Fast moving consumer goods: industry sector overview
Engineers in the fast-moving consumer goods industry work on familiar products that are used in people's daily lives, says Helen Hudson, a personal care factory director at Unilever.
Fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies deliver products to customers at a high rate of turnover and with a high level of innovation. The market is exceptionally competitive and each company seeks to motivate, excite and encourage people into buying and using their products.
From an engineer's perspective you have to translate this business goal into products and processes.This is not 'classic' engineering (as in working on cars and structures) where it's the same thing every day; each day is different as the products change.
From the chemical angle, you could be working on making sure a product 'does what it's supposed to do', ie cleans properly or smells nice, but also on any value that you can add. Other teams might be looking at the cases and packaging and how people will get it onto the shelves for customers to buy.
Major players in this area include Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark or food producers such as Nestlé and Kellogg's. Some of the names that students may be familiar with, such as Heinz, are brands – so it's best to look at the parent company behind them.
Trends and developments in fast moving consumer goods
Sustainability is becoming more important to the industry. Consumers may not understand all the different things that have to happen from supply to coffee table in order to produce a cup of tea. Today, more people and companies are focused on making sure suppliers are paid fairly, practices are sustainable and carbon footprints are kept small.
What it's like working in the fast moving consumer goods industry
Factory-based engineers may undertake some element of travel, for example to buy equipment. For design roles, you may be called out to a project anywhere in the world, either for a temporary visit or as a long stay of three years or so.
The average lead time on a project is two to three years from conception to finish, but shorter projects could be pushed through in considerably less time. Engineers will always be working in a team, either as a large contingent from the same discipline, or cross-functionally with research and development, scientists, engineers and marketing, linking ideas on a product.
Getting a graduate engineering job in fast moving consumer goods
The best way for graduates to enter this industry is via one of the major player's graduate schemes. This means that you will experience different parts of the business over the course of a two- or three-year training scheme, which may lead to a position as a manager or a technical specialist. Graduates may be supported for chartership through experience in the workplace.
The highlights of a career in fast moving consumer goods
- It's a good training ground where you'll learn a lot quickly.
- There is a broad range of career opportunities once you have gained foundation experience.
- You work on familiar products that are used in people's daily lives.
The fast moving consumer goods industry seeks graduates from the following disciplines:.
- power systems
Always check individual employer's requirements.
Thanks to Helen Hudson, CEng IChemE, for her help with this article. Helen is a personal care factory director at Unilever. She has an MEng in chemical and biological engineering from the University of Bath, and has been working in the industry for 21 years.