Here we take a look at routes into an academic research career in production engineering and manufacturing, the qualifications and skills you’ll need and how to find your first (or next) research position.
Are you looking to change how the world works through production engineering and manufacturing research?
You might be an engineering graduate considering a PhD or perhaps you’re a postdoctoral researcher looking for your next job in this dynamic and transformational branch of engineering.
Production engineering research focuses on the development of manufacturing processes, technologies and supply chains. Research in this area requires creative and innovative thinkers who are dedicated to pioneering efficient and sustainable manufacturing techniques.
Production engineering and manufacturing reaches across all engineering disciplines and also focuses upon operations management, business and product design. Researchers in this field come from a wide variety of academic and industrial backgrounds.
You will generally need to have completed a PhD in a closely related subject to secure a research post in a UK university. You would also need to have extensive knowledge of manufacturing technologies and commercial awareness. Depending on the research focus of each project, universities are also keen to attract candidates with research experience in manufacturing industries who can bring hands-on business and development expertise to a project.
On completion of doctoral studies, your next step would be to secure a postdoctoral research position which aligns with your area of expertise. Most researchers need to complete a couple of postdoctoral projects before being taken on as a research associate/fellow or lecturer.
Postdoctoral contracts in universities are mostly fixed-term and can last 1-3 years, depending on the project.
Working as a Production Engineering and Manufacturing Researcher
Nowadays, manufacturing research and modelling is digitised, so as a production engineering and manufacturing researcher, you’ll most likely spend most of your time in a highly technical environment.
Research areas are hugely diverse, spanning multiple disciplines. Depending on your specialist knowledge, you could be researching anything from robotic technology in vehicle production to hybrid manufacturing.
Popular areas of production engineering and manufacturing research include:
- Manufacturing techniques and systems
- Digital manufacturing/CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing)
- Sustainable manufacturing
- Supply chain management
- Materials science and design engineering
- Additive manufacturing
You’ll work with a research lead or director, fellow researchers and technicians in a workshop/laboratory setting, testing products, processes and equipment.
You would also be expected to contribute to grant proposals and writing up of results for publication. If you’re working in a university, there may also be some ad hoc teaching and demonstration involved.
- Design, testing equipment, products and processes.
- Contributing to research and performing complex data tasks
- Using CAD/CAM simulation and digital design tools
- Collaborating with project partners in multi-sector manufacturing industries
- Delivery of workshops and demonstrations to students
- Documenting research outcomes and contributing to publication
Where to find jobs
Industrial and commercial companies are keen to partner with higher education in research which improves the efficiency and sustainability of their businesses. Production engineering and manufacturing research initiatives are often joint funded by industrial partners in a wide range of sectors such as pharmaceutical, health and medical, automotive, aerospace and food production.
You’ll find a broad range of opportunities in universities, research institutes and foundations, public sector organisations and manufacturing industry research groups around the world. To find out more about the types of production engineering and manufacturing research projects currently receiving funding in the UK, visit UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) – Manufacturing.
If you choose to work as a researcher in a university, here are some of the roles you may come across during your search:
- Research assistant
- Research/laboratory technician
- Postdoctoral researcher/associate
- Research Associate/Fellow
- Lecturer/Senior Lecturer
Find production engineering and manufacturing research jobs here.
Salaries in engineering research vary depending on the field and specific research activities of the university. However, as a general rule, postdoctoral researchers and research associates can expect to start on a salary of around £30,000 to £39,999 p.a.
If you’ve just graduated and are considering a research career in production engineering and manufacturing, you might be looking for PhD studentships which match your research interests.
A PhD takes around 3-5 years to complete; most are fully funded and come with a stipend in the range of £15,000 and £17,000 p.a. Demand for specialists in sustainable manufacturing techniques has expanded so there is a wide variety of exciting doctoral projects available.
You can find current PhD studentships in fields related to production engineering and manufacturing here.
- Academic jobs in Production Engineering and Manufacturing
- Lecturing jobs in Production Engineering and Manufacturing
- Senior-level academic jobs in Production Engineering and Manufacturing