Engineering professionals joining manufacturing companies sometimes grow to become engineering managers or require managerial skills at some point of their career. They may have had plenty of engineering training, but they have to frequently learn management skills too once they are on the job. Although it’s not a very effective way to develop managerial abilities, the fact remains that these professionals learn to manage through trial and error.
For this, they need to know both the subjects well—technology and management. Their knowledge of technology falls into place when they apply their managerial skills. The scientific background helps them understand better how to optimise resources and develop innovations in technology. This is why MBA by itself is not suited for engineering management. Rather, the students need to learn management in a technical scenario. The course is very popular in the US but not many are aware of its existence in India.
Let’s understand the field
Engineering management primarily deals with optimisation of work systems. This includes improving the efficiency and effectiveness in manufacturing as well as service sectors. Engineering management programmes typically include human resource management, industrial psychology, mathematical modeling and optimisation, quality control and operations research.
In the aftermath of globalisation, companies are increasingly looking for performance improvement in order to remain competitive in the market. In this backdrop, the demand for this discipline should only go up with time.
The job outlook in engineering management is good and there is a big scope for growth as most companies are short of managers with technical insight. “I personally believe that competent students of this discipline will have a lot of opportunities in consulting. Similar opportunities will also be created in manufacturing and service sectors,” opines Biswajit Mahanty, professor and head, Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, IIT Kharagpur.
Like any other industry, in the electronics industry too, there are opportunities in various fields like research and development (R&D), design, engineering, manufacturing, production, procurement and marketing. Each of these fields has its own growth opportunities, more so in design, engineering, production, procurement and marketing.
Engineering management is taught in India under many different titles. One such discipline is industrial engineering and management. Industrial engineering, which deals with optimisation of complex processes or systems, is also known as operations management, management science, operations research, systems engineering or manufacturing engineering—usually, depending on the sub-specialities involved.
“American Institute of Industrial Engineers (AIIE) and all other professional bodies across the world have defined industrial engineering as concerned with the design, improvement and installation of integrated systems of men, materials and equipment. It draws upon specialised knowledge and skill in the mathematical, physical and social sciences together with the principles and methods of engineering analysis and design, to specify, predict and evaluate the results to be obtained from such systems,” says Dr R.P. Mohanty, former chairman, Indian Institution of Industrial Engineering (IIIE).
“Opportunities in the electronics manufacturing and PCB assembly industries are very good.”
— Suresh Nair, director, Leaptech Corporation
Who should opt for it?
Before you embark on this journey that brings together the problem-solving skills of engineering and the organisational abilities of management to oversee complex enterprises from conception to completion, it is important to evaluate whether this career is a good fit for you.
“There is a need for technical people who are also futuristic and have leadership skills in the industry.”
— Prof. M.H. Bala Subrahmanya, chairman, Department of Management Studies, IISc
Candidates who wish to pursue engineering management as profession should be able to solve challenging problems, visualise solutions using computer modeling and design tools, and apply abstract thought to problem solving. These skills become important as engineering managers are required to oversee the design of machinery, equipment, products or systems; design and assess the feasibility of new products or processes; oversee direct production, quality assurance or maintenance; and coordinate with other units such as management, financial and marketing.
What role to choose?
A degree in engineering management qualifies you for a diverse array of jobs—one of the most attractive facets of this field. These positions range from the academic to the technical. As an engineering manager, you will have to focus on product development, materials management, production processes and workforce reliability.
The career paths for a professional in this field may include manufacturing, financial services, logistics,
engineering, technical sales, project planning/management and quality management/control. Following are a few job titles for engineering management professionals:
1. Project manager
2. Manufacturing engineer
4. Quality assurance engineer
5. Financial analyst
6. Production supervisor
7. Systems engineer and analyst
8. Technical sales representative
As an engineering manager, your responsibilities will largely be in staff position rather than in line position. “This means the engineering management graduates will more often than not support the top management rather than become part of the top management themselves,” adds Prof. Mahanty.