Project management can improve the efficiency and success of your manufacturing projects

February 29, 2024
7 min read

Here’s how to take it to the next level with these five stages of project management

Mistakes on the factory floor can cause the entire company to suffer. Every delay, broken machine, and defective product adds up, ultimately hurting the bottom line. When products don’t get out the door in time, customers are directly impacted. And serious blunders can and do result in massive recalls that hit a company’s revenues and damage its reputation.

In fact, manufacturing is critically important to a company’s operations. Following structured project management methods can help companies reduce delays, stay on budget, and deliver quality products.

What is project management in manufacturing?

Much like a symphony orchestra, manufacturing requires the convergence of many moving parts into a completed whole. In addition to the sourcing and assembly of raw materials, it means working with vendors to manage inventory, keep track of logistics, and oversee distribution. Successful project managers are conductors, helping provide structure and organization to the chaos and keep projects on track.

Companies use project management to keep track of ongoing production, as well as manage specific projects. These can include the development of new machinery, efforts to optimize the efficiency of the production line, upgrades to existing processes or technologies, or even the creation of a new production facility. Project management is also essential when companies need to produce a specific product for a specific customer. Shopfloor management, for example, which involves overseeing and optimizing production processes within a manufacturing facility, presents challenges such as maximizing efficiency and productivity, properly allocating resources, managing inventory levels, streamlining workflows, adequately training employees, maintaining quality control, and leveraging technology. Effective project management can address these challenges to ensure that shop floor management processes are optimized for maximum efficiency, productivity, and quality.

But regardless of the type of initiative, manufacturing project managers play similar roles. They are responsible for managing and overseeing all aspects of a project and the project team: planning and coordinating resource allocations, organizing personnel, maintaining a project budget and schedule, monitoring progress and project goals, overseeing quality control, and ensuring that projects are completed on time and within the expected production costs.

Project management in manufacturing leads to better business outcomes

A 2017 survey of executives, engineers, and project managers in the manufacturing industry cited managing project costs (50%), hitting deadlines (46%), and sharing information across teams (44%) as the top three project management challenges. Since then, manufacturing has only grown more complex, as companies adapt to Industry 4.0, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This shift represents the next phase in the digitization of the manufacturing sector, with companies seeking to further integrate data and analytics, AI, and machine learning into their manufacturing.

“In manufacturing, there’s going to be a lot of fast and big data. Make sure you have a scalable industrial IoT [Internet of Things] stack that’s going to be able to handle that and be ready,” David Goeckeler, CEO of the computer drive manufacturer and data storage company Western Digital, told McKinsey.

Amid these challenges, the benefits of project management are clear:

Increased efficiency.

Keeping track of files, data, parts, and components is challenging without a single project reference point. A project management process gives managers a clear view into what is supposed to happen when, allowing them to know in real-time when schedules or costs change, and then make adjustments as needed.

Improved product quality.

Manufacturing project managers drive success by providing a standardized system for tracking and managing processes and tasks to ensure all steps are completed within quality standards and on time. They also scope out a project’s strategic goals and monitor adherence. Without this, initiatives can lack focus, have vague objectives, and leave manufacturing teams unsure of what they’re doing and why, ultimately resulting in errors.

Reduced costs.

In manufacturing, time is money. Studies show that organizations that use project management methodologies waste 28 times less money than those that don’t.

Enhanced progress tracking

Using multiple tools or documents to track manufacturing flows can be a recipe for confusion and inefficiency. Project management tools offer simple progress tracking, making it easier to identify potential bottlenecks before they happen and helping the entire team adhere to project plans and project schedules.

Improved collaboration.

By standardizing tools and processes, project management enables better collaboration and the easy sharing of data between multiple manufacturing sites and among stakeholders. In customized manufacturing projects, it also allows regular team communication with the customer to ensure that needs and expectations are being met.

Effective project management follows these five stages

Just as a project management process breaks initiatives down into distinct tasks, it’s helpful to plan your manufacturing project management in five stages:

Stage 1: Initiate the project.

What are the goals for the project? Setting clear expectations from the beginning is critical so that each team member knows where they’re going and why the journey is important. Are you introducing more automation into your assembly line, building a digital twin, or simply changing staffing schedules? New projects can be disruptive. Employees need to know the benefits for the company.

Stage 2: Create a plan for the project.

During this phase, the nitty-gritty comes into view. Task lists are broken down, the project is staffed, deliverables are scoped, deadlines are set, and success criteria are established. Project managers will also want to list the essential project resources, such as staff, equipment, salary, and supplies, then estimate their costs and define a budget for the project.

Stage 3: Execute the project.

After assigning specific tasks to individual team members, giving vendors clear deadlines, and opening up communication lines to keep all stakeholders in the loop, project managers hit go.

Stage 4: Monitor the project progress.

The first step in overcoming problems and potential risks is anticipating them. If a new software system designed to speed up the manufacturing process isn’t hitting targets, project managers will need to make changes or adjust the project scope. Similarly, if the company’s inventory of a particular part or material requirements aren’t as large as they need to be, project managers will need to explore ways to boost supply.

Stage 5: Close the project once it's all done.

Did the project stay within budget and on time? If not, what were the factors holding it back from these project goals? For the success of future projects, it’s critical to learn from today’s.

Three tips for successful project management

  1. Don’t skimp on details. The more clarity on timelines, tasks, budgets, and goals, the higher the chances of a successful outcome.

  2. Overcommunicate. Creating a forum for both the sharing of progress and expectations, as well as soliciting feedback, will foster a shared sense of progress and willingness among team members to report issues.

  3. Use the right tools to make everything easier. A 2020 report found that only 23% of companies use a project management software solution, leading to wasted time spent manually collating project status info.

How does Quickbase help with project management?

Manufacturing project management software can be a powerful tool in streamlining manufacturing processes, ultimately helping companies produce better products in a shorter time, and at a lower cost. Quickbase helps manufacturers automate scheduling, track materials, and compile and analyze data in order to reduce costs, improve accuracy, and increase efficiency. It also allows stakeholders to communicate and stay on top of tasks. Because it’s cloud-based, team members can collaborate from anywhere and track changes in real time.


Whether companies are making upgrades to their existing production lines, adding new automation to their manufacturing, or creating a new product for an important customer, project management can guide these initiatives to success. Manufacturers can use five simple steps to break down their project management process into easy-to-navigate phases.


What is the role of a project manager in manufacturing?

Much like conductors in an orchestra, successful project managers keep track of many moving parts and guide projects to success.

What is project management software for manufacturing?

Project management software lets manufacturers automate and streamline all aspects of project management to save invaluable time, avoid errors, and provide a clear view of a project’s progress.

What are examples of manufacturing projects?

Manufacturers use project management to improve the speed or efficiency of their production facilities, add new machinery or automation, create new production lines, or produce specific products for customers.

Sign up for a free trial of Quickbase to better manage your manufacturing projects!