What Is Production Management? Definition, Careers, and More

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn all about production management, including what it is, why it's important, careers, and how to get started.

[Featured image] Two product managers are wearing an orange vest, and gloves looking at warehouse products.

Production management aims to monitor and improve the efficiency of activities, materials, staff resources, and budgets to produce goods. Production outcomes vary according to the industry. A production manager ensures that manufacturing stays on schedule, within budget, and achieves the desired output goals. 

Salaries for production management roles in the US is much higher than average, with the median annual earnings at $103,150, rising to $170,470 for the top 10 percent [1]. If you're interested in learning more about and pursuing the field of production management, then this guide can help you achieve your career goals.

What is production management?

Production management is the process of managing production inputs (raw materials, capital, and labor) to produce outputs (finished products). For companies that manufacture products, production management is necessary to ensure the operations and logistics (supply chain) run smoothly. Production management goes hand in hand with operations management.

Read more: Operations Management: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

Why is production management important?

Production management is important because it lowers costs when done efficiently, meaning the processes maximize resources to improve a business' competitiveness in the market. This, in turn, helps companies produce high quality products that are delivered on time to achieve business objectives, and therefore improves the company's reputation.


What are the 5 M's?

The 5 M's of production management can be summarized with: men, machines, methods, money, and materials. Managing "men" (the better word for this is "people") is a core of production management, who are needed to work the machines that produce goods. Production managers strategize how to use machines and certain methods (strategies) to optimize resources, money, and materials.

What does a production manager do?

Production management job descriptions vary by each industry and level of the role, but in general, someone working in production management has the following responsibilities:

  • Managing manufacturing processes and looking at inputs to achieve outputs

  • Creating and maintaining work schedules and budgets

  • Monitoring production to find ways to improve efficiency and operations

  • Communicating effectively with staff, stakeholders, suppliers, and customers

  • Manage safety and quality control

  • Manage a production team 

  • Identify, evaluate, and resolve any problems with manufacturing or staffing

Skills needed in production management 

To work in production management, you'll need both technical and workplace skills.

Technical skills:

  • Competency with technical equipment and maintenance

  • Six Sigma

  • Business acumen

  • Financial and industry knowledge

  • Knowledge of industry regulations, such as EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)

  • Ability to use Microsoft Office and email

Workplace skills:

Industries that need production management

Keen to get started? These industries commonly rely on production management to turn raw materials into finished products.

• Automotive 

• Chemical

• Food

• Machinery

• Metal and fabricated products 

• Computers and technology


Careers in production management

Production management jobs, titles, and salaries vary and have different responsibilities.

Here are some product management jobs and average salaries: 

*All salary data is sourced from Glassdoor as of July 2023

Production manager

Average salary (US): $67,459

A production manager manages the production process and ensures the company's manufacturing goals are met (outputs) by successfully overseeing inputs such as time, staffing, efficiency, materials, and costs. 

Manufacturing manager

Average salary (US): $100,226

A manufacturing manager looks after the day-to-day manufacturing operations. They organize schedules, manage staff, and set budgets. The role is very similar to a production manager, except the production manager is responsible for the entire production process, while a manufacturing manager looks after the equipment and those that use it. 

Assistant production manager

Average salary (US): $48,951 

An assistant production manager supports the production manager with their duties. Their tasks are similar but at a junior level.

Industrial production manager

Average salary (US): $71,811

An industrial production manager oversees production and manufacturing in an industrial plant. Their role includes scheduling production and managing budgets, staff, and processes. 

Plant manager 

Average salary (US): $95,412

A plant manager supervises operations and manufacturing and is responsible for making strategic decisions, managing staff, ensuring safety, and working to achieve production goals.

Operations manager

Average salary (US): $67,252

An operations manager is responsible for the production and daily operations, making business decisions, and working as a senior management team member. They look to improve production processes and may recruit and train staff. 

How to become a production manager 

To become a production manager, you'll want to make sure you have the right skills, education, experience, and certifications. 

1. Earn a degree.

A bachelor’s degree is typically the minimum educational requirement to become a production manager, with 62% of managers holding one and 18% holding an associate degree [2]. However, it’s possible to qualify for a position if you have a high school diploma and gained an impressive amount of experience. 

Useful bachelor’s degree subjects include business, engineering, industrial management, manufacturing, or similar. Depending on the company and level of responsibilities, some positions may require an MBA. Some schools offer options to complete a production management degree.

2. Receive some training.

On-the-job training tends to be the best way to learn. A new employee will often spend the first months learning about the company and job responsibilities, and then putting those methods into action.

Completing an internship in manufacturing or production is helpful in learning industry processes.

3. Gain experience.

Experience is necessary in most cases to work in production management, especially if you want to advance into a leadership role. You'll need to first land an entry-level position to gain a few years of experience before pursuing more responsibilities.

4. Consider getting certified.

Given the competition for jobs, having relevant certifications can boost your resume. Here are a few common ones to know:

  • Manufacturing Management Certification (CTME)

  • Incident Safety Officer - Fire Suppression Certification (ISO)

  • Certification in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM)

  • Manager of Quality/Organizational Excellence Certification CMQ/OE

  • Six Sigma Green Belt

  • Master Project Manager (MPM)

The AI product development life cycle can differ from the standard. Building AI skills can be an excellent way to set yourself apart from other candidates and stay current with the evolving tech landscape. With IBM's AI Product Manager Professional Certificate, you can learn to apply your leadership skills to the AI product management lifecycle. You'll examine real-world case studies of successful AI integration and develop or strengthen your knowledge of Agile concepts and methodologies. By the end, you'll have earned a Professional Certificate from an industry leader in technology.

Next steps 

If want to pursue a career in production management, a great place to start is by learning more about the manufacturing management process by taking the Advanced Manufacturing Enterprise course offered by The State University of New York. You can also brush up on your leadership skills with the Leading People and Teams Specialization delivered by the University of Michigan. 

Article sources


US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Industrial Production Managers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/industrial-production-managers.htm#tab-5.” Accessed July 6, 2023.

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