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 & Marketing Executives
December: Laboratory & Technical
Between the lubricant industrys plant managers and marketing professionals, research and development and technical managers provide the formulations that keep the business going.
They are rewarded handsomely for their ingenuity, with the average compensation sitting happily at six figures and rising steadily with company size. Seventy-six percent of these managers received a raise in the past year, while two-thirds report they expect a bonus this year.
Fifty-nine laboratory and technical managers answered our confidential 2016 Lubricants Industry Salary Survey, all working for lube manufacturers. With a different pool of respondents from the previous survey two years ago, direct comparisons cant be drawn. Nonetheless, the data paints an interesting picture of the compensation that managers in these roles receive from their employers.
The average compensation for a lab/technical manager is around $133,800-3.3 percent more than the mean reported by respondents two years ago. On the other hand, the median pay this year was $138,000, a 13 percent rise from what the survey found in 2014. The highest level any individual reported for 2016 was $237,000, and the lowest sat at $44,000.
Respondents this year share a similar profile with their 2014 peers. On average, they are 49 years old with around 22 years of relevant industry experience. Theyve spent 7.5 years in their current job and supervise five people. These managers have spent slightly less time with their current employer: 13 years, versus around 14 years for the 2014 group.
As with our previous survey, the number of women responding this year was minimal: only nine out of the 59 respondents are female, accounting for about 15 percent of the pool. For them, the average reported pay was $104,100, and the median was $115,000. The male respondents said they make a little over $139,000 on average, and their median is also higher, at $140,000.
Women laboratory and technical managers in our survey are an average of two to three years younger than the men. It follows that the female managers have an average 20.5 years of experience, while the male managers have been in the field for about 23 years. However, the women have a slight edge in company tenure: Theyve spent around 14 years with their current employer and almost nine in their current role. The men average almost 13 years with their current employer and seven years in their current role. On average, both men and women supervise five other people.
While there are surely other factors at play, its interesting to note that the male respondents have an average of 12 percent more experience, but get paid almost 34 percent more than the women. One reason may be that only two of these women work at the largest lubricant manufacturing companies, which tend to pay better, in contrast to 13 of the men. Of note, however, is that the lowest bottom-line figure reported this year ($44,000) belonged to a man, while the lowest-earning woman made $58,000.
A Thriving Market
Currently, the job market for lab and technical positions is very active and competitive, says Terre Christensen, a recruiter with Monument, Colorado-based Woodmoor Group, which hires for the oil, gas and lubricant industries. Weve got several companies positioning to expand product lines, and that does require some leadership within their lab, not only from the standpoint of product development but also positioning it appropriately in front of the customer, she told LubesnGreases.
Product experience can give a technical manager an edge, and its something that Christensens clients specify when looking for candidates. The problem is that most companies want experience within their certain product line, and to find that, youre often going to the competitors for those skill sets.
The outlook for hiring lab and technical managers through the end of the year and into the beginning of 2017 looks positive. Conversations can take place at the end of the year as people come off the road in our industry and are at their desks more often, so you can catch people from the standpoint of building business and finding searches at that time.
In that regard, Christensen added, We have a lot of retirement going on in the Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association, so theres a lot of successor planning and replacements of positions, in addition to the expansion thats happening within some of my clients.
Crude oil prices and trends in the lubricants sector also influence the availability for these jobs. A lot of what drives hiring opportunities is the economy, and also changes in the industry. For example, the GHS [Globally Harmonized System for Hazard Communication] rollout last year definitely impacted hiring on the technical side of things, she explained.
Its Who You Know
How does one look for the right talent? For Christensen, its about engaging directly with potential candidates by networking and building relationships, which is why she is active within the ILMA community. Referral is often the best way to find a candidate, she said.
We also use social media, she added. LinkedIn is a great tool for us to understand the [candidates] background and make sure that we are at least in the same skill set and experience that were looking for.
A referral is what helped Greg Hewgill land his job as technical director for Lucas Oil in Corona, California. Hewgill had been actively looking for work after his previous company, Wynn Oil, closed its offices in the state.
It was through a friend who worked for a packaging company that had done business with Wynn Oil that he heard about the opening at Lucas, where Hewgill knew Mark Negast, the former technical director (who in turn had gone to Lubricating Specialties Co.). Later, he learned that Negast had actually endorsed him as his replacement.
Hewgill attributed his network of industry colleagues as a determining factor in getting the position. The most important people that you work with are the people at your own company or organization, but when that comes to an end, if you dont know people outside, it can be a lonely world, he added.
The Larger the Better
Based on the results of the survey, compensation for managers in a laboratory or technical role depends on how big the company is, where its located, how many people are under their direct supervision, and professional credentials.
This year, 27 percent of respondents work for a company with 11 to 50 employees and reported a median compensation of $103,000. The 17 percent of managers working at organizations with 51 to 100 employees jump to a median pay of $132,500.
The 15 percent of respondents working at a company with 101 to 200 employees said they earn a median $137,000. An equal number, who work at companies with 201 to 500 employees, saw that step up to around $148,300. And the remaining quarter of respondents laboring for the top tier of companies-those with over 500 employees-said they take home a median $150,000 this year.
Managers overseeing the work of multiple employees command higher pay. Thirty-seven respondents supervising five or fewer people made a median of $125,000, which increased to $140,000 for the 17 respondents supervising between six and 12 people. Five managers reported supervising more than a dozen workers-which garners an enviable $200,000.
Geography is also a determining factor for pay and varies for every U.S. region except the Northwest because of its scarce lubricant production. The highest number of respondents this year (68 percent) work in the North Central and South Central states, where most lubricant manufacturing is located, and attain medians of $138,000 and $140,000, respectively. Twenty-two percent of these lab and technical managers work in the Northeast, making a median of $130,000. Meanwhile, only 10 percent of respondents hail from the Southeast or Southwest, and get a median of $150,000 and $180,000, correspondingly.
Of the respondents, 22 percent said they possess Certified Lubrication Specialist credentials from the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers, which boosted the rewards for laboratory respondents by 13 percent.
A lab manager with CLS credentials made an average of $146,900 this year, compared to the $130,000 reported by those not certified. The lowest reported earnings for any CLS-holding manager was $70,000, well above the bottom-ranking $44,000 reported by a non-certified manager. But for salary increases, it was the opposite, with more managers lacking the credential (78 percent) receiving a raise in the prior 12 months than those who are certified (69 percent).
Money Isnt Everything
Even though 76 percent of our 2016 respondents said they received a raise during the year, that number is down from the 85 percent the survey heard in 2014. Expectations for other compensation also dipped slightly. Sixty-six percent of this years pool of respondents said they expect a bonus; 27 percent anticipate a share of the companys profits; 14 percent expect stock or equity benefits, and a meager 3 percent received a commission.
But compensation can sometimes take a back seat for someone looking to become a technical manager at a lubricants company. Even though Greg Hewgill had a rival job offer as a product manager for a different lubricant manufacturer, the easier commute, slight bump in compensation and responsibilities of his position attracted him to Lucas Oil. Being the technical director here means Im ultimately responsible for everything that the company makes, including quality control, research and development, product testing. It just seemed to be more challenging and more interesting, he explained.
Don T. Robertson, laboratory manager at BG Products in Wichita, Kansas, provides another example. Robertson entered the industry early last year after spending the bulk of his career as a process chemist and materials engineer for aircraft parts.
After 10 years in the aerospace industry working far from his home in Wichita, Robertson felt the urge to get back to his chemist roots and be closer to his family. He joined BG Products in February 2015, with benefits and pay that were not too far from what he was making as a materials engineer.
The incentive was that I would get to come home [to Wichita], and when I went through the interview process, I saw some real opportunities to bring what Ive learned and done in the aircraft industry to this business, to make it better and grow the R&D organization, Robertson added.
Christensen considers these factors when, as she put it, setting up the best marriage between a candidate and a company. Even though most of her clients manage to fill a position in 30 to 60 days, others can take longer. We can be looking for months if the requirements of the job are tough to find, because youre not only matching the skill set, she said. Youre also matching the candidate to the culture of the organization, to the location if it requires relocation, and taking into consideration potential growth for the candidate within the company.
With guidance from experienced specialists in both surveying and personnel issues, LubesnGreases designed a salary questionnaire for key job functions at U.S. lubricant suppliers. The main objective was to investigate compensation for three professional career paths (manufacturing/production; sales and marketing; and laboratory/technical). A second objective was to determine whether companies which manufacture lubes offer higher or lower salaries than those which distribute lubes only. A third objective was to track salary trends over time.
On August 1, 2016, questionnaires were e-mailed to 1,477 professionals drawn from the LubesnGreases and STLE databases, in the job categories under study; a reminder email was sent in each of the following three weeks. A total of 372 usable surveys were returned, for a 25 percent response rate. Participants responded directly to Charles R. Mann Associates Inc. of Washington, D.C., an independent statistical survey firm, which compiled the results in late August. No one at LNG Publishing or LubesnGreases magazine saw any individual data or any of the returned forms.
The respondents to the 2016 survey included 93 plant managers; 220 individuals in sales and/or marketing; and 59 in laboratory/R&D/