Did you know that some of the most popular project management methodologies were born in the manufacturing industry?
In the 1940s, Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota, developed Kanban (named after Toyota’s tracking cards) to improve the manufacturer’s efficiency. He redesigned the production process by copying the way that supermarkets stock their shelves: they only get re-stocked when all the products are sold, i.e. “just in time”.
And Six Sigma was introduced by engineer Bill Smith when he worked at Motorola in 1980, before Jack Welch made it central to his business strategy at General Electric in 1995.
With roots like these, it’s no surprise that being a project manager in manufacturing is a big deal. And it’s a great job – you physically get to see your projects taking shape in a way that software development project managers can only dream of. But the pressure is real – production rates, cost of manufacturing, complex supply chains, and tight deadlines abound.
What does it take to be a good project manager in the manufacturing industry?
A solid understanding of project management processes is key
If you are considering becoming a project manager in manufacturing, you will need to have a solid grasp of project management methodologies. Many companies use a combination of the most popular approaches, so a good understanding of how and when to apply each is critical.
You also need to understand project interdependencies and be able to quickly identify the critical path so that scheduling is not affected by unforeseen predecessors.
A certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI) is a must.
Read more: Your guide to PMI certifications
Excellent organization and a firm hand will keep things on track
One of the biggest challenges for any project manager, especially one in manufacturing, is to balance the ‘devil’s quadrangle’ by carefully managing each project’s scope, cost, timeline and quality.
Pushing back on proposed scope changes, ensuring that resources are available when you need them, and keeping costs under control while working to a deadline requires careful planning, excellent communication skills, and the ability to ‘get it done’ - no matter what.
Read more: 6 soft skills every project manager needs
Project management software skills aren’t optional
In manufacturing, you’ll be managing a complex supply chain with many interdependent processes. You’ll probably be working on more than one project at a time and be liaising with various internal and supplier teams. And you’ll regularly be required to produce Project Status Reports.
All of this means that you’ll need to know how to use project management software.
Viewpath is a powerful but intuitive cloud-based project management solution that helps project teams collaboration productively. It integrates with Salesforce and Servicemax, making deployments within these environments simple and cost effective.
Viewpath is hosted in the cloud, so there’s nothing to download. Simply log in to view team availability, assign tasks and collaborate with teams in real time – no matter where they’re based.