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.
How to get started?
Manipal Institute of Technology (MIT) is one of the few institutes in India that offers M.Tech in engineering management. It is the first PG (two-year) course that MIT started offering in 1988.
“Most of the students who approach us for this course apply after a few years of experience in the technical field. They are taught subjects like resource optimisation techniques in engineering concerns and production and operations management including modeling and simulation techniques using system dynamics in supply chain management both in production and service sectors. Students take up industry-related projects in their second year. They select a problem in an industry of their choice and present a dissertation on the problem, analysis and solution.
“Most of the students who approach us for this course apply after a few years of experience in the technical field.”
— Dr Raj Rodrigues, head of the Department of Humanities & Social Sciences, Manipal Institute of Technology
This involves academic research and interaction with people from the industry,” says Dr Raj Rodrigues, head of the Department of Humanities & Social Sciences, Manipal Institute of Technology.
Most students prefer the automobile, mechanical or IT industry. “In the second year of the course, students have to intern with a company. GE, Volvo and Ashok Leyland are some of the organisations that welcome our students for internships. Often, internships get converted into placements. Other companies that hire in this field are Cisco, Nokia, Mahindra & Mahindra and Siemens,” adds Prof. Sreekanth Rao, mechanical engineering, associate director (industrial liaison and placement), Manipal Institute of Technology.
The Department of Industrial Engineering and Management at IIT Kharagpur, for the last three decades, has been imparting training in the field of industrial engineering and management through its undergraduate, postgraduate and research programmes, sponsored projects and industrial consultancy work, short-term courses and continuing education programmes. Today, it is known across the nation for its research and consultancy potential and capability in industrial engineering and related areas.
Following are the broad areas covered by industrial engineering and management: Operations research and related decision sciences; work systems design and ergonomics; supply chain management; quality engineering and management; systems engineering; and software engineering and e-business.
“While hiring an engineering manager, recruiters look for stronger analytical skills, innovative abilities and system thinking, amongst others.”
— Dr R.P. Mohanty, former chairman, Indian
Institution of Industrial Engineering (IIIE)
The Department of Management Studies, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), is one of the oldest management schools in the country. It has a strong research programme leading to M.Sc (Engg) and Ph.D degrees in management for full-time students, to teachers from engineering colleges under Quality Improvement Programme (QIP), and to practicing professionals from the industry on part-time basis through External Registration Programme (ERP)
“GE, Volvo and Ashok Leyland are some of the organisations that welcome our students for internships.”
— Prof. Sreekanth Rao, mechanical engineering, associate director (industrial liaison and placement), Manipal Institute of Technology
“IISc offers a Masters of Management keeping the technology aspect alive with subjects like technology management and business analytics. There is a need for technical people who are also futuristic and have leadership skills in the industry,” quips Prof. M.H. Bala Subrahmanya, chair- man, Department of Management Studies, IISc.
The degree looks beyond traditional MBAs and exposes students to energy policy, industrial policy, optimisation, sustainability, management of intellectual property, etc.
This is required in technology-intensive organisations. In an attempt to convert the students into technopreneurs, they are exposed to the industry directly with research activities and internship. In their third semester, students have to submit a dissertation which requires a lot of research and analysis. A professor and a senior person from the industry mentor each student. The fourth semester is a seven-month internship in their field of interest. Alternatively, some of them are encouraged to get exposure to business incubation, venture capital funds and successful start-ups. The course fee is about Rs 160,000 for the two-year programme.
Working engineers ready to transition into management positions can also opt for online engineering management degrees, which have become increasingly popular these days. They can easily study part-time without giving up their valuable career experience.
Most jobs are in IT/software services (35 per cent), while 33 per cent are in manufacturing/FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods or consumer packaged goods) and the rest are in consulting and others.
“Competent students of this discipline will have a lot of opportunities in consulting.”
— Biswajit Mahanty, professor and head, Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, IIT Kharagpur
“Opportunities in the electronics manufacturing and PCB assembly industries are very good. Students can look forward to higher growth in these industries in the coming years,” says Suresh Nair, director, Leaptech Corporation.
Nokia, Siemens, Videocon, Onida, Samsung, LG, Sanmina-SCI, Flextronics, Philips, Jabil and Havells are some of the major recruiters in this industry.
How much rewarding can it be?
Salary compensation is good for the beginners but not comparable to certain other industries. But as one gains experience and knowledge, growth prospects are tremendous.
“The pay package starts from over Rs 500,000 per annum and there is no upper limit to it,” informs Prof. Sreekanth Rao. On the other hand, those with prior experience in the industry can start with a salary of Rs 800,000 to 1 million per annum.
In consulting companies, the career graph for an engineering manger would be at par with any other management trainee. In a manufacturing/ service company, on the other hand, it would vary. The job profile being more of supporting nature to top management, the companies would look for master-level degrees rather than undergraduate degrees.
How to get a foothold
Up to this point, you have received enough boosters about the opportunities to be grabbed in the engineering management field. You may be wondering now how to get a foothold in this field. Well, recruiters mainly look for the ability to understand, manage and develop new and changing technology. Communication skills, client management, cost control, supply chain management and resource optimisation are some of the other factors taken into consideration while hiring.
“Leaptech would be interested more in engineering managers who are from the same industry and with similar experience and knowledge, as we cater to the capital equipment requirement of the PCB assembly industry specifically,” says Nair.
Dr Mohanty adds, “While hiring an engineering manager, recruiters look for stronger analytical skills, innovative abilities and system thinking, amongst others. Industrial engineers are best suited as they are educated with a curriculum which involves most analytical techniques.”
Executives need to have the ability to understand, assess and forecast how technologies affect the systems within and outside the organisation. “They have to understand the aspect of environment and economy. Formal education in analytics will strengthen their capability to perform robust analyses and take decisions in information- and data-driven organisations,” advises Prof. Subrahmanya.
Finally, your future is in your hands. So don’t hesitate to explore all the possible ways before final settlement. Spend enough time digging out all possibilities to get a practical exposure. Who says engineers can’t be good managers? They can surely be one, provided they think about managing their management performance in a similar way to doing engineering.