Workforce Essentials

Careers in Manufacturing 102

Careers in Manufacturing 102 provides a foundational overview of various fields within the manufacturing industry and common tasks they involve. Manufacturing provides many different career opportunities and a range of pathways to them. Individuals can tailor their own paths to the level and field of their choosing. Major career fields include development and design, production, quality, maintenance, health and safety, logistics, and business.

The manufacturing industry’s workforce needs are constantly changing, but manufacturers consistently report job openings, especially in skilled fields. After taking this class, users will be familiar with the variety of career opportunities and choices within manufacturing. This knowledge will help encourage and prepare them to select a career in manufacturing.

  • Difficulty Beginner

  • Format Online

  • Number of Lessons 14

  • Language English


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Course Outline
  • Opportunities in Manufacturing
  • The Manufacturing Workforce
  • Preparing for a Manufacturing Career
  • Development and Design
  • Production
  • Programming
  • Manufacturing Career Basics Review
  • Quality Control
  • Quality Assurance
  • Maintenance
  • Health and Safety
  • Logistics
  • Business
  • Final Review
  • Describe the manufacturing workforce.
  • Describe the manufacturing workforce.
  • Distinguish between common pathways to manufacturing careers.
  • Describe common functions of development and design roles.
  • Describe common functions of production roles.
  • Describe common functions of programming roles.
  • Describe common functions of quality control roles.
  • Describe common functions of quality assurance roles.
  • Describe common functions of maintenance roles.
  • Describe common functions of health and safety roles.
  • Describe common functions of logistics roles.
  • Distinguish between different departments involved with business functions.
Vocabulary Term


The department within an organization that is responsible for clerical tasks. Administrative duties include recording and organizing information, receiving and placing phone calls, coordinating schedules, and managing correspondence.


Consisting of letters and numbers. Alphanumeric codes are used to create programs for automated devices.


Coming from the surrounding area. Ambient air may contain chemicals that are hazardous for employees to inhale.


A person enrolled in an apprenticeship. Apprentices are considered employees and are paid for their work.


A program that prepares individuals to enter the workforce in a specific field or area. Apprenticeships involve traditional instruction as well as work-based training and connect apprentices with specific employers.


A person who assembles parts. Assemblers perform mechanical fastening, adhesive bonding, and welding tasks.

assembly lines

An arrangement of workstations used to mass-produce products in stages. Assembly lines often use conveyors to move large products between stations.

associate's degree

An academic credential awarded by community colleges, technical colleges, and vocational schools upon completion of the lowest level of undergraduate studies. Associate's degrees typically require two years of study.


An examination of an organization's activities or products to determine if it is following policies as claimed. Audits are often used to measure an organization's compliance with a quality management system.


The use of self-regulated equipment, processes, or systems that meet manufacturing requirements with limited human intervention. Automation is an efficient means of performing manufacturing processes.

bachelor's degree

An academic credential awarded by colleges or universities upon completion of undergraduate studies. Bachelor's degrees typically require four years of study.


The comparison and adjustment of a device with unknown accuracy to a device with a known, accurate standard. Calibration eliminates any variation in the device being checked.


A handheld measuring instrument with a pair of jaws on one end and a long beam containing a marked scale of unit divisions. Caliper jaws can measure both internal and external features.


Validation that an individual has achieved a certain level of expertise in a specific area. Certifications may be awarded by a school, a professional organization, or another governing body.


Computer numerical control. A combination of software and hardware that directs the operation of a machine. CNC machines use mathematical data to direct machine movements.

collaborative robots

Cobots. A robot that can be programmed to learn a specific task in order to assist humans. A collaborative robot is designed to interact with humans in a shared workspace.

computer numerical control

CNC. A combination of software and hardware that directs the operation of a machine. Computer numerical control machines use mathematical data to direct machine movements.

computer-aided design

CAD. A computer software program that aids in the automated design and technical precision drawing of a part, product, process, or building. Computer-aided design software is used to create a virtual model of a part.

control panel

The device on a CNC machine that runs, stores, and edits the commands of a part program and other coordinate information. Control panels typically have a keypad and display screen.

conveyor belts

A moving strip of material that carries parts or other components from one area of a manufacturing facility to another. Conveyor belts are commonly used to transport parts from production to packaging.

cooperative education employment

Co-op. A program that prepares students for a specific career by sending them to a worksite for training. Co-operative education employment is typically longer than an internship.

coordinate measuring machines

CMM. A sophisticated measuring instrument that uses a suspended probe to measure parts in three-dimensional space. Coordinate measuring machines operate using either contact or noncontact methods.

cycle times

The amount of time required to complete a manufacturing process from its beginning to its end. Reducing cycle times is a common goal of quality assurance efforts.


Computer storage that holds information and is searchable. A database both stores and organizes information.


An imperfection in a part that prevents it from operating correctly. Defects can lead to reworked or scrapped parts, which increases the costs of a manufacturing operation.


A drawing that illustrates the parts or operation of a machine or system. Diagrams use pictures and symbols to represent components.


The desired measurement of a part or part feature. Dimensions include the length, width, and height of a part or feature.


The movement of parts from manufacturers to customers. Distribution requires products to be packaged so that they are protected during shipping.


Creating a technical drawing or print of a part. Drafting can be done manually, but using computer-aided design (CAD) software is more popular because it is the most affordable and efficient option.


The application of science and technology for the purposes of designing, creating, or improving a product or process. Engineering helps manufacturers optimize many different aspects of their business, from part designs to health and safety procedures.

engineering drawings

A two-dimensional print that details the size and shape of a part or system. Engineering drawings also specify the materials to be used in part creation.


The process of creating or building parts from raw materials. Fabrication methods include forming, molding, and joining processes like welding and assembly.


A device that holds objects together or locates them in relation to one another. Fasteners can be threaded or non-threaded.


The department within an organization that focuses on the effective management of money and other company assets. Finance responsibilities include budgeting, accounting, and processing transactions.

fire extinguishers

A portable device that uses a rapid spray of chemicals to put out small fires. Fire extinguishers are essential safety equipment when working with flammable materials.

fire suppression sprinklers

An automated network of pipes, valves, and/or nozzles designed to prevent the spread of fire. Fire suppression sprinklers automatically deliver water or other extinguishing material to an area where flames are present.


A powered industrial truck (PIT) that has two prongs on the front for lifting and transporting heavy loads. Forklifts are one of the most common types of PIT.

G code programming

A programming language that pairs address letters with numerical values to form commands. G code programming is used to direct CNC machine movements.


A device that determines whether or not a part feature is within specified limits. Most gages do not provide an actual measurement value.

hard hats

A lightweight, protective head covering, usually made of plastic, used to protect the head from impacts, bumps, and electric shock. Hard hats have a shock-absorbing lining with a headband and straps that suspend the shell away from the skull and provide ventilation.


The physical equipment used in a computer system. Hardware includes a computer screen, keyboard, sensors, and other devices.


A source of danger or possible injury. Hazards can pose safety risks to human health or physical well-being.

human resources

The department within an organization that is responsible for creating and maintaining relationships with personnel. Human resources hires employees, manages employee compensation and benefits, and deals with conflicts and other employee issues.

information technology

IT. The department within an organization that is responsible for developing and managing computer systems. Information technology works with hardware, software, networks, and other computerized devices.


The examination of a part during or after its creation to confirm that it adheres to specifications. Inspection allows manufacturers to identify and correct product defects.

inspection routes

A list of points in a system that outlines the order and content of an inspection. Inspection routes group tasks by category, such as thermal or vibration inspection.


A person who examines a part with various tools and techniques to determine its conformance to specifications. Inspectors fulfill important roles in ensuring the quality of a manufactured product.


A program that prepares students for a specific career by sending them to a worksite for training. Internships are typically shorter than co-operative education employment programs.


Manufactured products that are stored prior to being shipped to customers. Inventory allows manufacturers to have parts available to sell, but inventory also incurs additional storage costs.

ISO 9000

A series of quality assurance standards published by the International Organization for Standardization that are intended to guide an organization on the implementation and continual improvement of quality management. Certification and registration to ISO 9000 indicates an organization is striving to meet the quality requirements of its customers.

ladder logic

A graphical PLC programming language that uses simple symbols to indicate the status of input and output devices. Ladder logic displays program instructions in a ladder diagram.


A machine that holds and supports a rotating cylindrical workpiece at one or both ends while a single-point cutting tool removes material. Lathes can be manual or automated.

lean manufacturing

An approach to manufacturing that seeks to reduce the cycle time of processes, increase flexibility, and improve quality. Lean manufacturing systems help to eliminate waste in all its forms.


Permission for an individual to engage in a controlled activity. Licenses are granted to authorize qualified individuals who have gone through training and proven their knowledge and abilities in a certain field, such as electrical work.

light curtains

A field of light that stops a machine when the light is blocked by an object. Light curtains prevent mechanical parts from striking workers and equipment.


Planning, managing, and executing the movement of materials and products. Logistics involves physically moving goods between locations as well as determining the routes, schedules, and methods used to move them.


The act of applying a substance, such as grease or oil, to a part in order to reduce friction between two surfaces in relative motion. Lubricating components is an important part of preventive maintenance.

machine guards

A shield or cover over hazardous areas on a machine. Machine guards prevent accidental contact with body parts and prevent debris, such as chips, from exiting the machine.

machine operators

A person trained to run a specific machine. Machine operators are responsible for safely and efficiently setting up, running, and maintaining their particular machine.

machine tools

A power-driven machine that is used to manufacture parts by guiding a tool to shape workpieces. Common examples of machine tools include the drill press, the lathe, and the mill.


Any activity that contributes to the care and upkeep of machines or equipment. Maintenance can involve monitoring equipment for problems or fixing a machine after it breaks down.


The process of changing materials into finished products on a large scale. Manufacturing involves many processes that cause physical, mechanical, or chemical changes to materials.


The department within an organization that focuses on promoting its products and capabilities. Marketing responsibilities include researching customer demands and developing advertising materials and strategies.


The process of moving, storing, loading, unloading, packaging, or distributing materials. Material-handling tasks may take place inside the facility, such as transporting materials between work cells, or outside the facility, such as delivering products to customers.


A U-shaped, handheld measuring instrument with a threaded spindle that slowly advances toward a small anvil. Micrometers are available in numerous types for measuring assorted dimensions and features.


A machine that uses a rotating multi-point cutting tool to remove material from a workpiece. Mills, or milling machines, may be manually operated or automated.


A representation of a specific part or product. Models are usually three-dimensional and can be physical or digital.


A device that is used to assess the quality and functionality of electrical connections. Multimeters combine the functions of an ammeter, voltmeter, and ohmmeter.

on-the-job training

OJT. Hands-on employee instruction that takes place at the employer's worksite. On-the-job training typically involves observing and performing work under the guidance of another employee.

optical scanners

A portable measuring device that uses light and sensors to measure an object's geometric shape. Optical scanners collect large amounts of data quickly.

part programs

A series of alphanumeric instructions that guides the movements of a CNC machine. A part program directs a CNC machine to perform the sequence of operations necessary to machine a specific workpiece.

personal computer

PC. A processor-driven device that runs multiple programs and processes simultaneously. A personal computer may be used to program a PLC.

personal protective equipment

PPE. Any clothing or device worn to minimize exposure to hazards and prevent injury. Personal protective equipment may include eye and ear protection, safety footwear, gloves, and other devices.

powered industrial trucks

PIT. Any mobile, power-propelled truck, other than a construction or passenger vehicle, that is capable of carrying, pushing, pulling, lifting, or stacking materials. Common powered industrial trucks include forklifts, pallet lifts, and aisle sideloaders.


A machine with a stationary base and an upper ram that moves up and down to cut and shape sheet metal. Presses use a die set that consists of upper and lower parts to stamp, bend, and shear metal.

preventive maintenance

Regularly scheduled service performed while a machine is in working order to keep it from breaking down. Preventive maintenance includes lubricating, tightening, and replacing worn parts.


A document containing all the instructions necessary to manufacture a part. Prints include part drawings, dimensions, and notes.


The department within an organization that is responsible for acquiring parts, materials, supplies, and services needed to manufacture products. Procurement mainly involves selecting suppliers and negotiating contracts with them.


A computer-based series of commands that contains all pertinent instructions and information for the completion of a specific task. Programs are used by CNC machines, PLCs, and robots.

programmable logic controllers

PLCs. A processor-driven device that uses logic-based software to provide electrical control to a machine or process. Programmable logic controllers are used in factory automation.


A person responsible for writing a computer program. Programmers develop programs that allow CNC machines, PLCs, and robots to perform automated tasks.


A defining characteristic of a material. Properties are often categorized as mechanical properties, which describe how a material responds to external forces, and physical properties, which describe basic qualities of the material.


A preliminary model of a part used to evaluate the look and performance of a design. Prototypes are used to determine the specifications for the final part.


Conformance to a set of standards or specifications that results in customer satisfaction in a product or service. Quality products are free of defects and meet the requirements of their anticipated use.

quality assurance

QA. A system of managing quality by regulating the quality of materials, assembly processes, products, and components. Quality assurance is a proactive approach to preventing errors.

quality control

QC. A system of managing quality by inspecting finished products to make sure they meet specifications. Quality control relies on error detection and correction.

quality management system

QMS. The objectives and processes designed to focus a company toward quality and customer satisfaction. A quality management system consists of written documents that outline the necessary activities and procedures.


A mechanical device that can be programmed to perform a variety of complicated, repetitive tasks. Robots are used to automate manufacturing processes.

safety glasses

Protective eyewear, usually made of thick plastic, that shields the eyes from flying debris. Safety glasses offer protection from impact, dust, chips, splashes, and sometimes ultraviolet light.


The department within an organization that communicates with customers and negotiates contracts. Sales seeks out new customers and works with existing customers to identify products that suit their needs.

Six Sigma

A management philosophy and process improvement method that uses data to identify problems and point to improvements. Six Sigma's goal is to reduce the number of defects to less than 3.4 per million opportunities, which is near perfection.

smart manufacturing

Technologically integrated manufacturing that creates and uses data in real time to address the needs of the factory, supplier, and customer. Smart manufacturing is an advancement of traditional manufacturing automation.


A set of written operating instructions that control a computer. A software program consists of coded formulas and operations that determine the computer's actions.


A description of the essential physical and technical properties of a part or product. Specifications outline important information including finished part dimensions and how the part must respond to forces acting upon it.

spill containment kits

A readily available collection of supplies for cleaning up spilled substances and preventing them from spreading. Spill containment kits include personal protective equipment and materials that are capable of absorbing liquid.

statistical process control

SPC. The use of statistics and control charts to measure key quality characteristics and control how the related process behaves. Statistical process control distinguishes special and common causes of variation.


An organization that provides a product to another organization. Suppliers often pass products in a chain that ends with a manufacturer, who passes them on to the customer.

teach pendant

A handheld device used to control a robot during programming. Teach pendants may have control buttons, a joystick, or a touch screen.

technical schools

An educational institution that offers focused training programs that teach students the technical skills needed for a specific occupation. Technical schools, which are also called vocational schools or trade schools, include high schools and colleges with on-site training facilities.

thermal imagers

A thermal inspection device that uses infrared technology to produce a visual representation of temperature conditions. Thermal imagers are also called infrared cameras.

trade schools

An educational institution that offers focused training programs that teach students the technical skills needed for a specific occupation. Trade schools which are also called vocational schools or technical schools, include high schools and colleges with on-site training facilities.


The systematic evaluation of the various components of a system, circuit, or process to locate a malfunctioning part. Troubleshooting focuses on identifying the root cause of a problem.


Transferred from one digital or computerized device to another. Programs can be uploaded to automated devices such as CNC machines, PLCs, and robots.


A means of providing clean air or cleaning and re-circulating air. Ventilation helps prevent employees from inhaling chemicals.

vibration meters

A screening tool that takes basic vibration and temperature measurements. Vibration meters determine whether or not problematic vibration is occurring.

vocational schools

An educational institution that offers focused training programs that teach students the technical skills needed for a specific occupation. Vocational schools, which are also called technical schools or trade schools, include high schools and colleges with on-site training facilities.


A person who performs welding. Welders join pieces of metal together through the application of heat, pressure, or a combination of energy sources.


The joining of two or more materials, usually metals, using heat, pressure, or a combination of energy sources. Welding fuses materials together permanently.

work cells

An arrangement of machines, tooling, materials, and operators structured around the design of similar products. Work cells encourage smooth product flows and use space efficiently.

work instructions

A document that describes how to perform specific activities and tasks within an organization. Work instructions provide detailed information about how to perform each step of a job.