Career Opportunities With An Advanced Lean Manufacturing Degree


It’s no secret that the manufacturing and production industry is booming right now. With advances in lean manufacturing techniques and practices, more and more companies are looking to outsource their production to facilities all over the world.

With the increasing demand for skilled workers in this field, it’s becoming more important than ever to have an advanced degree in lean manufacturing if you’re looking for a career in this industry.

The importance of manufacturing in economic development has been evident over time. It creates a platform for technological innovations, trade surpluses, economic growth and productivity. Unsurprisingly, the manufacturing industry incorporates many critical processes and, as a result, requires skilled professionals that can participate effectively in these processes.

Throughout the manufacturing industry, waste management remains a necessary process. In fact, the productivity level of any manufacturing company can be attributed to how well its processes are optimized. As a result, the industry has seen a rise in one aspect – lean manufacturing.

What Is Lean Manufacturing?

The term “lean manufacturing” relates to implementing certain principles, skills and tools in developing and manufacturing physical products. The introduction of lean practice in the manufacturing sector helps eliminate waste by optimizing different processes and improving innovation.

Eliminating all forms of waste is a critical aspect of lean practice. However, this practice’s objective is to supply customers with high-value products consistently. To optimize processes effectively, lean management defines and categorizes waste based on its potential environmental impact. In the context of a lean manufacturing system, seven wastes are identified:


Overproduction represents the most consequential type of waste, capable of leading to other types of waste and, as a result, excess inventory. Supplying a product in quantities far more significant than its demand creates issues, including wasted capital, material and storage.

In truth, the gravity of overproduction waste depends on the product in question. Some products tend to cause significant environmental impacts. For instance, stocking too much of a product containing hazardous substances would require it to be disposed of with time. This results in extra costs for safe disposal, potential worker exposure and likely environmental issues from the waste.

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This refers to waste generated from unprocessed inventory, including waste of storage cost and space, capital and transportation, among others. Excess inventory is never a good thing for companies as it can conceal other waste forms.

Excess inventory also tends to cause environmental issues. This comes in the form of packaging, work-in-process deterioration and obtaining new materials to replace wasted inventory.


Motion waste has to do with the manufacturing workforce and the tools utilized for different manufacturing processes. Wasteful motion covers all the activities of a person or machine that can be optimized or minimized. These activities range from essential human functions to machine efficiency and other factors depreciating capital. 

If a process can be effectively completed with less motion than currently is used, then the motion margin is wasted. Some environmental impacts of motion waste include the health assets of stressed workers and materials used to replace worn machinery.


This occurs when a product is below its design standard and customer’s expectations. These products must be replaced to make up for defects, thereby incurring additional financial and labor costs. Defective products, in some cases, also highlight inefficiency in different top levels of manufacturing.

The raw materials used for manufacturing defective products and their replacements, as well as the disposal or reprocessing of these bad products, all contribute to the environmental costs of defects.


This should not be confused with overproducing. Over-processing waste refers to all unnecessary processes involved in manufacturing. The ultimate goal is to include relevant features to surpass the expectation of consumers.

The environmental impact of over-processing is a consequence of the excess material, labor, time and energy used to produce an unnecessary product or add an irrelevant feature. Efficient and simplified processes help manufacturers limit waste from over-processing.


Waiting is a type of waste that closely relates to time. It refers to squandered time resulting from an issue at any level of a production chain. For instance, if a phase takes extra time to be completed, employees at the next stage of production must wait longer than required, and the time spent waiting is wasted.

To guarantee efficiency, all processes in every production phase need to be completed within a specified timeframe.

Environmental costs of waiting come from wasted elements such as energy and labor during the waiting time. It’s also common to have time-critical raw materials. So, if those materials are not used within a specific time, they could be damaged.


We are all familiar with the concept of transportation and its importance in the manufacturing industry. Nevertheless, transportation alone does not improve a product’s value, so its costs should be minimized as much as possible. Inefficient methods of transportation can result in transport waste and, to some extent, waiting for waste.

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The environmental impacts of this type of waste include potential damage to products while in transit, carbon dioxide emissions and packaging costs. Additionally, transporting hazardous products includes a completely different set of possible environmental costs.

Essential Skills For Lean Manufacturing Practice

Simply by sifting through the ways lean manufacturing optimizes different processes, it’s evident how complex this aspect of manufacturing can be. As a result, the industry only chooses professionals who are fully skilled in different lean practices.

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Pursuing a career in lean manufacturing can be worthwhile, but, just like other critical professions, it requires an individual to undergo rigorous training and build competency in the field. One way to qualify for a promising career in lean manufacturing is by obtaining an advanced degree.

Different institutions offer graduate programs in lean manufacturing, one such being Kettering University Online. These programs help professionals develop essential skills to take on different lean practice responsibilities. The skills required for a lean professional are numerous; however, they are categorized under two major improvement strategies: Six Sigma and Total Quality Management.

Six Sigma

Six Sigma is a process that employs statistics and data analysis in analyzing and limiting errors and defects. This method is an essential tool for manufacturing organizations to optimize and manage production processes much more effectively. The Six Sigma method has always been based on five fundamental principles:

  • Customer focus
  • Measuring value stream and identifying problems
  • Eliminating irrelevant variations
  • Involving stakeholders
  • Creating flexible and responsive systems

In recent times, lean and Six Sigma have been effectively integrated to provide customers with the best possible quality products, with the best cost, delivery method and features. There is a massive overlap between the two disciplines, and lean professionals are required to exhibit competency in the Six Sigma methodology.

Despite this overlap, the two disciplines still have slight differences in how they approach their ultimate goals.

  • While lean practice focuses on process optimization through waste reduction, Six Sigma emphasizes variation reduction.

  • Professionals practice lean manufacturing by utilizing less technical tools. In contrast, Six Sigma employs statistical data analysis for designing experiments and testing hypotheses.

To successfully qualify for a lean practice career, professionals must tailor the Six Sigma method to suit their lean manufacturing responsibilities. This knowledge can be obtained by earning a graduate degree.

Total Quality Management

This is another critical requirement for a career in lean manufacturing. This aspect describes a management perspective that ensures long-term success through customer satisfaction. The total quality management approach requires all members of an organization to play significant roles in improving its processes, cultures, products and services.

The total quality management method uses data, action plans and communication to infuse quality discipline into an organization seamlessly. The whole premise of this method is based on eight critical principles:

  • Customer-focused
  • Total employee involvement
  • Process-centered
  • Integrated systems
  • Strategic and systematic approach
  • Continual improvement
  • Fact-based decision-making
  • Effective communication

In recent times, total quality management has also been integrated into lean manufacturing practices, creating a system focused on achieving complete customer satisfaction by eliminating the seven wastes in the production processes of an organization.

There are many factors to consider when choosing a master’s program. However, in the context of lean manufacturing, a quality graduate program prepares professionals for top career positions by employing solid engineering concepts alongside Lean, Six Sigma and TQM tools.

Career Opportunities With A Master’s Degree In Lean Management

A master’s in lean manufacturing is no doubt an excellent investment. It demonstrates a professional’s competency in relevant skills and tools to improve quality output, streamline processes and reduce waste. Additionally, various career opportunities are open to professionals with a graduate degree in lean technology. Here are some top positions:

Corporate/Executive Management

This is one of the top positions in the manufacturing industry. A corporate or executive manager’s responsibilities include organizational leadership, strategic planning, policy formulation, fiscal management and setting the corporate culture in an organization.

These responsibilities are critical to ensuring an organization fulfills its purpose of meeting customer satisfaction. This position requires superb management and leadership skills to manage all levels of an organization effectively.

As a result, a master’s degree can be customized with graduate certificates in leadership to qualify for executive lean manufacturing positions. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, an executive manager earns an average annual salary of about $179,900.

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Lean/Continuous Improvement Management

A continuous improvement manager is responsible for spearheading a lean organization’s steady improvement journey by applying lean principles to improve quality and timely delivery and reduce lead time and gross cost.

In the manufacturing industry, continuous improvement managers employ critical improvement strategies such as Six Sigma and TQM to ensure and monitor improvements in the organization’s processes.

Professionals also possess communication skills to work closely with executives to guarantee operational efficiency. Therefore, a graduate degree qualifies a professional for this position.

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Continuous improvement managers in a lean manufacturing organization make an average annual salary of about $103,200.

VP, Manufacturing/Production

This is another executive role within a lean manufacturing organization. A vice president of manufacturing is tasked with supervising production operations and ensuring all processes run efficiently.

The position also requires professionals to create plans to improve product quality in line with new customers’ demands.

As a senior executive, a manufacturing vice president must possess excellent management competency and significant leadership experience. A customized master’s degree with leadership certificates would be ideal preparation.

Typically, a lean organization’s vice president of manufacturing and production is entitled to average annual pay of about $180,400.

Director, Manufacturing/Production

A director of manufacturing or production is a professional that oversees every detail of production. This includes participating in hiring processes, scheduling production processes and working closely with quality assurance and other professionals to ensure a product meets its specified requirements and the industry standards.

Due to organizational hierarchy, a director of manufacturing is required to report to senior executives, cumulate their sales and policy ideas and implement them.

To effectively handle these tasks, a professional must possess strong organization and communication skills and several years of management experience.

Director of manufacturing is another well-paying career, with professionals earning an average salary of $137,100 yearly.


A career in lean consultancy requires experience in delivering tailored lean solutions centered on efficiently delivering customer satisfaction to organizations. A lean consultant’s responsibility also includes Lean and Six Sigma training, Lean coaching, mentoring, and to some extent, project management.

Following up with these responsibilities, a professional can only qualify for a consultancy role by having in-depth knowledge of Lean and Six Sigma practices and management, problem-solving and communication skills. 

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the salary of a lean consultant is about $107,400 yearly.

VP, Director, Purchasing/Procurement/Sourcing

A vice president or director of purchasing, procurement or sourcing has the same responsibility: handling procurements for departments in an organization.

Primarily, they oversee other employees and procure supplies when needed. Procurement VPs and directors constantly review orders, evaluate supply and demand, investigate market costs, complete procurement details and report to higher executives.

Most organizations prefer professionals with knowledge and experience in procurement, so a customized degree with certificates in the supply chain field would qualify a professional for this position. Additionally, strong communication and negotiation skills are also necessary.

A procurement VP is entitled to an average annual income of about $112,260.

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R&D/Product Development Management

Product research and development management cover all supervisory processes involved in creating a new product. As a product R&D manager, a professional must work closely with different teams to ensure an organization’s product is of the best quality. R&D managers work with teams from the marketing, design and engineering departments.

Typically, an R&D manager must have a license or graduate degree in common majors such as engineering and business. They must also demonstrate strong project management competency, communication, creativity and leadership.

The salary for an R&D manager varies based on educational level. However, a graduate degree holder qualifies for an average annual salary of about $110,700.

VP, Supply Chain

The responsibility of a vice president supply chain requires supervision of all aspects of an organization’s supply chain management. This covers everything from sourcing raw materials to inventory management, storage and transportation.

The supply chain is a critical aspect of production, and vice presidents of supply chain are also involved in developing long-term organizational plans. A master’s degree specializing in supply chain management would be helpful for professionals looking to advance rapidly in their careers.

There are also other licenses and certifications that could qualify a professional for this role. Additionally, a supply chain vice president must develop leadership, strategic thinking, communication and decision-making skills.

Finally, vice presidents of supply chain in a lean organization are entitled to a salary of about $97,400 yearly.

Quality Management

A quality assurance manager is a professional tasked with ensuring all products within an organization meet specified standards. To do this, they are required to fully understand the requirements for the product and possess a sense of responsibility toward customers.

There are quite a few requirements to becoming a quality assurance manager. First, experience is necessary – professionals must have a deep understanding of quality control practices and legal standards. Finally, soft skills, as well as technical skills in math and statistics, are also essential.

As a quality assurance manager, a professional can earn up to $97,300 annually.

Master Of Science Lean Manufacturing

Many career opportunities are open to professionals with a Master’s in Lean Manufacturing. Individuals looking to qualify for any of these positions can enroll in a Master of Science in Lean Manufacturing program from an accredited institution such as Kettering University Online.

Kettering University Online offers a Master of Science in Lean Manufacturing which is a program that perfectly fuses mechanical engineering with the practical application of theory.

Featuring some of the brightest minds in the automotive industry, students learn modern manufacturing processes and Lean Six Sigma skills.

This program also offers students the opportunity to customize their degrees to suit specific career ambitions. Some customization options include certificates in Global Leadership, Healthcare Management, Operations Management and Supply Chain Management levels 1 and 2. Explore new career opportunities with Kettering University Online’s Master’s in Lean Manufacturing program. 

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