Industrial Management

Typical Job Functions

Much of an industrial manager’s time is spent in meetings or on conference calls, writing reports, attending to lab operations, and dealing with employee issues. They may work in a laboratory, in an office, or some combination of the two.

Typically, they’re required to track and report on productivity, spending, and progress toward goals for the projects they oversee. They are expected to teach, coach, and mentor their employees to help them advance in their own careers.

Managers in large organizations or groups may spend all of their time coordinating projects, supervising technical personnel, and performing administrative duties. Managers in smaller operations may divide their time between technical work and administrative work.

“People management” is crucial to the success of an industrial manager, including:

  • Keeping co-workers and stakeholders at all levels "in the loop" to prevent costly mistakes, misunderstandings, and priority clashes
  • Team-building to build  trust between team leaders and members, and between co-workers
  • Advocating promotions and raises for direct reports
  • Addressing poor performance or disruptive behavior in employees when it occurs
  • The ability to prioritize is also crucial and requires the ability to:
    • Understand organizational needs and priorities and how a project contributes to them (or doesn’t)
    • Assess availability of resources, LOE, and overall cost of a project
    • Negotiate
    • Make quick decisions
    • Set and adhere to a budget

Typical day-to-day duties of an industrial manager include:

  • Planning or directing research, development, or production activities
  • Hiring, supervising, or evaluating technicians, researchers, engineers, or other staff
  • Determining scientific or technical goals within broad outlines provided by top management; making detailed plans to accomplish these goals
  • Planning and reviewing projects with scientists, engineers, regulators, and upper management or other business units.
  • Communicating with clients to prepare and explain project proposals, presenting research findings, establishing specifications, or discussing project status

Career Paths

The path to industrial management usually begins with technical or research experience in a laboratory. Technical employees who are interested in becoming managers often take responsibility for small projects or lead task-oriented teams. As they gain experience, they take on progressively larger and more complex projects.

Opportunities and requirements for industrial managers vary significantly by employer. Employers may:

  • Provide on-the-job training or subsidize costs for training employees that are interested in management positions.
  • Offer dual career ladders that allow employees to progress on either a management or a technical track.
  • Require an MBA or PSM (professional science master's) degree in addition to previous experience.
  • Require a Ph.D., especially for higher-level or highly-visible positions.

The balance between technical and scientific knowledge and business experience required also varies, by organization and by position.

Getting Started

Laboratory manager positions typically require a bachelor's degree and five or more years of experience in an applicable area (chemistry, biochemistry, materials science, etc.). An MBA or PSM (professional science master's) degree—or even a Ph.D.—may be required for more advanced management positions.

Useful tools and skills to begin a career in this field include:

  • How to use project planning and management software
  • Knowledge of legal, health and safety, and regulatory issues
  • Practical experience with laboratory equipment and research procedures

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