Operations management is an area of organizational management that oversees, designs, implements, troubleshoots and controls the processes of production and operations in how a business produces goods and services.
Ultimately a way to manage and increase efficiency, operations managers work to reduce the amount of resources that are needed in production, while ensuring that production doesn’t take a negative hit. It is a job that blends engineering, applied science, creativity, rational analysis, technological prowess, good interpersonal skills, engineering and more in order to accomplish its ends.
From the earliest stages of their training all the way through a career that can span decades, operations managers cover a lot of territory. The physical, technical and technological functions of an organization should hum like a well-oiled machine, and operations managers work to provide the oil. Still, the whole job is a relatively new concept in the history of humankind and human labor.
Operations management came into existence due to the shift in work that occurred because of the industrial revolution.Prior to the industrial revolution, work was done and goods produced in and around the home, or it was supplied by skilled artisans who were members of trade guilds. The middle of the 19th century saw a shift occur. The American system of manufacturing, which emphasized interchangeable parts and copious mechanization—two things that ultimately led to mass production and the rise of the energy industries—changed how work happened. That change led to the need for a systemthat could keep the ball rolling as the work and its many components grew more and more complex. It was only a matter of time before operations management came into being and function.
Operations management encompasses a wide array of jobs, processes, assignments and principles. Some of those are:
- Production systems. This part of the job can be broken down further into two classifications: process production, which oversees products that go through physical, chemical changes that are not the result of assembly operations, and part production, which is made up of goods that are manufactured and the systems of assembly that produce them.
- Metrics. Divided into both efficiency and effectiveness categories, metrics deals with everything from price and quality to stock availability and production times.
- Configuration and management. This aspect of operations management makes use of technological and organizational variables to plan efficient production.
- Safety, maintenance and risk. From manufacturing maintenance issues to ensuring that supply chains are safe, operations managers must take into account people, products and processes in order to do their job well.
While these functions make up some of the work that an operations manager does, the job itself can have many titles and take many forms. Many operations managers oversee large production and supply chains, but some have what look like—at least on the outside—simpler jobs to perform:
- City manager. A city is made up of a lot of needs, processes, people, budgets, resources, businesses and more. A good city manager is able to see the forest and the trees, while attending to the needs of both.
- Property manager. Whether it’s finding tenants or scheduling repairs, property managers handle operations that are real estate-centered.
- Agent for a public figure. From sports teams to celebrities, managing some people and entities is like overseeing a city or major company. Complex communication, scheduling, PR and accounting needs require a skilled manager.
- Consulting. Businesses sometimes need help tightening their belts and running more efficiently. A good operations manager can provide the means to do that.
Much like the industrial revolution, the current technological revolution is greatly affecting how human beings work, and the same holds true in the field of operations management. As life in the 21st century become more and more technologically driven, the need for a nuanced and highly skilled operations manager is increasing. The categories of work listed above are all now interwoven with technology, and that technology keeps changing how we work, what we use to get our work accomplished and the kinds of work we do. The systems that make up systems are becoming increasingly complex, and operations management is one of the fields tasked with keeping up with it.