2013 Salary Survey: New challenges for an aging workforce

Manufacturing seen as more secure, but needing more young workers


In the last decade, through the Plant Engineering Salary Survey, we’ve watched our readers make their way through times of great productivity, great recession, and great recovery. They have taken each journey one step at a time, one year at a time.

The average age of survey respondents. Courtesy: CFE Media

In 2013, they crossed another threshold. They jumped into a new age demographic. The average respondent is now between the ages of 55 and 59. We’ve watched the aging of the plant workforce carefully over the past decade, and this year it takes another leap toward the far end of the spectrum.

In the 2013 survey, 43% respondents are over age 55; another 19% are over age 50. That compares with just 15% under the age of 40. In fact, there are more people over the age of 60 than under the age of 40. The issue here is far more than just statistical. The inability to infuse manufacturing with new talent threatens to undo the tremendous gains in productivity, safety, and quality realized in the past five years. Since the 2009 recession, manufacturing has been the shining light in the American economy, and the envy of the rest of the world.

The factors impacting the job satisfaction of survey respondents. Courtesy: CFE MediaThe one warning sign on the horizon is the lack of new skilled workers and managers coming into the industry, and the 2013 Salary Survey shows that time to answer this signal is running short. It’s not that like the issue isn’t obvious to our read-ers, however. For the last decade, readers have recognized the lack of new skilled workers in manufacturing as the top issue facing the indus-try. In 2013, it was more than twice as popular as any other issue.

With the recession far in the rear-view mirror, manufacturing now must face its most urgent issue head on. That’s something Plant Engineering readers consistently are willing to do. Once again this year, it is the technical challenge and the feeling of accomplishment that drive readers to achieve manufacturing excellence.

It is that challenge that propelled manufacturing to pull itself out of the recession, and take the rest of the country along with it. That also is reflected in one of our most important questions: “Is manufacturing a secure career?” In 2013, a full 75% of all respondents answered positively. That’s 11 percentage points higher than the 2012 figure, and the highest level we have ever recorded. In 2006, by comparison, just 62% of respondents thought manufacturing was a secure career.

Manufacturing rediscovered its confidence in 2013, and reaffirmed its leadership role as the economic engine of the country. If we can take strides to address to workforce issue in the coming year, there may be no limit to the growth that could follow.

Who we are

The split between the generations of manufacturing could not be more profound. Compared to 2012 data, plant workers with various job titles over the age of 50 grew increased, while workers below the age of 50 decreased. There are 25% fewer workers in the 40 to 44 age bracket in 2013 than in 2012, and 38% are over the age of 60.

At a time when all of the other data tended to jump around, this was one of the only places where there were only minute changes. There were also no major changes in regional factors. If the issues surrounding plant management continue to swirl, the plant manager himself is staying put and building on the success of the past year.

What we make

The average salary of survey respondents by region. Courtesy: CFE MediaAfter a big jump in overall compensation in 2012, pay leveled off in 2013. The average salary was fractionally higher at an average of $95,660, but bonus compensation slipped to an average of $11,678. That left overall compensation at $107,104; that’s 3.2% lower than 2012, but 7.4% higher than 2011.

What we think

Plant managers love their job. They are technically challenged by it, and personally enriched by it. They feel their job is secure at a level never before seen, and they believe their skills are valued within the organization. There is increased attention on safety in the workplace that extends beyond compensation. When asked what area their management emphasizes, 34% said operations and 25% said safety. When asked what area should be emphasized, 26% said safety first, as opposed to just 20% for operations.

MICHAEL , FL, United States, 02/19/14 06:25 AM:

this is and will always be a problem.high tech is where people want to go they do not want to get there hands dirty plain an simple . who will be there to build the machines needed to keep things moving? they say truckers move this contry well if someone does not machine the parts for that truck how are you going to move the contry?
Anonymous , 08/04/14 11:16 PM:

Interesting and informative
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Safety for 18 years, warehouse maintenance tips, Ethernet and the IIoT, GAMS 2016 recap
2016 Engineering Leaders Under 40; Future vision: Where is manufacturing headed?; Electrical distribution, redefined
Strategic outsourcing delivers efficiency; Sleeve bearing clearance; Causes of water hammer; Improve air quality; Maintenance safety; GAMS preview
SCADA at the junction, Managing risk through maintenance, Moving at the speed of data
Safety at every angle, Big Data's impact on operations, bridging the skills gap
The digital oilfield: Utilizing Big Data can yield big savings; Virtualization a real solution; Tracking SIS performance
Applying network redundancy; Overcoming loop tuning challenges; PID control and networks
Driving motor efficiency; Preventing arc flash in mission critical facilities; Integrating alternative power and existing electrical systems
Package boilers; Natural gas infrared heating; Thermal treasure; Standby generation; Natural gas supports green efforts

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role of plant safety and offers advice on best practices.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
This article collection contains several articles on strategic maintenance and understanding all the parts of your plant.
click me