TRYENGINEERING CAREER PATHWAYS
Manufacturing engineering involves designing the processes to build high-quality products. They will design production facilities and recommend equipment such as lasers, welders, sorting equipment, and robotics to get the job done. They are focused on finding the right balance between a manufacturing budget and a manufacturing process to create a product that will generate profits. They need to remain knowledgeable of the latest technological options and also consider the long-term plan for a manufacturing facility so it will work efficiently and flexibly for decades to come.
They might be brought in to upgrade or improve an existing facility, improving operating efficiency or quality control through new equipment, software, or procedures.
Depending on their area of focus, they might observe a current facility and watch workers or robots assembling parts, or evaluate how a software upgrade to older equipment might impact production cycles.
Two fields that are often confused are industrial engineering and manufacturing engineering. Industrial engineers will focus on how people and machines work together, and seek to streamline procedures to increase efficiency, while manufacturing engineers are more involved with determining the best equipment and machinery required to create a product or system.
What makes it unique?
Manufacturing engineers are equipment focused and need to be able to consider how various pieces of equipment can work together, along with production staff, to create the desired end product. They can work in any industry that creates products…they could design a manufacturing facility to make pencils or rockets! They might work in the manufacture of components that end up in other products, such as an automobile rear view mirror…or orchestrate a larger manufacturing challenge, such as assembly of a complete car.
The following are examples of some accredited degrees leading to a career in manufacturing engineering:
- Manufacturing Engineering
- Manufacturing Engineering Technology
- Mechanical Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering Technology
- Engineering Management
- Process Engineering
- Systems Engineering
Search our global database of accredited engineering programs.
Want to learn more?
Click on the blue tabs to explore the field in more detail and learn about preparation and employment, the green tabs to be inspired by people working in manufacturing engineering and how they impact the world, and the orange tabs for ideas on how to learn more and you can get involved with activities, camps, and competitions!
Manufacturing engineering requires the ability to plan the practices of manufacturing. They might spend part of a day doing research on new processes or machines, or participate in meetings discussing how to best approach building a certain product and projecting costs based on different systems. They might find themselves traveling to observe equipment being used in other factories or approving progress at a manufacturing facility under development. They might be using technology to test a proposed manufacturing layout to make changes virtually before building the working version.
They will be working in teams with others and generally work 40 hours a week. But, if there is a new product being developed, or new equipment being evaluated, they may need to put in more hours. These crunch times can be anticipated, but they might also need to work unexpectedly if there is a breakdown and solutions need to be found to address an urgent matter.
Among other tasks, manufacturing engineers:
- Are involved with the process of manufacturing from planning to packaging of the finished product.
- Work with tools such as robots, programmable and numerical controllers, and vision systems to fine-tune assembly, packaging, and shipping facilities.
- Examine flow and the process of manufacturing equipment, looking for ways to streamline production, improve turnaround, and reduce costs.
- Work with prototypes, usually created electronically with computers, to plan the final manufacturing process.
- Figure out methods and systems to produce a product in an efficient, cost-effective way in order to provide a marketing edge for the final product.
The Assembly Line
Traditionally, a function of manufacturing engineering is planning factory layouts and organizing efficient assembly lines. Equipment is sources and processes are planned to be as efficient as possible while meeting product requirements and budgets.
Before the Industrial Revolution, most products were made by hand, but this system was not particularly efficient when a large quantity of products needed to be created quickly – as demand increased.
The advent of organized assembly lines revolutionized manufacturing by arranging machines and workers in such a way as to speed production while maintaining quality. The assembly line proved a way to increase profits and speed production. An early example of a linear and continuous assembly process was developed by the UK’s Portsmouth Block Mills, who developed parts for the rigging blocks used by the Royal Navy.
Most famously, the Ford Motor Company instituted and promoted their assembly line for manufacturing automobiles which included a moving conveyor to speed production. Their assembly line, in 1913, reduced production time for a Model T Ford to 93 minutes and divided the work into 45 steps. They say that they could produce a car faster than the paint on the car could dry!
In addition to speedier production, Ford believe that workers benefited as they did not have to do any heavy lifting, did not need to bend over, and didn’t require special training, so the work could be offered to more people.
Assembly lines have changed over the years, incorporating automated equipment, sensors, and robots to further speed production.
Find out more:
Manufacturing engineers are employed in a wide range of industries, including major manufacturing industries, consulting and engineering services, and government agencies. Anywhere that a product needs to be manufactured, manufacturing engineers are needed!
Robotics and Automation News magazine posts a list of the largest global manufacturing companies. And, the following is just a sample of some companies, in addition to government agencies, which employ manufacturing engineers:
For most engineering careers:
- a bachelor’s degree is required
- a master’s degree may be recommended for those specializing or interested in management
- students may also start with a related associate degree and then move on to a bachelor’s when they have settled on a degree path.
- many students are required to participate in a co-op program while at university to gain real world experience in their chosen field.
- education doesn’t really stop…engineers need to stay current as technology changes and materials and processes improve over time.
- many professional societies offer certificates and coursework to support continuing education for their members.
At the undergraduate level, examples of courses for manufacturing engineers include fluid dynamics, hydraulics, pneumatics, applied thermodynamics, instrumentation and measurement, manufacturing processes, automation, robotics, reverse engineering, CAD/CAM and solid modelling, and quality control.
It is important to select an engineering degree that has been accredited to meet basic standards. Find out more and browse TryEngineering’s global database of accredited engineering and computing programs.
One of the best ways to explore what it might be like to work in manufacturing engineering is to learn about people who contributed historically or are currently working in the field.
The following links offer more chances to see what people are doing in the field of manufacturing engineering:
- The Society of Manufacturing Engineers has compiled profiles of Twenty women making their mark in robotics & automation
- Henry Ford was founder of the automotive company bearing his name, and with his team revolutionized the assembly line.
- Prof Lord Bhattacharyya was a British-Indian engineer, educator and government advisor who established WMG (formerly Warwick Manufacturing Group), an academic multi-disciplinary unit at the University of Warwick, developed in order to reinvigorate UK manufacturing, through the application of cutting edge research and effective knowledge transfer. He explains what inspired him in the video to the right.
- Helen Lightbody is the Chief Operating Officer at the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre. She supports businesses to embrace advanced manufacturing technologies, de-risk innovation and improve products and processes.
In manufacturing, a digital twin is a virtual representation of a product, component, or an entire production process. It’s not simply a simulation though because the digital twin’s exact replica status is maintained through real-time updates – mirroring the actual production process and allowing tweaks to be made and evaluated virtually – in the live environment.
By viewing the operations of a digital twin, a manufacturer can virtually test the process of creating a product and simulate its performance. It can also be used to test how different scenarios impact production, and so help optimize output to more efficient and cost-effective.
Warehouses can use digital twins to evaluate different layout models to determine the best option before actual construction. It can also be used in manufacturing to test different scenarios to solve problems like supply chain limitations or product specification changes.
Digital twins are used beyond manufacturing as well. Chad Stoecker, VP of Industrial Managed Service for GE Digital explains in the video to the right applications for digital twins in evaluating jet engines in flight, submersible pumps in oil wells, and turbines in power plants.
Find out more:
Dig deeper into topics related to manufacturing engineering that interest you!
- Manufacturing Engineering
- Brookings: The future of global manufacturing
- Unimate: The First Industrial Robot
- Deloitte: 2021 Manufacturing Industry Outlook
- TryEngineering News Blog
- GE Digital What is a Digital Twin?
- How Things Are Made | An Animated Introduction to Manufacturing Processes
- 5 Must-Watch Manufacturing Process Videos Under 5 Minutes (Engineering.com)
Try it Out:
Clubs, competitions, and camps are some of the best ways to explore a career path and put your skills to the test in a friendly-competitive environment.
- Many schools have robotics clubs or opportunities for students to get together and work on challenges that provide a good basis for any engineering degree. Robotic competitions incorporate some of the skills needed by manufacturing engineers!
- FIRST Robotics Competition teams design, program, and build a robot starting with a standard kit of parts and common set of rules.
- SME: Digital Manufacturing Challenge
- ASME/SME Student Manufacturing Design Competition is designed to foster interest in manufacturing, provide the manufacturing engineering community with fresh new perspectives on design, and create a forum for students to share their new and innovative ideas.
- TryEngineering Summer Institute, US: Attend the TryEngineering Summer Institute to further your core engineering skills.
Many universities offer summer engineering experiences. Reach out to your local university’s engineering department to see what they offer.
Did you know you can explore manufacturing engineering in your community? Consider a local bakery, donut shop, or your school cafeteria:
- Is this a small scale or large scale bakery? Either way, they have determined a process using equipment to make their products in such a way to meet the demands of customers.
- What baking equipment do you think they are using? Consider mixers, blenders, and also the oven. How many ovens do they use? How many of each product do you think can be baked in one hour?
- What about refrigeration equipment? The raw products need to be stored safely, and the baked items need to not only be stored safely but perhaps also visible to customers. How many refrigerators do you think they own?
- What different types of display cases are used? Are they all refrigerated? Why would they need a mix of display cases?
- How many people are required to create the products they sell each week?
- Do you think they create their products during the same hours they sell them? If not, why not?
- What happens if a piece of equipment breaks down? Do you think they have back up equipment? A plan for adjusting manufacturing? Or do you think the bakery would have to shut down until the equipment was replaced? What would that do to their profits?
- What happens if a raw ingredient becomes hard to get? Do you think they have alternate sourcing plans? Or do you think the bakery would have to close until the item is available?
- Does this bakery ship their products? What equipment do they need to do this? Postage scale? Boxes? Is it automated?
- How flexible do you think this bakery is? What would happen if suddenly they had double the amount of customers? Could they handle the manufacturing surge?
Be sure to reach out to professional societies focused on manufacturing engineering where you live. Not all will offer membership to pre-university students, but most offer groups for university students, and certainly offer online resources to help you explore the field.
Some examples of groups focusing on manufacturing engineering:
- American Society for Precision Engineering
- American Society of Mechanical Engineers
- Association for Manufacturing Technology
- Association for Facilities Engineering (AFE)
- Society of Manufacturing Engineers
- IEEE Components, Packaging, and Manufacturing Technology
- IEEE Technology and Engineering Management Society
- IEEE Robotics and Automation Society
- IEEE Systems, Man, and Cybernetics Society
- National Manufacturing Institute Scotland
- Society of Manufacturing Engineers
- The Institution of Engineering and Technology