LubesnGreases has completed its Lubricants Industry Salary Survey, an exclusive study conducted every other year that polls the U.S. industry on compensation for key management positions. Information was gathered directly from individuals who work for lubricant manufacturers and distributors, and was compiled by an independent statistical and research firm. We present the results in this three-part series.
October: Plant Managers
November: Sales and Marketing Executives
December: Laboratory & Technical
If you were a lubricant plant manager in the United States, wouldnt you want a peek at your peers paychecks?
You could see if they had received a raise in the past year, or whether their compensation is sweetened with bonuses and commissions. You could learn where across this vast country youd likely find the industrys top salaries. (Hint: Its not the Northwest.) You might even be pleased to find your own compensation is well aligned with your age, experience and the number of people you supervise.
Ninety-three anonymous lubricant plant managers recently granted LubesnGreases a confidential peek at their paychecks, by participating in our 2016 Lubricants Industry Salary Survey. As a group, they disclosed that their average annual compensation amounts to $123,900. The median compensation for these professionals is $105,00 a year, meaning half of the respondents earn more than that, and half make less.
Forty-nine-a bit more than half-of the responses came from plant managers at lubricant manufacturing companies, where pay has traditionally skewed higher than at firms that focus only on marketing and distributing lubes. On top of receiving, storing, transferring, packaging and delivering products-all of which many distributors perform-manufacturing firms carry added layers of costly production and complex decision-making; no wonder the rewards are higher. Plant managers with manufacturers say they make a mean compensation of $133,900; their median earnings are $120,000.
The remaining 44 respondents indicated they manage plants for lubricant distributors. These plants can be quite sophisticated and complex, with receiving, bulk storage, packaging lines, transfer lines and loading bays, and thousands of SKUs to track. Participants managing these physical plants said they are being compensated to the tune of $112,850 on average, with the median being $96,500. Thats $20,000 less than their counterparts in manufacturing.
How do these figures compare with what LubesnGreases heard in 2014, the last time the Salary Survey was conducted? First, its important to keep in mind that each years data is gathered from a different pool of respondents than the prior survey, so no direct up/down comparison should be made. If the figures go up, it does not prove that compensation has started climbing-it just means that this years participants as a group are making more than 2014s group.
That said, 2016s group have climbed a rung above the 2014 cohort. Plant managers with lube manufacturers in 2014 made an average of $123,900, and with distributors $92,600. Thats a gain of about $10,000 for this years participants.
Viewed in Profile
If you held a mirror up to the average lube plant manager, who would gaze back from the glass? Well, according to the 2016 Salary Survey, you might discern a few more gray hairs, but otherwise the image is pretty similar to the prototype seen in prior years:
He or she-10 of our respondents this year were women-is a bit shy of their 52nd birthday, and has spent just under eight years in their current position. All told, these professionals have an average of 22 years of relevant industry experience under their belts, 14 of them with their present employer. Both sexes were closely matched in these outlines.
A slight majority (53 percent) work for lube manufacturing companies, while the other 47 percent say they are with lubricant distributors. This is important because company type-blender vs. distributor-continues to be a clear and bright divide for reported compensation, just as seen in past salary surveys.
Those who work for lubricant distributors manage an average staff of 24 individuals, while those at lubricant manufacturers say they oversee 20 full-time employees. The median numbers supervised, however, are a bit lower: 14 for those managing plants for lube distributors and 10 for those with lubricant manufacturers.
Tipping the Scales
Company size is another key input for the payday equation, with compensation climbing in near-lockstep as an employer scales up its operations and workforce.
That said, the smallest companies (10 or fewer total employees) probably are not where plant managers are getting rich, according to our 2016 survey respondents. Plant managers with such diminutive companies represent only 4 percent of the replies. They said they earn $88,300 a year on the manufacturing side, and $71,000 on the distribution side.
Classic lube businesses with 11 to 200 employees are where youll find more than two-thirds of all responses. These participants say they average from $106,700 to $128,700 in earnings working for lubricant manufacturing companies, and a bit less ($98,000 to $120,300) when employed by a distributor; the averages rise at each stage of company size.
The next leap in scale, to companies with 201 to 500 employees, is a big one. The 10 percent of our plant manager respondents who fit this description make just under $160,000 a year on average. Those with lube manufacturers in this bracket do even better ($201,500 a year), but distribution companies at this scale appear to be less generous, paying an average $106,500.
When a companys total workforce shoots past 500, though, both manufacturers and distributors appear to be paying top dollar for their plant managers. Eighteen percent of our respondents said they work for such massive businesses. Those with lubricant manufacturers report an average of $176,100 in total compensation, and those with distributors make $167,200.
Hearty in the Heartland
By geographic region, the Central states are most strongly represented in this years survey, accounting for 51 of the 93 usable responses. The Eastern states contributed 32 of the replies, while the rest hailed from west of the Rockies. This breakdown roughly approximates the lubricants industry, which is clustered along the countrys center, from Detroit and Chicago down to the U.S. Gulf, and also has strongholds in the most industrialized, populous Eastern states.
So the heartland is where youll find the largest groups of lube plant managers-but is that where you also find the highest compensation? Not according to our responders. As in 2014, the top-earning group of participants are based in the U.S. Southwest, averaging more than $136,000 a year. Those in the Southeast have drawn neck-and-neck with that, averaging $135,600 a head, and the Northeast is a close third (almost $131,900 on average).
By contrast, respondents from the South Central states told us they average $125,000 a year, which is a notch above those from the North Central region ($114,900).
The Northwestern states again trailed all others in rewarding their lube professionals, the survey heard. Plant managers there did make some strides though, and our 2016 respondents average is nudging close to the $100,000 mark (versus $78,600 reported from the region in 2014).
Certification and Gender
One in eight plant managers who responded to the 2016 survey said they are a Certified Lubrication Specialist, credentialed by the Society of Tribologists & Lubrication Engineers. Almost all of these individuals work for lubricant distributors, yet being certified unfortunately does not seem to have given them a head-start over their non-CLS peers when payday rolls around. Just the opposite, in fact.
Despite many outward similarities with their rivals-like age, experience and tenure-lube distributor plant managers who have CLS are lagging. They report making an average of $98,900 a year, while those without the credentials claim an average of $116,400. The median compensation for these two groups of distributor plant managers tells the same story: $87,500 for those with CLS, and $99,800 for those without it.
Remember, these data came from a limited number of CLS respondents who are plant managers-only 11 in all-which isnt robust enough to make a strong case for or against. And it may be that credentials we did not ask about, such as engineering or business, are more highly regarded in this job category.
The survey also asked for respondents gender, and 10 indicated they are women, including seven who run lubricant manufacturing plants (where pay usually is better), and three who manage plants for distributors.
As mentioned above, the women who answered the 2016 survey boast of having the same years of industry experience and average job tenure as their male counterparts. They work for every size of company and oversee an average staff of 30 full-timers (median: 19 people). These women report making an average of $145,400 a year working for lube manufacturers and $99,700 at distributors. Median pay for women participants came to $115,000 at lube manufacturers, and $79,000 at distributors.
When viewing the male-only replies, the averages reported are somewhat higher. Men are evenly split between working for lube distributors and lube manufacturers, and they supervise 21 people on average (median number: 10). At lube manufacturers, the men reported making an average $132,000 a year (median: $120,000) and at distributors they reported $113,800 (median: $98,000).
Comparing these figures, its unclear why women make more or roughly the same as men in some cases, but fall behind in others. Women say they supervise more workers and a higher percentage work for manufacturers; both factors usually prompt higher pay. However, a much higher percentage of the men (20 percent, versus 1 percent of women) work for companies with 500+ employees, which is another booster for pay.
Sadly, there simply arent enough responses from women; the glimpses are intriguing, however.
Ready for a Raise?
Overall, two-thirds of all lube plant managers told us they received a raise during the prior 12 months, about the same as in 2014 (when 68 percent of respondents affirmed getting a raise). Thats certainly better than 2010, when only half of all respondents said theyd received a raise in pay.
A closer look, after sorting the responses by company type, shows that raises are not meted out with the same generosity at all employers. Almost 78 percent of those working for lubricant manufacturers said they got a raise-but only half of those at lube distributors.
The prospects of getting a bonus this year are viewed favorably by two-thirds of all respondents (including 69 percent of those at lube manufacturers and 59 percent of those with distributors), and one in four at both types of companies said profit sharing is part of their compensation package.
The parceling out of other forms of remuneration is more lopsided, however. Eight percent of this years participants from lube manufacturing firms said they expect to earn some form of company stock ownership, which none of those at lube distributors said theyll get.
Conversely, almost 14 percent of the distributor plant managers said theyll pocket a commission this year-more than triple the rate of their compatriots with lube manufacturers.
Safe and Secure
In closing, LubesnGreases questionnaire asked respondents to rate their sense of job security on a scale of one-to-five, with one being the least security and five the most.
Admittedly, this is a highly subjective question, but participants were unified in their positive outlook. They pegged their job confidence as a solid 4.1 on average. Every sub-group-whether male or female, with a distributor or manufacturer, those with CLS credentials and those without-reached that same average number or higher when rating how vital they feel within their organizations.
When it comes to making their plant managers feel valued and indispensable, it appears that industry employers are sounding the right notes-including on compensation. z