Fast moving consumer goods: industry sector overview
Fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) manufacturing is very much as the name suggests: high quality products that fly off the production lines as fast as they fly off supermarket shelves. Typical products include home cleaning items, personal hygiene goods and foodstuffs, such as crisps and ready meals. Major players include companies like Procter & Gamble and Unilever, which produce a wide portfolio of products, while other companies like Walkers and L’Oreal tend to focus on single product areas. In FMCG, engineers have the vital role of developing and managing manufacturing processes to remove costs and wastage and keep things moving – thousands of units of each product can come off a production line every minute. Engineers also continually innovate new machines and processes to match the demands made on products by consumers.
Trends and developments in fast moving consumer goods
Sustainability is the watchword and this expands beyond the industry’s manufacturing processes and facilities. The current issue is to reduce packaging. Another headline is ‘maintain reliability’: machines have to run consistently for long periods. Automation, robotics and programmable logical controllers are the focus. The goal is to run ‘lights out’ operations where machines are set running and left to run with no further human intervention.
What it's like working in the fast moving consumer goods industry
Manufacturing facilities are pressurised environments, but also brilliant training grounds. Engineers face new challenges every day and you’ll learn quickly about processes, equipment design and people. Graduates work alongside experienced engineers as part of a small team with responsibility for part of a process or a project, which could focus on improving an existing line or installing new technology. Many FMCG companies buy production lines off the peg and then customise and optimise them for their own purposes.
Getting a graduate job in fast moving consumer goods
Most engineering disciplines are applicable for jobs in manufacturing, but most applicants have a mechanical, chemical or electrical engineering background. In addition to technical understanding, employers want engineers with the right soft skills and personal capabilities, such as leadership and relationship building, flexibility, and the ability to think and act decisively. After a couple of years, you could progress to managing a line and the people running it, or move into an area that focuses on developing and implementing particular processes or technology. There are lots of opportunities to progress into interesting roles because the industry is so dynamic and embraces change to keep advancing.
The highlights of a career in fast moving consumer goods
- It’s a good training ground where you’ll learn a lot quickly.
- The broad range of career opportunities once you have gained foundation experience.
- Working on familiar products that are used in people’s daily lives.
The fast moving consumer goods industry seeks graduates in...
- Power systems
Always check individual employer’s requirements.
Thanks to Chris Traynor for his help with this article. Chris is a careers adviser and former engineer and engineering recruiter. He studied chemical engineering at the University of Strathclyde and worked in manufacturing for four years before moving to recruitment.