Engineering Planner

Materials Planner

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In my career as a Program Manager I’ve had many long conversations with our Materials Planning organizations.  It seems, that no matter how much we coordinate the development activities during the early phases of our products as we approach the prototype and pilot stages where all parts must be representative of the end product, we are constantly waiting for parts to be delivered.  While this may seem to be due to a lack of planning if you just look at it from the outside, it actually is an integral part of the development process and why the Materials Planner has such an important position within the design and development teams.

But what exactly is this critical position in the team?

Materials Planner Job Description

The materials planning job involves looking at the design or material specifications of an incoming raw material, part or assembly and coordinates the build and delivery of the part with the suppliers.  In most cases, two suppliers are required for each part essentially doubling the required work for the planner.  (Having two suppliers is a risk mitigation strategy that manufacturers use to ensure that they line will never be out of a critical component if disaster strikes on supplier.  When a supplier is the only one available then contingency plans and additional inventory need to be maintained to ensure that production never stops.)  The planner will first establish a relationship with a supplier and then work to have the supplier set up a steady delivery of parts to support development activities and volume product after the product is qualified.  They will coordinate purchasing, delivery and then coordinate having the parts on the floor when production is underway.  Their job is critical to keeping production up and running while ensuring that there is sufficient inventory available to support the assembly process.

Their role is so critical that they are on call 24/7 to ensure that products arrive on time with their ultimate goal being to never stop the production line.

Becoming a Materials Planner

Materials planners start similar to other engineering fields that show up in the automotive industry.  People who enter this field typically have an engineering degree but will focus on industrial engineering and similar applications to allow them to understand the needs of keeping an assembly line up and running.  To earn an engineering degree high school students need to have a solid foundation in math, sciences and chemistry plus, demonstrate an active role in their school and a variety of social organizations.  When you have a well-rounded educational background you will be better prepared to be successful in this field.

Many students choose to do an internship when they are studying for an engineering degree.  These internships allow students to gain valuable experience working in their chosen field while they are still earning their college degree.  College interns will typically rotate through multiple groups while they are still in school giving them exposure to a multitude of different areas that they can later chose to work in once their degree work has been completed.  College internship experience is particularly helpful for the materials planner position.  This is because the materials planner must have a comprehensive knowledge of the design, materials and assembly process in order to manage the suppliers, coordinate deliveries and understand the process for assembling the end product.  All of these experiences are rolled into one job as the Material Planner.

There are many opportunities within the automotive engineering field and the Materials Planner is one that just happens to influence across all areas from design to production.  If you enjoy coordinating materials and talking with suppliers all over the world to ensure parts arrive on time, then consider a job as a Materials Planner!

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