Squeeze play

They manage different kinds of plants of different sizes with different levels of complexity. Yet plant managers share a common language and face common problems. In 2008, one problem emerged as a major concern. They used words like “crashing” and “sagging” and “crisis” to describe the general state of the manufacturing economy they face each day.
By Bob Vavra, Editor January 1, 2009

They manage different kinds of plants of different sizes with different levels of complexity. Yet plant managers share a common language and face common problems. In 2008, one problem emerged as a major concern.

They used words like “crashing” and “sagging” and “crisis” to describe the general state of the manufacturing economy they face each day. There is little doubt the economic downturn has impacted manufacturing leaders. They face the recession and the staffing pressures that recession will bring. At the same time, they still don’t have the skilled workforce they need to be prepared to grow their business on the other side of the recession.

The irony is that while plant managers faced more pressure and worried more about the economic future of their business, they also earned on average more money than ever before. The average salary for a plant manager, plant engineer or foreman topped the $100,000 mark for the first time. The 2008 Salary Survey found that the average salary, including bonuses and other non-salary payments, was $103,396, up almost 4%. The average bonus was $17,530, almost the same as in 2007 ($17,967).

Asked if they consider manufacturing a secure career, 63% said yes. They also remain happy with their work, with 74% describing themselves as satisfied with their career vs. just 8% who were dissatisfied.

The feeling of accomplishment is still cited by plant leaders as their biggest motivation. Two-thirds of respondents felt their own job was secure, and 61% said their employees’ jobs were secure. That latter figure, however, was down from 70% a year ago.

The biggest issue the plant manager faces today remains unchanged, although new pressures in other areas ate away at the margin. Still, 31% of respondents said the lack of skilled workers was the biggest issue they face each day, and no other response got even half that total. Downsizing and its effect on productivity was cited by 15% of readers, with the economy and management issues each getting 11%.