Project manager

Project Manager Role in the Automotive Industry

AEHQ Automotive Career Choices 2 Comments

Have you ever been to a football and enjoyed watching a marching band perform during halftime? Or watched a choreographed dance by a troupe of ballet dancers? These activities are possible because they are carefully orchestrated with timing, balance of resources and synchronization and in each of these cases the leader of the group is responsible for putting together all of these activities so that they flow together harmoniously. When you are developing and launching an automotive product, there is one person who is responsible for making sure all the activities come together on time and on schedule – the project manager. The project manager is the one who brings the entire team together and manages all of the schedule, budget and risks to bring a robust product to market.

Background requirements for a project manager

The first step to working in the project manager arena is to earn an engineering position in the automotive field and begin working in the industry to gain experience. The engineering degree that you choose is going to be specific to the company you choose to work for such as a mechanical engineering degree for design or tooling engineering role or and electrical engineering for componentry and circuit design. To earn an engineering degree you will need to have a strong background in the core classes while you are in high school such as math, science and chemistry and then apply to the best engineering school that you can afford. Once you have been accepted to an engineering school and selected your desired degree program and specialty then you can begin to gather the additional experience you need to move into the project manager arena.

The project manager is required to have a strong engineering foundation and be familiar with all areas of the product development and manufacturing process since they are the ‘go to’ person when a problem arises. Most project managers will have worked in their desired field for several years before moving into that role or they will work as a junior project manager prior to taking a larger project.

There are two educational programs available for those who are interested in project management. The first is to earn a degree in project management from a qualified university and the second option is to take the project management certification test that is offered through the Program Management Institute or PMI. PMI offers a variety of training programs and certifications and is the recognized authority in the project management field. While a certification or project management degree is not required to work as a project manager, if you are new in the field then it will certainly help to earn the first project management position.

A day in the life of a project manager

The project manager role is one of the most interesting in the automotive field because it requires you to work with all aspects of the program. From the initial planning stages when the group comes together and builds the master schedule, budget and product requirements to the very end of the program when a product launches or even goes into end of life and service only support the project manager will be intimately involved in all the details of the program to ensure that everything runs smoothly and efficiently while the product is being developed. A typical day for a project engineer may begin with a design review meeting to review the next revision of the drawings and then a meeting with the production team to schedule a prototype build. They will typically touch base with their materials and planning group to make sure that supply chains are being set up and deliveries are on schedule. The project manager will interface with the end customer to see how the final validation testing is progressing and then may have a schedule review meeting with the entire development team before publishing an update to management regarding the progress of the whole development. Overall, the project manager will communicate daily with all team members and ensure that  any obstacles stopping progress are dealt with so that the experts on the team can do their jobs.

The project manager role is one of the most rewarding jobs when a project is successful. However this role can also be tough when there is a difficult project and the blame falls on them. No matter what type of program you work with it is very rewarding when the final product is launched and you can lead the team to celebrate their accomplishments.

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