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2018 Salary Survey: Juggling priorities in challenging times

Manufacturing opens 2019 juggling the challenges and opportunities facing the industry from global trade issues to an aging workforce to a changing plant floor.
By Bob Vavra February 18, 2019
Courtesy: CFE Media

It is a confident juggler who can keep all the balls in the air at the same time with disarmingly little effort. That’s the skill of the juggler—to make a very complicated task looks easy.

Manufacturing opens 2019 juggling the challenges and opportunities facing the industry. On one hand, there are the possibilities of a digital plant and the growing productivity it offers against the continuing lack of a skilled workforce needed to operate that plant. The economic growth seen in the past year is tempered by continuing discontent with global trade issues, particularly tariffs that are roiling the manufacturing sector.

Representing all manufacturing sectors and job descriptions, plant leaders balance these issues as they try to continue manufacturing’s rebound from the 2008 recession. A decade ago, manufacturing was beset by massive layoffs and plant closings. Today, the American manufacturing plant is a global model of efficiency, but one key issue hasn’t changed in the last decade—the lack of skilled workers needed to support the industry’s growth curve. This remains the paramount issue facing the sector.

Average manufacturing salaries by region were up in 2018 compared to 2017, which has helped bolster general worker confidence in spite of uncertainties in the industry. Courtesy: CFE Media

Average manufacturing salaries by region were up in 2018 compared to 2017, which has helped bolster general worker confidence in spite of uncertainties in the industry. Courtesy: CFE Media

The 2018 edition of the Plant Engineering Salary Survey again examines all of those issues, and looks at some new topics—in particular, the increase in the use of robotics and the parallel issue of cybersecurity in manufacturing.

Despite the challenges, and despite a long work week for the plant leader, Salary Survey respondents are optimistic about the future of this industry—and the future of their own jobs—at historically high levels. Almost eight in 10 respondents said manufacturing is a secure career. If these leaders can convince others of that job security and recruit more workers to fill the estimated 2.8 million jobs what will be created in the next decade, manufacturing will have taken a major step toward solving its most significant issue.

For now, despite the headwinds, manufacturing continues to expand, and its leaders are being rewarded again for their skill. They’re keeping all the balls in the air.

Learn more about the Salary Survey in the Plant Engineering January/February 2019 digital edition, which provides more detailed information from the survey.


Bob Vavra
Author Bio: Bob is the Content Manager for Plant Engineering.