A former team member of mine recently asked for advice about what is important for taking on an IT Operations Manager role in a manufacturing facility. So I decided to post my answer for those that find themselves interested in doing something like that.
Technology skills are a given. If you don’t consider yourself tech-savvy, you will struggle. You will struggle with understanding the issues, and you will struggle to gain the respect of your team. I doubt you will get many tech questions in the interview because it is assumed that you are tech or you wouldn’t be in the room.
It would be best if you were somewhat likable. This is because you will depend on a lot of different people to get your job done. You will need to work with your team members, production operators, supervisors, other managers, vendors, and various other entities over time. So it can be challenging if you can’t be likable.
They will want to know that you intend to spend time (a lot of time) on the floor understanding the processes and the problems. It is paramount that you raise issues as soon as they are discovered and not try to handle it all yourself. This can be a big liability if you are hesitant about doing this. It is critical that you effectively communicate the problem, what you are doing about it, and current progress to multiple levels of people. Sometimes you will need to communicate all the technical details, but most of the time, you need to explain it as simply as possible.
They want to know that you can develop effective countermeasures and dog the issue until it is resolved, that you can assign work to the team, follow up, and hold the team accountable. Holding the team accountable can be difficult, especially if you were previously peers, and definitely if you are friends outside of work.
They also want someone that understands that it is a manufacturing facility and that the most important thing after safety is getting the product built and out the door. So, therefore, whatever the manufacturing operations manager and materials manager need to make happen is the most important thing in the building.
The last thing that I would point out is that you must plan for the future because you will have a lot of time of nothing (hopefully) between launches, but you will wish you had some of that time back when they come. Even if you are ahead of the game, you can get pulled down by the struggles of others. So help them stay ahead of things too.