Optimism, salaries grow at a steady rate

Consistent salary growth and healthy optimism about the future of manufacturing are the highlights of the 2005 PLANT ENGINEERING Salary Survey. Readers were asked about their compensation levels in every manufacturing discipline and from every part of the country. The results show an industry in transition as to how it compensates its managers, and yet one where salary increases were the norm ...


Consistent salary growth and healthy optimism about the future of manufacturing are the highlights of the 2005 PLANT ENGINEERING Salary Survey. Readers were asked about their compensation levels in every manufacturing discipline and from every part of the country.

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The results show an industry in transition as to how it compensates its managers, and yet one where salary increases were the norm throughout most of the country.

Average salaries for all job titles surveyed - which include plant engineers, plant managers, foremen and other related titles- rose 2.4% in 2005, according to PLANT ENGINEERING readers, from $75,652 to $77,470. Overall compensation, including bonuses and profit sharing were flat, dropping from $86,628 to $86,211. That is still almost $10,000 more in overall compensation than in 2003.

The difference the last two years has been bonus compensation. In 2004, salaries rose, 5.4% but bonus compensation more than doubled to almost $11,000. That signaled that managers were being compensated on areas such as productivity and cost control. That trend continued in 2005, but to a lesser extent. Bonuses made up 11.3% of a manager's total compensation, down from 14.5% in 2004. That's still almost 60% more bonus money than a manager earned in 2003.

Further, most managers surveyed are optimistic about their salaries growing in 2006. In the first PLANT ENGINEERING Manufacturing Pulse survey, 62% of respondents believe salaries will increase between 1% and 3% in 2006, and 18% project an increase of between 4% and 6%. Only 2% see a salary decrease, and just 16% said their salary would remain the same. (See Manufacturing Pulse on page 40.)

There is similar optimism about manufacturing as a career and as a job for managers today. Of those surveyed, 63% said manufacturing was a secure career, 73% said their jobs were secure and 72% said their employees' jobs were secure. Most do not expect large increases in staffing, with 57% projecting no new hiring. Respondents were more optimistic that staffing would increase, with 26% expecting more jobs in 2006 with 16% expecting fewer jobs.

The survey also confirms what most plant engineers already know- experience, education and the level of responsibility all play a role in the level of compensation. Those plant managers with more than 25 years of experience are compensated 14% higher than those with 10 years of experience, managers with masters degrees earn 29% more than those with some college but no degree, and managers in plant of more than 1 million square feet receive 22% more pay than those whose facilities are smaller than 25,000 square feet.

Entry-level salaries were down a bit from 2004 levels, with one-year experience jobs averaging $72,524, down from $74,718. Part of that could be the stability of the career for most managers. Half of those surveyed have worked for their current employer for 10 or more years; just 4% are in their first year on their current jobs. Two-third have worked for four or fewer employers in their career, and the average person responding to the PLANT ENGINEERING Salary Survey has more than 18 years in manufacturing and plant engineering.

The most highly compensated industries for plant engineers are also among the most challenging. Managers in the petroleum, beverage and tobacco and chemical industries earn on average between $98,000 and $107,500, according to the survey. The apparel, computer/electronics, and paper industries also earn above the average salary in the survey.

Regional differences in salary are also seen again in this survey. The Southwest and Pacific regions boast the highest average salary, but while the Southwest showed a $5,500 jump in average salary, the Pacific region saw a $9,000 decrease. The Mountain also saw salary increases, while the Southeast, Midwest and North Central regions saw salaries fall.

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After two years of economic concerns, manufacturing leaders once again have homed in on the single biggest issue facing their operations:

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The 2017 Plant Engineering Salary Survey looks at not just what plant managers make, but what they think. As they look across their plants today, plant managers say they don’t have the operational depth to take on the new technologies and new challenges of global manufacturing.

Read more: 2017 Salary Survey

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