Best manufacturing companies to work for

If you like to work with your hands, a manufacturing job could be a good fit for you. Manufacturing is a good choice for anyone with a trade-based skill set, as well as being an option for people looking for entry level work.

Manufacturing is really wide-ranging - in the UK we produce everything from cars to crisps! And factory work can really vary depending on the industry. We can’t (yet) tell you about everything involved in jobs on a factory’s production line. But we do know which manufacturers have good jobs and which don’t!

We’ll also cover:

We’ll rank the manufacturing companies from who’s earned the best Breakroom Rating to the worst.

Breakroom Ratings are a fair measure of whether a job is good or bad, based on what employees have told us about their jobs in our job comparison survey.

We have loads of manufacturers reviewed on Breakroom, so we’ve kept this list a manageable length to read by only including the top 10 companies as rated on Breakroom.

The top 10 manufacturers to work for

  1. Seagate: 9.2/10

  2. Spirit AeroSystems: 8.4:/10

  3. Smurfit Kappa: 8.4/10

  4. British Sugar: 8.4/10

  5. Pirelli: 8.3/10

  6. Hitachi: 8.3/10

  7. Rolls-Royce: 8.3/10

  8. Princes Food: 8.2/10

  9. Collins Aerospace: 8.2/10

  10. BAE Systems: 8.1/10

  11. CSM Machinery: 8.1/10

Interested to learn more about manufacturing companies and what it is like to work for them? Read on.

What’s a manufacturing job?

The basic concept of a manufacturing job is very simple. It’s work that takes raw materials (like fabric, metal, plastic or food ingredients) and makes something new out of them. Sometimes it’s taking components that have already been made elsewhere and assembling them into something new.

Manufacturing jobs most often take place in factories, sometimes called “plants”.

There are all kinds of different manufacturing industries in the UK, including food and drink production, fashion, pharmaceuticals, and cars. Each of these industries require workers with the right skills to make their products. So let’s take a look at what some of these skills and jobs are.

What are some manufacturing jobs?

Manufacturing work can be roughly split into two: entry level jobs and semi-skilled to skilled jobs. These types of jobs are based on the skill set a worker already has.

Entry level roles can help get your foot in the door, as they usually have basic entry requirements. These can include having passed some school exams, along with the right to work in the UK. However, semi-skilled and skilled roles need experience and/or specific qualifications.

Entry level manufacturing jobs include:

  • Production operator

  • Assembly worker

  • Material handler

  • Factory worker

Semi-skilled and skilled manufacturing jobs include:

  • Technician

  • Engineer

  • Machine operator

  • Welder

  • Fitter

  • Mechanic

What’s the difference between semi-skilled and skilled? Semi-skilled jobs are the next step from entry level jobs. The skills required for them are often taught on the job. For a skilled job, workers need specific experience and qualifications.

What do people on Breakroom say about their manufacturing jobs?

We wanted to find out more about the experiences of entry level and semi-skilled/skilled jobs. So we asked Breakroom users who work in factories to share details of their jobs.

From the information they’ve given, we compared something everyone wants to know about jobs: what they pay. Here’s what we found:

Type of manufacturing job 25% of people earn this or less 50% of people earn this or less 75% of people earn this or less
Entry Level £8.21 p/hr £10.00 p/hr £14.93 p/hr
Semi-skilled/skilled £12.97 p/hr £16.00 p/hr £17.00 p/hr

It’s not a huge surprise, but being a semi-skilled/skilled worker in a factory means you’re likely to have a higher pay rate.

The good news for entry level workers is that, apart from 25% of people earning £8.21 per hour, overall pay in the manufacturing industry across all skill levels is roughly in line with the Real Living Wage. Which in 2020 is £9.30 per hour across the UK and £10.75 per hour in London.

However, at Breakroom we believe that all pay, whatever skill level a worker has, should be in line with the real Living Wage.

And we’ve taken an extra step. We wanted to find out if the amount of pay across all the different manufacturing industries is consistent. Or do some pay better than others?

Best paying manufacturing industries

We took the baseline average pay rate of all manufacturing companies on Breakroom, then looked more closely at three of the biggest manufacturing industries in the UK. They are: machinery and construction materials, automotive, and food and drink.

To make this overview easier to understand, we’ve combined entry level and semi-skilled/skilled pay rates.

Type of manufacturer 25% of people earn this or less 50% of people earn this or less 75% of people earn this or less
All manufacturers £9.50 p/hr £11.60 p/hr £14.50 p/hr
Food and drink £8.72 p/hr £9.88 p/hr £12.01 p/hr
Automotive £10.90 p/hr £14.00 p/hr £17.00 p/hr
Machinery and construction materials £9.74 p/hr £12.30 p/hr £14.50 p/hr

When comparing the three industries we picked with the average manufacturing pay rate, automotive companies are the runaway winner. Most of the average pay rates here exceed the Real Living Wage, apart from 25% of manufacturing workers in food and drink. They earn 6% less than the suggested Real Living Wage. For a factory worker on 35 hours a week, this means losing out on around £180.00 a month in pay.

Are factory jobs good?

Aside from pay, are there any other benefits that come from working in manufacturing: can you call a manufacturing job a good job? If not, what are the downsides?

Pros of manufacturing work:

  • Reasonable pay, especially in certain industries

  • Opportunities to learn new practical skills

  • Working with your hands can be very satisfying

Cons of manufacturing work:

  • Tough physical work

  • Repetitive tasks

  • Risk of injury from unsafe machinery or chemicals

Talking of safety, let’s explore this topic a little more.

Are manufacturing jobs safe?

We looked at and compared how safe manufacturing workers on Breakroom feel in their jobs.

Similar to how we approached pay rates, we’ve split this information up into all workers across manufacturing and also into the three big manufacturing industries. Here’s what we found:

Type of manufacturer % workers who don't feel safe % workers who feel safe
All manufacturers 15% 85%
Food and drink 19% 81%
Automotive 11% 87%
Machinery and construction materials 25% 75%

Overall, manufacturing workers feel pretty safe in their jobs, despite the risks.

However, this isn’t quite the story in machinery and construction material companies: a quarter of all workers don’t feel safe here.

The safest manufacturing industry to work for? Automotive wins again.

With the amount of hard physical work, risk potential and tight deadlines that a manufacturing job can have, is it fair to call this type of work stressful? Let’s look again at what manufacturing workers on Breakroom have to say.

Are manufacturing jobs stressful?

In one word: yes.

The majority of manufacturing workers on Breakroom have said that their job makes them feel stressed.

Type of manufacturer % workers who don't feel stressed % workers who feel stressed % workers who're unsure
All manufacturers 44% 50% 6%
Food and drink 46% 54% 0%
Automotive 43% 57% 0%
Machinery and construction materials 36% 64% 0%

Machinery and construction material companies again come out worst: 64% of workers here report being stressed. However, all manufacturing industries report high levels of stress.

As this spray painter at Vauxhall Motors shared, the worst thing about their job is that it is:

“High pressure, fast paced”

And this team leader at Cummins, an engine and power generator manufacturer, shared the worst thing for them is:

“Unachievable numbers“

Given the intense nature of manufacturing jobs, at Breakroom we believe that workers should be given more support to manage their workloads.

Manufacturing workers are humans, not robots, and deserve to do their jobs at a realistic pace. To push people too hard in often intensely physical jobs is not a sustainable practice. Worker exhaustion and stress shouldn’t be accepted as normal.

The Breakroom verdict: Manufacturing companies need consistency

As we’ve explored here, manufacturing companies and the jobs they offer are most suitable for hands on workers with stamina. The companies themselves offer good pay for entry level work, and most provide safe working environments. But this should be more consistent across the different industries that manufacture across the UK.

There’s still more that can be done to improve the quality of the jobs. Manufacturing requires a high level of physical work and significant levels of risk. Everyone deserves consistently competitive pay, a safe workplace and a reasonable workload.

The data used here is from 20 July 2020

Published on 22 July 2020