be vital for improving your chances of finding employment. It’s advantageous for candidates to have a decent knowledge of computing and technology systems, logical and analytical thinking and awesome communication skills.
Training & progression
The majority of major employers in this industry now offer graduate development schemes to help develop new talent. An important component of these programmes is helping entry-level employees to complete the necessary requirements for becoming a chartered engineer and obtaining membership of relevant professional organisations, such as the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE). Obtaining incorporated or chartered engineer status is also important for building a long-term career and a strong reputation in the industry.
As you progress, you could take a step back from the hands-on, technical side of manufacturing engineering and focus more on managerial, strategic and business-focused responsibilities. Self-employment and freelance consulting are viable alternatives for professionals with more than ten years’ experience.