State of the Profession

'Happy' Days Are Here Again

July 18, 2014

One of the most popular hits on the charts in the past year has been the “Happy” song by Pharrell Williams. The lyrics include the following line: “Because I’m happy. Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth. Because I’m happy. Clap along if you know what happiness is to you.”

Most assembly professionals must be humming the catchy tune, because they are happy with their jobs today. Almost one-half (49 percent) of respondents to ASSEMBLY Magazine’s 2014 State of the Profession study claim they are “highly satisfied,” which is 4 percentage points higher than 2013. Only 8 percent claim they are “not satisfied.”

Manufacturing engineers are slightly happier than design engineers. Indeed, 46 percent of manufacturing engineers claim to be satisfied with their job vs. 44 percent of design engineers.

Overall, 57 percent of assemblers who are “highly satisfied” with their jobs earn more than $75,000 a year. Most individuals who are “not satisfied” did not receive cash bonuses in 2013 and provide little or no input on budgeting new assembly equipment.

The happiest assemblers work in the transportation equipment sector, where 68 percent of respondents claim to be “highly satisfied” with their jobs. Other industries with highly satisfied employees include plastics and rubber (62 percent), energy manufacturing (59 percent) and fabricated metal products (53 percent). In contrast, only 34 percent of assemblers in the computer and electronic products industry are “highly satisfied.”

Location can also influence happiness. For instance, the most recent Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index claims that people in North Dakota are the happiest, followed by South Dakota and Nebraska. West Virginia comes in at No 50, preceded by Kentucky and Mississippi.

In fact, Midwestern and Western states earned nine of the 10 highest well-being scores in 2013, while Southern states had eight of the 10 lowest scores. The well-being index is an average of six sub-indexes, which examine life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors and access to basic necessities.

The State of the Profession study reflects some of those findings. More assembly professionals who are “highly satisfied” live in the Midwest (56 percent) and the Northeast (48 percent) vs. the South (45 percent) and West (39 percent).

Job satisfaction is defined in different ways by different people. But, the top three reasons cited by assemblers are: “My job is challenging,” “I enjoy my work” “and “Constant changes keep things interesting.”

“My job is extremely rewarding and always changing,” says a manufacturing engineer in the transportation equipment industry. “There’s a constant feeling that you are working toward growth.”

“Our business has been growing, we have a great team of dedicated employees, we have been profitable and our customer satisfaction levels are high,” adds a plant manager in the medical equipment industry.

“I have a great boss, interesting work and a chance to innovate,” notes a design engineer in the machinery industry.

Of course, not all respondents are satisfied with their jobs. Common complaints from assemblers include low compensation, inept management and lack of resources.

“My company keeps adding vp-level positions, but keeps downsizing the production support people,” laments a manufacturing engineer in the fabricated metal products industry. “There is not a drop off in production requirements, yet our group is very understaffed for the amount of work expected.”

“I have lost my patience dealing with the local work force in our area,” notes a plant manager in the plastic and rubber products industry. “It has taken away from my time spent developing new products and production processes.”

“Older engineers are being overlooked for their experience and value to the company,” says a manufacturing engineer in the electrical equipment and appliance industry. “I am very frustrated with resource allocation. We have won a lot of new business, but do not have the resources in place to support it in all departments.”

Almost two-thirds (61 percent) of assemblers are under pressure to lower production costs today, which is 4 percentage points lower than in 2013. But, it depends on the size of the company.

For instance, only 39 percent of assemblers who work for smaller manufacturers (companies with less than 50 employees) are worried about production costs vs. 77 percent of assemblers who work for large manufacturers (companies with 1,000 or more employees).

Assemblers in the transportation equipment (82 percent), contract manufacturing (75 percent) and aerospace (70 percent) sectors are under more pressure to lower production costs than their peers in other industries.

Assembly professionals in the machinery industry (41 percent) are less concerned about lowering production costs. They are more worried about issues such as improving productivity and finding skilled workers.

Productivity is also important to assemblers in the electrical equipment and appliance industry (74 percent) and the aerospace (72 percent) sector.

Assemblers in the transportation equipment industry (60 percent) are the most eager to invest in capital equipment. Other industries that expect to commit more resources to new production equipment in the near future include contract manufacturers (55 percent) and computer and electronics (46 percent) manufacturers.

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