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What does a Manufacturing Associate do?

By Jeri Sullivan
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A manufacturing associate is a person who is an employee of a manufacturing company. Most companies define their employees by job type and designate employees as either direct labor or indirect labor. A manufacturing associate is considered direct labor because the person is directly involved in making a product.

Manufacturing companies offer a wide variety of manufacturing associate jobs and the skills or experience required differ greatly. For example, electronics manufacturing requires a much different skill set than furniture manufacturing. Also, there may be a significant amount of training required to learn the necessary technical skills to become an expert in electronics manufacturing.

Learning how to operate the manufacturing equipment is a job requirement for the manufacturing field. For higher level electronics work, associates must also become solder certified and follow the requirements set forth by the IPC. IPC, formerly the Institute for Interconnecting and Packaging Electronic Circuits, is an industry-recognized organization that establishes standards for acceptable quality. Once an associate is IPC-certified, additional, more delicate work is available and the earnings potential is higher. Some companies either pay for the associate to get the training or host IPC training on site to ensure their associates receive the training required to increase sales.

Since the majority of manufacturing associate careers involve repetitive motions or assembly line work, the associates should take care to prevent repetitive motion injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Often a manufacturing employee is required to stand for many hours each day and may also be required to lift or pull equipment and product during his or her daily activities. These job requirements make some manufacturing associate jobs more suited to younger people or people in good physical condition. If a person is interested in a manufacturing associate job but is not capable of standing for extended periods of time, there may be a small number of less-strenuous jobs that require an associate to sit and insert small parts onto product that is part of a moving assembly line.

Most manufacturing associate jobs do not require a college degree, so the salary may be less than commensurate office work that does require a college degree. Manufacturing jobs, however, are typically hourly jobs which make overtime pay a possibility. Manufacturing plants also usually work on a 16- or 24-hour schedule so the hours are more flexible than a traditional 9-to-5 office job. There is also a shift differential pay rate for employees who work second or third shift, which means the per-hour pay is more for working a later shift.

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