Project management in rugged industries

One of the draws to earning a master’s degree in project management is the wide array of industries that are open to graduates. Just about every industry has a need for project managers (PMs) to guide initiatives and operational improvements. Such professionals are even more valued as new trends continue to reshape the economy and the ways in which the world works and lives.

While all industries have been affected by technology or disruption, rugged industries — like manufacturing, energy and aerospace — stand out in their need for project managers to guide business-critical programs that bring them into the 21st century. While rugged sectors may sound like a rough-and-tumble prospect, companies in the space have become increasingly more digital and dependent on data and other cutting-edge solutions to transform operations. Even though a mining company may deal with dirt and earth, it’s also likely to work with high-end tablets and sensors to monitor activity.

As industrial companies step into the 21st century, they’re looking for knowledgeable and skilled PMs to guide high-value projects. The opportunities to make an impact are many, like creating the workflows for manufacturing the next generation of electric vehicles. Here are some of the prospects in rugged industries for PMs to consider.

Man checking device in warehouse


Manufacturing may have an air of elbow grease about it, but it is more a fine-tuned art than ever before. While there are still locations where forge fires burn on the factory floor, more common is the facility that houses robots and the latest smart machinery. Automation is the name of the game for manufacturing, and businesses have turned their investments toward implementing robots and other tools that enable them to meet modern demands with efficiency and to a high quality. According to the International Federation of Robotics, 1.3 million industrial robots will enter service by 2018. The ever-rising rate of adoption of robots, however, has not spelled the end for humans in manufacturing.

For one, facilities need trained employees to safely and accurately operate equipment or work with robots at different parts of the production process. More importantly, manufacturers will need project managers to organize training and ensure it is properly and thoroughly administered to the workforce. Installing such equipment and bringing it online depends on smooth implementation from start to finish, the type of planning that PMs excel at. Being such a business-critical project, robots create a great deal of human need and project planning that manufacturers depend on PMs to implement.


Another trend that’s redefined how rugged companies work today is the Internet of Things (IoT). The emerging network of interconnected devices and various nodes that communicate together continues to grow. Gartner estimated that some 3.1 billion IoT “things” used for business purposes were active in 2017. That number is expected to grow to around 4.1 billion in 2018 and then 7.5 billion by 2020. This exponential increase can be seen in the energy industry.

Consider the needs of oil and gas companies. When responsible for the operation of miles of pipeline or a giant sea drilling rig, businesses need all the information they can get to safely monitor activity. Enter IoT sensors, which can be placed at regular intervals of pipeline and feed real-time data back to those in charge. Having equipment diagnostics that managers can monitor for safety hazards are crucial pieces to any oil and gas operation, and the more they utilize IoT technologies the more they’ll need PMs to direct these modernization efforts.

Besides traditional rugged companies in the energy space, there are also organizations involved in new alternative and renewable sources that will lean on PMs to help build up infrastructure, teams and internal operations. As options like solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal and biofuels continue to become more mainstream, alternative energy companies will need PMs to design and execute new projects that increase choice and mitigate carbon emissions.


An intriguing development in rugged industries is the commodification of aerospace. With the entry of noted entrepreneur Elon Musk and his SpaceX startup, recreational space travel is closer than ever. Overall, aerospace is an industry that has always innovated, so it’s no surprise that new possibilities for planes and spacecraft are well within reach. However, as close as these goals are, these firms will still need PMs to help realize true progress.

Any project an aerospace company takes on involves intricate and complex parts, steps and phases. One advantage that PMs can bring to these processes is knowledge of methodologies. When there’s a number of disparate departments to align, workflows to optimize and waste to eliminate, agile or lean methodologies can have benefits. With PMs to deploy such strategies from the top of the project down, aerospace companies may improve their chances of meeting ambitious goals and deadlines.

Get an MSPPM from Brandeis University

Whatever industry you pursue, it’s generally assured that a high level of education and a diverse skill set will be important. Especially as rugged industries go, PMs will need to be prepared to take on large-scale projects that are critical to the economy and daily life. Automation and the IoT are inescapable trends that industrial companies are positioning themselves to address, and they’ll depend on PMs to guide successful projects.

If interested in pursuing a master’s education to prepare for new opportunities, consider the online Master of Science in Project and Program Management degree offered by Brandeis University. Contact an admissions officer to learn more today.


Recommended reading:

Lean, Agile, Waterfall: Exploring The Methodologies Of Project Management

How Project Managers Can Tackle Sustainability and CSR

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