Manufacturing systems engineer
Manufacturing systems engineers work as part of a team to design, install, monitor and develop all systems affecting the manufacturing cycle of a product, for example manufacturing equipment and assembly lines. They may also be involved in the design and building of new manufacturing plants.
Manufacturing systems engineers work to integrate the entire manufacturing process. This ranges from production and supply right through to sales. The aim is to allow the maximum volume of high-quality product to be produced at the lowest cost and in the shortest time. They use the latest computer technology and employ a systematic approach to finance, methods, materials and technology across traditional departmental boundaries.
Manufacturing systems engineers are responsible for seeing a job through all of its stages, rather than focusing on one particular part of the process. Tasks vary but typically include:
Salary figures are intended as a guide only.
Relevant degree subjects include engineering and physical/mathematical/applied sciences. The following degree subjects in particular may be helpful:
It is also possible to enter the career as a trainee with an HND or foundation degree. Relevant subjects include engineering and mechanical engineering.
The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) has a list of accredited engineering courses. These are particularly useful if you wish to pursue chartered status (CEng) later in your career as it means you'll have met part or all of the CEng requirements.
Entry into the profession without a degree or HND is possible as you could begin at the level of engineering technician. After acquiring the necessary skills and knowledge (and possibly taking higher qualifications) you could work up to the role of manufacturing systems engineer.
A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not needed, however it can be useful, particularly if your first degree is not in a directly related subject. It will be beneficial if the Masters you choose to take is accredited by IMechE (or another professional engineering institution) as this can help you to achieve chartered status. It will also ensure that you gain the required skills and knowledge for moving into the career. Subjects available include manufacturing systems engineering, manufacturing, or production or control engineering.
Even with a postgraduate qualification, it is unlikely you would enter directly at the level of manufacturing systems engineer. Employers prefer you to have several years' experience within an industrial environment in order to build on your technical ability and interpersonal skills before you move into this position.
Candidates need to show evidence of the following:
The demand for graduates with a suitable background and experience normally exceeds supply.
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If you enter the engineering industry through a graduate training scheme you will follow a structured course of training, which typically lasts around two years. This often involves a variety of disciplines so that you gain experience and knowledge in a number of areas.
Entrants going into the role of manufacturing systems engineer will usually have had prior experience of a number of different roles within the manufacturing process and so employers will expect you to possess broad technical knowledge. You will still receive on-the-job training that will be specific to the role and employers will encourage the continued development of your knowledge and skills.
Most manufacturing systems engineers will work towards gaining incorporated (IEng) or chartered (CEng) engineering status, which is an internationally recognised qualification. These are awarded through the professional engineering institutions such as:
The academic requirements for achieving IEng or CEng registration have been standardised by the UK Standard for Professional Engineering Competence (UK-SPEC) . The requirements typically include having an accredited engineering degree for IEng and a further accredited Masters for CEng.
Manufacturing systems engineers are expected to carry out continuing professional development (CPD) to enhance their skills and knowledge. This can be aided by joining one of the professional bodies listed above who offer support through structured CPD programmes. They also run events, short courses and conferences, which can all count towards CPD.
Working alongside maintenance engineers and plant managers, and with newer colleagues such as engineering technicians and trainee engineers, also provides opportunities to acquire a greater variety of skills.
Some employers will offer opportunities to study for a part-time MSc in a relevant subject.
Career development largely depends on the size, type and activity of your employer. For example, the company may wish to expand, increase its productivity or change/increase the range of products it manufactures. Working for a multinational company may lead to opportunities on overseas contracts.
Typically, as your career progresses, you will be expected to take on a more active role in the non-technical aspects of the job. For example, you could be negotiating prices of materials and working with plant and senior managers to improve the manufacturing efficiency. There are also opportunities to get involved in training, supervising and assessing the work of trainee systems engineers and engineering technicians. You are likely to take part in training courses designed to improve your people and team-building skills.
Opportunities to progress into engineering or manufacturing management or into general management, marketing or sales are normally available. It may also be possible to become a partner in an engineering firm or become self-employed as a consultant.
Gaining chartered status (CEng) is a significant help in career progression. It involves a period of professional development, which typically takes around four years to complete. It will then be proof that you have met a UK and international standard of experience and knowledge in the engineering profession.
There are some opportunities to work as a lecturer and undertake academic research in a higher education institution for those with experience.
The manufacturing sector is huge and employs around 2.5 million people (UK Parliament, 2011). Many manufacturing companies employ manufacturing systems engineers, though the actual job title varies depending on the company. In very small companies, which are often privately owned, the job may be combined with other functions.
Opportunities for employment are found mostly in medium and large manufacturing companies in the engineering, electronics, information technology, food and drink, pharmaceutical, ship building, automotive and aerospace industries. Manufacturing systems engineers also work in chemical and heavy engineering, textiles and the printing industry.
Opportunities are increasing in specialist engineering and management consultancies. Engineers who move into consultancy usually need a good honours degree and several years' experience in an engineering environment.
It is increasingly common for vacancies to be handled by specialist agencies. The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) is the representative body for private agencies and provides details of relevant member agencies.
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