Engineers: most sought-after specialists and salary trends in 2022


Project management, process management and maintenance management... these are just a few examples of production plants’ priorities for 2022. And that requires experienced specialists. But who are these specialists? What is their added value? How about the demand on the labour market? And will they be able to count on a salary increase in 2022?


Jülide Tunali, senior manager in the engineering division of global recruitment firm Robert Walters, talks about the most popular engineering specialists who will help shape the organisation's success in 2022.

Plant Manager/Director 

A Plant Manager or Plant Director is the highest ranking person in an organisation's production plant and has the ultimate responsibility for several areas such as operations, production, engineering, maintenance and ongoing projects. He or she also takes the final decision on the strategy of the manufacturing.

Jülide: "Halfway through the first quarter of 2021 we saw a peak in demand for Plant Managers and Plant Directors, but in the months that followed, the demand remained fairly stable. If we compare the number of plant management vacancies this year with last year, it has remained fairly stable. Remarkably, since the end of November, we have seen a strong increase in the demand." That demand is mainly concentrated in Flanders: almost half (45%) of the plant management vacancies are located in West Flanders. 14% of vacancies are in East Flanders, followed by Antwerp (12%).

In terms of salary for a Plant Manager or Plant Director, we see little difference compared to 2021. "A Plant Manager with up to 6 years of experience can count on a gross annual salary of EUR 85-125k. Plant Managers with 6 to 10 years of experience earn on average EUR 125-150k per year. For Plant Directors with more than 10 years’ experience, we expect the salary to increase slightly in 2022: he or she can count on a gross annual salary between 155 and 180 k EUR," says Jülide.

Quality Manager/Director 

A Quality Manager or Director is primarily concerned with defining the strategy and operational management of everything relating to quality, and ensuring that this is in line with the manufacturing processes and regulated quality standards.

Throughout the year, the demand for Quality Managers and Directors remained fairly stable. But since September, we have seen an increase in demand, culminating in November. The focus of organisations is clearly on improving quality processes, because compared to last year we even see a 22% increase in the demand for these specialists.Quality Managers and Directors are mainly employed in Antwerp (20%), West and East Flanders (both 16%), according to the latest Jobfeed vacancy statistics. 

Quality Managers with 3 to 6 years' experience may count on a gross annual salary of EUR 55-75k in 2022. Professionals with 6 to 10 years of experience can expect to earn EUR 75-100k gross per year. "Due to the increasing importance of quality within the organisation, Quality Directors with more than 10 years of experience can expect a slight increase in their salary, up to EUR 140k gross per year."

Engineering Manager/Director 

The strategy and application of engineering processes within a production plant is decided by the Engineering Manager or Engineering Director. Doing so, he or she ensures that the efficiency and effectiveness of the technologies used are secured.

“Demand for Engineering Managers and Directors has remained stable over the past year and similar to 2020, although we have seen a slight increase in demand in recent weeks, particularly in the Antwerp (24%), West Flanders (23%) and Brussels (19%) regions.“ This profile proves to be one of the most challenging to be found in the market and projection is for drastic increase in salaries.

The annual Robert Walters Salary Survey reveals that an Engineering Manager with 3 to 6 years of experience can expect to earn a gross annual salary of EUR 65-80k. If you have between 6 and 10 years of experience, this salary rises to EUR 80-120k. Engineering Directors with more than 10 years of experience can expect a gross annual salary of up to EUR 150k in 2022, a slight increase compared to 2021.

Maintenance Manager 

Safety first, which is why the role of a Maintenance Manager is so important. He or she is the person who decides on the maintenance strategy within the organisation, whether curative or preventative, and thus ensures that the manufacturing processes within the production plant are safe.

"Here, too, we have noticed an increase in the number of vacancies since September, with a peak in November," says Jülide. The demand for Maintenance Managers is concentrated mainly in West Flanders (19%), Hainaut (17%) and Antwerp (13%).

"The increasing importance of safety is also visible in the salaries of experienced Maintenance Managers. They can count on a salary increase in 2022: EUR 75-87k gross per year for professionals with up to 10 years' experience and EUR 88-105k for specialists with more than 10 years' experience."

Production Manager/Director 

As the job title says, a Production Manager/Director is responsible for setting the strategy and operational management of the production of a certain service or product. 

Jülide: "In November we suddenly noticed a huge spike in demand for Production Managers and Directors, so we are already at a 15% increase compared to the number of vacancies in 2020." Production Managers and Directors are especially in demand in West Flanders (32%), East Flanders (16%) and Antwerp (15%), according to the latest Jobfeed vacancy statistics.

In terms of remuneration, we expect this to remain stable in 2022. For example, a Production Manager with 3 to 6 years of experience earns on average EUR 70-80k. Professionals with 6 to 10 years of experience see their salaries increase to EUR 100k gross per year. Production Directors with 10 or more years of experience can count on a gross annual salary of up to EUR 120k.

Continuous Improvement/Lean Manager 

"Because of the corona pandemic, many process improvement projects were paused. When organisations relaunched these improvement projects massively by the summer, this was also immediately visible in the demand for Continuous Improvement/Lean Managers: there were no less than 62% more vacancies published this year compared to 2020," says Jülide.

Still, we do not expect any peaks in remuneration for these professionals in the coming year. For example, a Continuous Improvement/Lean Manager with 3 to 6 years of experience will earn around EUR 65-75k gross per year. Specialists with 6 to 10 years of experience can count on a gross annual salary of up to EUR 85k. Those with more than 10 years’ experience can expect to earn EUR 85-90k gross per annum.

Project Manager

In a manufacturing environment, Project Managers play a crucial role in all ongoing projects aimed at improving business processes and investments that need to be made in both the short and long term.

"In 2021, the demand for Project Managers was huge and the market suffers from the lack of candidates. Location, technical background and language requirements pose serious problems in that respect- here comes the perspective of hiring more international profiles – which prove to be the trend today. Jobfeed statistics reveal that in the past year no less than 40% more vacancies were published than a year ago. Demand was particularly high within HVAC, infrastructure, engineering and construction, with a few peaks in September and November." Project Managers are particularly in demand in the Brussels region (31%), Antwerp (21%) and Flemish Brabant (12%).

"In terms of salary, we expect that mainly the most senior Project Managers with over 10 years of experience will see their salaries increase in 2022." They can then count on a gross annual salary of up to EUR 170k. Project Managers with 3 to 6 years of experience can expect a salary of up to EUR 85k gross a year. Those with 6 to 10 years’ experience can expect to earn EUR 85-100k gross per year.


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