Engineers in consumer product companies oversee the machinery that manufactures goods and make sure production lines run smoothly. They maintain, upgrade and optimise equipment, and are responsible for buildings too.
The goal is to have ‘zero machine downtime’, so it’s important to be able to spot problems before they occur, and when things do go wrong engineers need to work fast to solve problems and get manufacturing going again. The demands of the work reflect the nature of the sector, with its fast pace and emphasis on producing a high volume of relatively low-cost goods in order to generate profit.
What is it like doing a graduate job in consumer product manufacturing and engineering?
When a new product is being launched, graduate engineers are involved in the process design for manufacturing it. They assess what machinery and equipment will be needed, and how it will be maintained. They then write a machine specification, design or acquire machinery and set it up. They may work on this as part of a multi-disciplinary project team, alongside production colleagues who assess what ingredients are required and in what volumes, and how many people are required to man the production lines. Graduate engineers in this sector also develop ways of managing, reducing and recycling waste.
Roles in production involve working on creating the product and ensuring it meets the required quality levels. There is also a strong focus on people management. Production supervisors manage the equipment and teams of people who run the production lines, and also liaise with other areas of the business and with external suppliers and distributors.
Manufacturing roles involve increasing efficiency and improving industrial performance. You could find yourself building project teams that can measure, analyse and understand the root causes of a problem, implement solutions and put control mechanisms in place to ensure that improvements are sustainable. You’ll eliminate waste and activities that don’t add value to the business, increase the reliability and efficiency of production line operation and performance, and reduce major production issues.
You’ll probably be expected to move around on different placements to work at different manufacturing sites, and you should given the chance to get to know the company and other functions within the business.
What skills, aptitudes and qualifications are needed for manufacturing and engineering jobs in the FMCG sector?
If you don’t want a desk job, an engineering role in the consumer products sector is a good choice as you’re likely to find yourself spending plenty of time on the factory floor. However, if you take on a managerial role, such as overseeing a team of engineers that is responsible for maintaining factory equipment and troubleshooting when problems occur, you could find yourself spending equal amounts of time in the office on activities such as forward planning, training and appraisals.
For engineering roles you’ll need a degree in an engineering discipline. You’ll need good communication skills, the ability to think on your feet, an enthusiastic, can-do approach, resilience and analytical ability, and the motivation to drive continuous improvement. You may need to be able to cope with shift work as production lines usually operate on a 24-hour cycle. For production roles, a slightly wider range of degree subjects, including disciplines such as food science and technology, may be considered.
In manufacturing roles, you’ll need good people skills, as you’ll work with people at all levels of the company, from senior management to the operators that run the production line. Project management skills are important. You may be able to apply for manufacturing graduate roles from a range of degree disciplines.
Some graduate recruiters don’t ask you to choose between the manufacturing and engineering elements of their graduate programmes as these are so closely related, and prefer to decide themselves which aspect you are best suited to.