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Behind the Curtain, the World of Operations

I recall watching the Wizard of Oz many times as a youth. There is a part in the movie when Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion go see the Wizard in the Emerald City. As they fearfully stand in his presence, Toto pulls the curtain back only to expose the Wizard for who he truly is as a simple human. Once exposed, the Wizard shrieks “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” Well today the “person” behind the curtain in most organizations happens to be the Operations team! And you must pay attention. Think of a stage: the marketing and sales teams are cast in the glow of lights, reading lines from their scripts to various customers. Well-rehearsed and ready to create the next concept or make the next sale, they are at the forefront of the business. But equally important and most times invisible to the customer are far greater numbers of the firm’s associates. This team manages the stage, the curtains, the lights and many other pieces of the transformation process. This group of individuals converts inputs (orders), to outputs, fighting the clock daily, and yes in many cases creating and managing most of the costs. Operations are a subset of the value chain. It may include various sub-parts such as logistics, procurement, materials, manufacturing, and quality and customer service. Yes, many of us will conclude Operations lives at the operational and tactical levels and is a mere byproduct of the strategic planning process.

In the Benedictine online MBA program, Operations Management is a required area of study. “Why, I do not want to be behind the curtain I want to be on the stage,” you may exclaim. The importance of appreciating the impact the Operations function has on the organization is quite simple yet mastering the “tool box” requires study. Operations impact every type of business, service or manufacturing. Let’s use McDonald’s as an example. Ask yourself, where is Operations in Mickey D's? If you answered, anything “south” of the counter, you are correct! Transformation of inputs to outputs right in front of your eyes, from taking the customer order, sending it to the shop floor (kitchen), making the delivery in a short period of time while maintaining a prescribed level of quality. Where is Operations in this example? Ensuring you have the right number of people (capacity) and food products (inventory) to transform orders as they are placed in a timely fashion (delivery).

So what may a student expect when taking the Operations class? Let me first warn you, there is math. But do not fret. I feel Operations modeling requires fundamental mathematical modeling. And where the modeling becomes more cumbersome, there is always software. Key pieces of Operations will teach you how to devise and execute a production plan that will calculate inventory levels, determine human resource needs and recommend capital to include equipment and physical structures. A new product once released for sale must have a strong Operations process in place to include training documentation is in place. Quality programs ensure customers receive what they paid for. Effective product life cycle management (PLCM) to include forecasting serves as the stimulus to the Operations team insuring the current product line is being adequately managed to include capacity and inventory so the firm’s money is not wasted. Finally ensuring efficient utilization of resources to control costs is included. All of these concepts are reviewed and studied in the Operations class. Yes, Operations may not be exciting but gaining an appreciation for what transpires in this area of the business will make being on stage that much easier.

After all, business performance includes the efficient deployment of the business plan from teams on both sides of the curtain. Ever try to reach your audience while standing on a dark stage because someone forgot to turn on the lights? Exactly.

Related Benedictine Programs

If you’re interested in learning more about operations management, Benedictine’s MBA program offers a course that focuses on the strategic role of operations and how to improve operations processes. Benedictine University also offers online Undergraduate degree programs. To learn how an online degree from Benedictine can help you in a new business venture talk to a Program Manager today.

About the Author

Pete Papantos is an operations director at a Fortune 500 company. He is responsible for the global execution of their strategic plan and driving operational excellence using lean methods. In addition, Pete is a graduate instructor with emphasis in operations and strategic management — both in traditional and online settings.