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8 skills you need as a Principal Manufacturing Engineer

Have you thought that it’s about time to progress in your career from a Manufacturing Engineer to a Senior or Principal Engineer? Then read on. In this blog, we have researched and collated 8 skills needed to be a successful Senior or Principal Manufacturing Engineer.

What is a Principal Manufacturing Engineer?

Firstly, what is a Principal Engineer, and how much different is this role compared to a Manufacturing Engineer or Production Engineer? A Principal Manufacturing Engineer takes the lead on advanced projects, or New Product Introduction, which often involves overseeing a team of engineers, and ensuring that the project or manufacturing process improvement is carried out to a high standard of efficiency. They ensure the processes, machinery, and equipment are all in situ to deliver economically competitive products to the highest quality standards.

How is this different from a Manufacturing Engineer? The Principal or Senior Manufacturing Engineers generally work on more complex projects, specifying projects requiring the most capital expenditure or the manufacturing processes causing the greatest issues whilst liaising with senior management, influencing changes to management strategies.

What skills do Principal Manufacturing Engineers need?

1. Ability to work well under pressure

In a Principal or Senior Manufacturing Engineer job, you will be given the more complex projects to manage through to completion. At some point in your career, you will face strict, un-moveable deadlines that may seem unreachable. It will be your job to work through the pressure and lead your team to completion.

2. Strong leadership

A good leader knows how to get the most out of their team. You will need to be no different, as you will be leading complex projects; it will be your job to lead, guide, and inspire your team of manufacturing engineers through obstacles and high-pressure situations whilst applying a range of continuous improvement techniques -
Lean manufacturing or Lean production.

3. Strong project management skills

Strong project management skills are needed to get through complex projects. Knowledge of project management methods, processes, and procedures will be required to manage a project’s day-to-day running. Procedures will be beneficial as this help guide your team to perform specific tasks to company standards and avoid confusion.

4. Problem-solving

Even the best-laid plans and weeks of planning can come undone when a problem arises in a manufacturing process or project. This is where your experience, leadership skills, and ability to work under pressure come together to problem-solve issues as they crop up and help the team get through challenging situations and keep on track to the deadline. You will develop new organisational standards for validation protocols for product and process and manufacturing procedures.

5. Proficiency in software packages such as computer-aided design (CAD)

A Principal Manufacturing Engineer is often proficient with computer-aided design software such as Inventor, SolidEdge, Solidworks and/or PCB tools such as Altium. OrCad, Protel, etc. It will be your role to use CAD software to review schematics and documentation, ensuring that they meet the quality standards of the company as well as free from errors, optimising the manufacturing process to meet the needs of the customer.

6. Knowledge of production and processes

You will apply a range of manufacturing and process techniques whilst training more junior manufacturing engineers on the likes of:

  • Just-in-time (JIT)
  • Lean
  • 5S
  • Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)
  • Kanban
  • Total Quality Management (TQM)
  • Cell Layout
  • Visual aids
  • Work standards all in a continuous improvement "Kaizen-mode"

These processes and techniques enable complex manufacturing to be carried out by just a few staff more safely, consistently and cost-effectively, which will benefit any complex project you are working on.

7. Engineering qualifications and training

Educating yourself by going to training sessions and academic learning, such as Six Sigma or Lean, will only strengthen your position as a Principal Manufacturing Engineer. You will learn different ways of approaching situations which is immeasurable when faced with manufacturing complexities, especially in new product introductions that require problem-solving.

8. Knowledge of equipment

Understanding the manufacturing process equipment, from SMT to CNC machining, you will be working with external suppliers to become the expert in your field. Thus you’ll be able to train other engineers whilst maximising their efficiency. Browse our manufacturing jobs today to take the next step in your career. 

Redline Group - the UK’s most trusted Electronics and High Technology recruitment specialist for professional Contract, Permanent and Executive positions.

For more information from a trusted partner with over four decades of experience in knowledge-led recruitment, please contact us on 01582 450054 or email


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