What Exactly Is Operations Management?

Operations Management - Operations Manager

Operations Management isn’t a term that everyone in business is familiar with. Essentially, it focuses on a collection of business practices that when optimized and controlled properly, combine to ensure the best operational efficiency that the organization is capable of.

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Companies use the management of important operations as a function to ensure that while there are departments responsible for different aspects of the running of the business, there are people who are responsible for ensuring they’re not all working against each other. While the Ops Manager does not technically act as a referee for different departments, they must work through any obstacles that are necessary to overcome to place all business operations on the right footing.

How Does the Work of an Operations Manager Work?

The better Ops Managers look mostly at forward-planning, keeping the business organized and acting as a supervisor for different aspects of the production process to ensure the best results. It’s a complex role with many moving parts.

At it’s most basic, the Ops Manager takes a bunch of inputs (raw materials, worker capacity & machinery) and turns them into completed outputs (finished products packaged and ready for shipment to stores, wholesalers or direct buyers).

When referring to inputs, this isn’t any one thing. It will vary depending on the type of business, what is being produced, and what’s required to deliver the outputs. Therefore, an Ops Manager may involve themselves on the technology side, go deep into getting the most out of production machinery or look at the raw materials provided by suppliers to ensure they’re of sufficiently high grade to allow the business to produce the ideal final product to the quality specification expected by the CEO and customers alike.

Is There Any Overlap with Logistics or the Supply Chain?

It’s correct to assume that an Operations Manager is interested in both the logistics involved in the procurement of supplies and the management of production facilities. When raw materials aren’t sourced well and consistently through a sophisticated supply chain, the production will grind to a halt.

Similarly, when the logistics aren’t managed properly, the devil is in the details and it shows with problems, mistakes, and mess-ups that cost the company dearly in eventual production delays. This has the trickle-down effect of losing customer orders and potentially creates a reputation for the brand that it cannot be relied upon. Certainly not something any business can afford to have in the minds of their potential or current customers.

For smaller businesses, the Ops Manager may indeed be working on some of the logistics or at least dabble in it or oversee it. The same goes for the supply chain where the smaller the business, the greater their involvement tends to be. There may not be a Procurement Officer or a Supply Chain Manager on staff if the business is too small to afford one or either of them, in which case usually the Ops Manager will assume some of those responsibilities too.

For people starting out in Operations, it’s not such a bad thing to get broader experience dealing with supply chain issues or logistics involved in getting manufacturing completed using raw goods, personnel and machinery.

With globalization and sourcing of materials worldwide, it’s important to have dealt with complex supply chain problems and not just the easy ones. It certainly prepares people new to the role and presents less of a hurdle later should they become the Ops Manager of a larger firm where they employ other managers to cover logistics and the supply chain but still need some degree of oversight.

What Kind of Person Suits an Operations Manager Role?

Not everyone suits the roles of an Operations Manager. Indeed, the same might be said of someone working either in logistics or supply chain management too.

Being extremely detail-oriented is important to make note of the important points and ensure they’re attended to. Making a major oversight that leads to a bad batch of goods just won’t cut it. The Ops Manager ultimately is responsible for the smooth running of the manufacturing and final outcomes even if there are many other workers and/or another manager or two in the mix. The buck stops with Operations.

It’s necessary to be good at liaising with different types of people and to get along well with them. People in these areas of business are always stressed, under pressure, and working under deadline conditions. A thick skin, an ability to bounce back and to stay on-track is very important too.

From the job role perspective, driving efficiency through smart manufacturing practices like lean manufacturing and the deployment of Six Sigma practices provides a better outcome in manufacturing with less waste. This is the direction most production facilities have gone towards lately.

How Can You Work as an Operations Manager?

Getting on the job training along with studying for an operations management degree online is the best entry-point. Getting the nitty-gritty details right and knowing what procedures to use to do so is very important.

Studying for a specific degree in Operations Management is best. It gets you dialed into exactly what you need to understand to do the job. To think procedurally in an organized manner to get the results required from the production line, ensure materials are sourced through the supply chain and that logistical matters don’t trip you up is not something you can learn without help.

Is It for You?

The job of an Operations Manager is not ideal for everyone. It’s got a tempo to it that is difficult for people to keep up with if they’re not used to it. Being switched “on” all the time to what’s needed in the business to produce the right outcomes and a perfect final product requires a lot of a person. Just managing the logistics is a job in itself. There are not many part-time people working as Operations Managers – it’s really a total focus, full-time thing with long hours depending on what’s required at the time. Anyone who goes into the profession must be prepared to work hard and push towards career progression over time too.

Photo by Michael Longmire on Unsplash

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