The Manufacturing and Industrial Sector: Jobs, Skills and Job Outlook
The Manufacturing and Industrial sector encompasses all of those activities in which goods are produced using industrial production or manufacturing processes.
It is also referred to as the “secondary sector” of the economy, to distinguish it from the primary sector (or raw materials sector) and the tertiary, or ‘services’ sector.
Typical responsibilities of workers in the Manufacturing and Industrial sector include performing sets of sequential operations on a production or assembly line and monitoring machine operations.
In industrial manufacturing processes, raw materials or semi-finished goods are transformed into a final product using production equipment and machinery that are largely automated.
Manufacturing processes vary widely depending on the manufacturing industry, although they all require energy, machinery and occasional human intervention. They may also involve chemical and physical reactions, machining, material handling. Some of the most common industrial processes include casting, extrusion, welding, turning and milling, electrolysis, component assembly, moulding, spinning and food processing.
The distinctive characteristic of industrial manufacturing processes - and what distinguishes them from artisanal production processes - is mass production, i.e. the use of standardized manufacturing procedures to produce goods on a large scale. Another key feature of industrial production is that every single item produced has the same characteristics, within a certain level of tolerance.
Many industrial sector professionals are therefore involved in planning and overseeing production processes and in quality control roles.
One way of looking at the manufacturing and industrial sector is to divide it up into heavy industry - which is capital and infrastructure-intensive (e.g. extractive industries, energy industry, steel industry, chemical industry and the engineering industry) - and light industry, which typically produces smaller consumer goods.
Alternatively, we can distinguish between industries with high and low levels of labour intensity, or between low technology and high technology manufacturing. For example, the textiles and footwear industries are examples of low technology manufacturing, while the chemical, pharmaceutical, electronics, automotive and steel industries employ high technology processes, meaning they have greater scope for major product and process innovations.
What types of businesses operate in the Industrial and Manufacturing sector?
The Manufacturing and Industrial sector encompasses a wide variety of businesses, including mineral extraction companies, steel producers, engineering and metal fabrication companies, automobile manufacturers, electronic equipment and component manufacturers, chemical and pharmaceutical companies, food processing businesses, textiles and garment manufacturers, furniture businesses and many more besides.
A significant proportion of manufacturing and industrial activities are carried out by large businesses and multinationals employing thousands in various production facilities.
However, the industrial and manufacturing industry also includes a large number of small and medium manufacturing companies, whose key strengths include greater flexibility and the ability to meet customer requests for limited production runs.
Companies hiring in the manufacturing and industrial production sector:
Manufacturing Industry - Trends and Job Outlook
Employment trends in the manufacturing and industrial sector are being affected by rapid technological development, with robotics and industrial automation revolutionizing the world of industry.
The demand for unskilled workers is falling, as automated machinery replaces human operators in the production process. On the other hand, with production personnel increasingly expected to programme machinery and monitor automated operations rather than directly operate equipment, demand for specialized personnel capable of using advanced computerized systems is on the rise.
There are a number of highly innovative areas in the manufacturing and industrial production sector offering interesting career prospects, such as mechatronics, 3D design and printing for large scale production, the industrial internet of things (IIoT) and cloud manufacturing.
One of the challenges facing the manufacturing industry is dealing with the consequences of globalization, which has brought advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, there are more opportunities for export, but at the same time competition has increased.
What skills are required in the manufacturing and industrial production sector?
Manufacturing and industrial sector workers perform a wide variety of roles. Some work on production lines, others are responsible for maintenance, others for monitoring production machinery, while others still work in research and development or design.
The training requirements vary accordingly, ranging from vocational or professional training through to degrees in Mechanical Engineering or Engineering Management .
There are, however, a number of transversal skills that all manufacturing and industrial sector workers require:
Knowledge of industrial manufacturing plant and machinery
An essential skill for manufacturing and industrial sector workers is being able to operate and monitor the production machinery to which they are assigned. The advent of computer numerical control and production line automation has meant workers are now responsible for entering and adjusting machine settings, monitoring operations and intervening in the event of breakdowns or malfunctions.
Although the methods and instruments used may vary from profession to profession, the analytical skills required to perform quality control activities in an industrial production environment remain basically unchanged - whether it’s an operative checking the accuracy of a machined workpiece, a manager certifying that the goods leaving a production facility meet a specific standard or an engineer overseeing the performance and quality of a production process.
With industrial processes and procedures evolving rapidly - thanks in no small part to the growing use of ICT technology in production facilities - companies are on the look-out for flexible personnel to work in the factories of the future. Candidates will need to be capable of learning new skills, tackling new technological challenges and adjusting their working rhythms to meet production requirements.
Manufacturing - Job Descriptions
Interested in finding out more about jobs in the Manufacturing and Industrial sector?
Take a look at the job descriptions we’ve prepared: