Oh, what a difference two years makes. When IndustryWeek last investigated the salaries being earned by manufacturing management -- back in 2010 -- base earnings were static at the very least and on a downward trend for a fifth of the population who responded to our inquiries. Fewer than 30% saw their salaries grow.

In 2012 the tide has turned. In response to our recent inquiries about cash compensation, fully two-thirds of our manufacturing managers who responded to the 2012 IndustryWeek Salary Survey reported receiving raises over the past year -- well over double the percentage reporting a salary boost in the previous survey. Only 3% saw their base earnings decline, and yes, for about a third, base salaries were frozen.

An improving U.S. manufacturing landscape is clearly a factor in manufacturing management's improving salary fortunes. In February the U.S. manufacturing sector had expanded for the 30th consecutive month, according to the Institute for Supply Management's PMI.

See Also:

Charts and Tables: The data behind the 2012 IndustryWeek Salary Survey

2012 IW Salary Survey: Readers Sound Off

And while the economy still ranks high among the biggest challenges facing manufacturers today, it has faded back into a pack that is increasingly being populated by the skilled-worker shortage.

Wrote one manager in the product-development arena: "Many of today's workers do not have the technical skills that the jobs require. Although jobs may be available, it is difficult to match potential employees to these jobs. With today's fast pace, employers need skilled workers coming in the door. They don't have time to train in order to meet narrow windows of opportunity for business."

Interestingly, data from the 2012 salary survey suggest that a partial solution to the talent shortage may be closer than you think -- indeed within your company's own four walls. We'll explore the talent shortage issue further, but first a quick look at some hard data from the 2012 survey. More than 900 subscribers participated in the effort.

Manufacturing managers earned an average salary of $99,643, while the median was $86,000. Both figures represent slight increases from IndustryWeek's last salary survey, in which the average was $98,120 and the median was $81,000. It is reasonable to assume that for a percentage of manufacturing managers, their salary boosts may merely be recouping dollars lost in previous years' downturns.

In addition, approximately 57% of respondents report receiving a bonus -- typically variable rather than a discrete amount -- in addition to their base salary. The bonuses can be substantial.

Among manufacturing-industry verticals, managers in apparel and textiles earned the highest base wage, at $119,133. The paper, printing and publishing vertical earned the lowest, at $87,708. It also elicited several of the most painful comments from survey respondents. For example: "As a company, there have been no raises for six years, two pay cuts and numerous downsizings. In January [2012], the plant will be closing for good after 40 years of operation. One-hundred-fifty people will lose their jobs, and I personally have no desire to stay in commercial printing after 35 years and incredible stress," wrote a production manager with 26 years of experience and earning $90,000.