Technical Managers Formulate High Pay


Research and development and technical managers pave the way for better formulations and can expect to be rewarded accordingly, at least for the 64 respondents who offered a glimpse into their compensation to the 2018 LubesnGreases Lubricants Industry Salary Survey.

Lab and R&D managers reported earning an average of $140,025 and a median of $140,000 – where half make more and half earn less than that amount. All of the respondents work at lubricant manufacturers, since distributors do not typically develop formulations.

These generous figures indicate that working for a lube manufacturer, or the lubricant division of an oil major, is a good career path for those with a technical background. The opportunities seem to be there for the taking, according to several recruiters who spoke to LubesnGreases.

Ken Pelczarski, principal at executive recruitment company Pelichem Associates in Downers Grove, Illinois, said that about 40 percent of his placements are on the R&D side, which includes technical support, quality management and analytical chemistry roles. Favorable business conditions, consumer confidence and job growth are all having a positive impact on the current job market, leading to fast-paced hiring for positions, he noted.

Julie Schiller, executive recruiter at Dallas-based Milani Group, agreed that the market is busier than it has been in a while. In my process of recruiting for some of my clients, Ive talked to people in hiring positions for other companies in the industry who have indicated that they are hiring or intend to be in the near term.

She added that some companies are looking to fill technical positions, whether it be engineering positions or specialist positions to bring knowledge specific to the manufacturing of each product.

Technical managers in 2018 look pretty similar to those who responded to the 2016 survey. They are an average of 50 years old, tout 22 years of industry experience and supervise approximately five workers. This years lab managers have spent more time with their current employer (14 years versus 13 years), but less time in their current role (6 years compared to nearly 8 years).

Contrary to what was seen for plant managers and sales executives this year, laboratory and technical managers saw their compensation rise based on longevity. The average salary for the 45 percent of respondents who have been in their role for less than five years is around $132,000, with a median of $135,000. For the remaining 55 percent who have spent five years or longer in their roles, average pay jumps to almost $147,000 and a median of $145,000.

What is surprising this year is the difference in pay for lab managers who hold a Certified Lubrication Specialist credential from the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers and those who do not. The average pay for a CLS-bearing lab manager is $135,000 against the almost $142,000 for someone without CLS, with medians of $130,000 and $148,000, respectively. In 2016, CLS credentialed managers reported an average of $146,900, while those not certified made $130,000.

But Pelczarski noted that a CLS credential makes a candidate more desirable even if it doesnt necessarily translate to higher pay. The desirability of a candidate is whats most influenced when you have a certification, because its a little more proof of having that practical knowledge, Pelczarski expanded. Certification also means a lot in the eyes of a customer, as far as the credibility of who theyre dealing with in sales or in technical support.

The size of a company can be a contributing factor to higher wages. Forty-four percent of lab managers that responded to this years survey reported average salaries of $115,000 at companies with 11 to 50 employees, and almost $151,000 at companies with 101 to 200 employees, with a median pay of $110,000 to $160,000, respectively.

Compensation does dip for 8 percent of respondents working at lube manufacturers with 201 to 500 employees, where the average salary is $132,000 with a median of $110,000, but it climbs up to a mean of $155,000 and a median of $154,000 for 47 percent of lab managers, who are at the largest oil companies – those with over 500 employees on payroll.

Geography also influences paychecks. Forty-two respondents who work for lube manufacturers in the Central region of the U.S. reported mean earnings of $126,000 to $135,000. But companies in the Eastern part of the country hold the upper hand, with 20 lab managers averaging salaries of $143,000 in the Northeast and $172,000 in the Southeast. By far, however, the two respondents in the Southwest topped the rest at $186,500 on average.

However, lube manufacturers have to be able to attract the right talent before they can concentrate on keeping managers properly compensated. Wherever you are now, the hiring company has to be engaged with the candidate, and you cant space out interviews and call back someone after thinking it over for a few weeks. You need to make a job offer quickly, or someone else will snatch them up, said Loren Perez, an executive recruiter with Energy Recruiters Inc. in Atlanta. In this market, [candidates] can afford to be picky.

The best thing companies can do is work on self-branding and on selling themselves to the best candidates, who are often the ones who arent looking to switch jobs, Schiller of Milani Group advised. When youre talking about new grads or early-career professionals who maybe arent in the industry but have the skills and the knowledge to contribute, its got to be almost like a branding effort to say, Heres our company, heres our industry and heres why its important.

The R&D aspect, for example, she highlighted. What could be more interesting than developing new products that are going to be able to be used through the change of the future?

The complete 2018 Salary Survey report is now available for purchase and immediate download at

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