February 01, 2012

Why Operations ?

Let’s start with some of the myths regarding a career in Operations Management. Many people wrongly associate it with years of toiling in a manufacturing plant in a remote location. Though this perception cannot be completely denied, the picture really isn’t as gloomy as it seems. First, there are various career choices (other than manufacturing) in Operations Management, which we will discuss shortly. Second, an experience of working on the shop-floor for just a few years in the beginning adds a lot of value to the manager, thus enabling a more comfortable work environment and steeper career growth for rest of the life.

Another very famous belief is that operations managers are paid less as compared to their marketing or finance counterparts. Again, it might be true for some of the career choices, but it cannot be generalized. Also, once a person rises above a certain level on the corporate ladder, the aforementioned disparities between the compensations tend to disappear.
On a positive note, a career in Operations Management is considered to be the most fulfilling, i.e. high on job satisfaction. It has also been observed that opportunities and growth in this field are less affected by recessions.

Some of the major subjects taught in Operations Management are:
·         Operations Management – This course focuses on understanding of different ways to create an efficient and effective production and service operations.
·         Manufacturing System Design - This course focuses on concepts and techniques relating to manufacturing systems design eg. JIT and TOC.
·         Total Quality Management / Six Sigma – The aim of this course is to emphasise the importance of quality in the competitive world and make the participants aware of the standards available.
·         Enterprise Solutions – This course aims to understand the functionality that ERP systems deliver, and to harness this functionality for the benefit of the organization and the managers who are the users of the system.
·         Supply Chain Management – According to APICS, SCM is “design, planning, execution, control, and monitoring of supply chain activities with the objective of creating net value, building a competitive infrastructure, leveraging worldwide logistics, synchronizing supply with demand and measuring performance globally”. This course aims to understand the basics and develop different strategies of SCM and logistics management.
·         Project management - This course provides the skills in executing various projects, starting from project identification till project termination.
·         Operations Strategy – This course is on evaluation of manufacturing decisions from their strategic fit to the firm’s products and market.
·         Operations Research – This course aims to provide a formal quantitative approach to problem solving and an intuition about situations where such an approach is appropriate e.g. Linear Programming.
·         Management of Technology - The main objective of this course is to present the concepts, techniques and applications that will be needed to understand, anticipate, acquire, and use technology for attaining a competitive edge at the market place.

Broadly speaking, the various career options for an operations student are
1.      Manufacturing/Production Management – The key responsibilities include manufacturing process optimization, product development and re-design, production planning, inventory planning and control, forecasting, quality control, standardization, and process analysis.
2.      Service Operations – Most of the responsibilities remain same as mentioned above, but in the services sector.

3.      Consulting – Many students are hired by consultancy firms which cater to the manufacturing and/or services organizations. A sound knowledge of the relevant subject and experience are usually required.
4.      Supply Chain Management – In the recent times, this channel has gained a lot of prominence owing to its vast applications and potential. Supply chain management has a very wide scope as it encompasses the planning and management of all activities involved in sourcing and procurement, conversion, and all logistics management activities. It also includes coordination and collaboration with channel partners, which can be suppliers, intermediaries, third party service providers, and customers. In essence, supply chain management integrates supply and demand management within and across companies.
What to do before joining a B-school?
A prior and basic knowledge of MS Excel can be very helpful while attending the Operations Management courses. To get better clarity on some popular concepts, a bestselling management books can be read. The two most recommended are “The Goal” by Dr. E. M. Goldratt and “The Toyota Way” by Dr. Jeffrey Liker.

It is found that to excel in this field, one needs to have good problem- solving skills, quantitative and logical thinking. Graduates in Engineering, Mathematics / Statistics and Science are expected to do well in this field. Graduates from other streams also do well provided they have good logical reasoning skills and passion for Ops.

The writer of this article, Akshay Agarwal is a PGP student of Indian Institute of Management, Raipur and has done his B.Tech from Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati. Akshay holds a Green Belt Certification in Six Sigma. Prior to joining IIM Raipur, Akshay has worked on various Value Engineering / Cost Cutting projects at Surya Roshni. 


  1. Nice and comprehensive article on the use of six sigma in process improvement.
    I have been researching for a while now, to update my self with new process improvement techniques as I start using a Six Sigma Certification tool to improve business processes.

  2. In the Operation many way to get theme like Operation Management means kind of focus on your production and effective create a car.