Ken Huizenga supervised the production department at Spectrum Printing for over 32 years. He’s a native of Chicago, Illinois but moved to Arizona shortly after High School. After being introduced to the printing craft in Trade School during his Junior year of High School, He started working after graduation and that’s all that he has ever done.
What education or training is required to be qualified for this position?
The role of Production Manager is typically filled by someone who has hands-on experience in all facets of printing production. The best fit for this role is someone who has operated an offset printing press, folding equipment, guillotine cutter and worked in the bindery.
Practical experience in production roles is the best training for this role but education need not stop with experience only. There are classes available that offer certifications in computer applications that play a large role in the modern production facility.
Over time, as printing companies typically replace equipment, the production manager will need to know the operations of the new devices. The equipment manufacturers usually offer some formal classroom time and in-house demonstration to get operators and managers up to speed.
What are the physical demands of the work?
The workday for a Production Manager is normally longer than 8 hours and during the busiest times can stretch to 12 hours.
A typical day requires hard work and problem-solving, with few breaks. While the role is management of people and processes, it often requires hands-on operation of any of the equipment on the floor.
Ken has the ability to operate any machine in the printing plant and often does. When all operators are busy and something else needs to be done, it’s the production manager who jumps in to keep production flowing.
Are there safety issues to consider for this type of career? What are they?
Printing production is generally a safe environment but any time there is high-speed machinery involved, caution is important. The biggest risk would be injury to your hands when operating some of the presses and finishing equipment.
Do you work shifts?
Spectrum Printing is a one shift shop, so Ken works days. Some printing companies run multiple shifts and may or may not require supervisors to be scheduled on all shifts. The standard role of Production Manager is going to be normal business hours.
What are the things that you most enjoy about your workday? What is rewarding about what you do?
A production supervisor is similar to a coach or baseball manager. Ken likes knowing that he is a resource for the staff. When they encounter a production challenge he is someone that they rely on to help them through it. Often the solution is by demonstration.
What kind of basic interests or skills fit well for this position?
Mechanical aptitude is a real benefit and an electrical interest helps. Ken took basic electronics in trade school; with this knowledge, he has been able to solve some issues like replacing a video board.
As a manager in charge of hiring and finding talent, he finds that people who like to work with their hands make good craftsmen and women. He has also noticed that a background in music is beneficial. Musicians have good hand dexterity.
What are the most demanding requirements of the position?
In addition to days filled with troubleshooting as a consultant for the production staff, this role includes input on scheduling. Printers are custom manufacturers with multiple jobs in-house at any given time. These jobs have varying production requirements and deadlines. Piecing them all together requires teamwork.
Owners and General Managers rely on Production Managers to help evaluate big-ticket expenses. When future demands of equipment and life expectancy of current equipment is under consideration the production manager plays a key role in determining what and where the money is invested.
What changes do you foresee coming in the next 5-10 years that might affect this type of work? It could be advancements in technology, demographic shift that creates more or less opportunity, etc?
Ken sees more digital capacity in the pressroom. With digital operations, basic computer operating skills will become more useful.
If you enjoy working with your hands, like to problem solve and enjoy taking on major responsibility then this might very well be a career path for you.
According to a wage survey that Printing Industries of America (PIA) conducted in 2018, the average compensation for this type of position is around $80,000. The salary will vary by Region and by experience.