An operations consultant gives advice or reconfigures aspects of an organization's operations. He or she may develop plans for data management, disaster recovery, or operational continuity. Those who work within this field may also assist a company in developing strategies for outsourcing, or supply-chain management. Reconfiguring manufacturing processes — such as when company transitions into lean manufacturing — is another activity that may require the involvement of an operations consultant. Companies also often tap the skills of these consultants by bringing them on board to serve in a temporary capacity as a chief operations officer (COO).
As companies or organizations grow, reconfiguring operations frequently becomes a necessity. Manufacturing processes are often highly technical and small changes in operations may result in a significant increase in a company's profits. An operations consultant's cost may be justifiable if the firm discovers ways to improve its functioning.
Many different types of organizations may contract with an operations consultant to obtain recommendations on the most efficient and viable way to constructively change aspects of operations. If a boat manufacturer, for example, grows from a small niche in which the company sold canoes and kayaks, into offering a line of single-engine high-performance boats, planning for the retooling necessary to effect such a change may exhaust the company's existing staff. In addition, the expertise of a consultant may vastly exceed that of the firm's own employees.
Organizations, like families, sometimes experience natural or man-made disasters. Having a plan in place for a range of possible disaster scenarios that could occur may prevent a firm's demise should such an event occur. Companies that do not plan for disasters — like a flood, a major scandal, or the specter of a potential hostile takeover — may go out of business. An operations consultant usually possesses specific wisdom and skills to construct a viable plan to prevent such a scenario.
Companies that outsource, as well as those that depend upon consistent supply chains for manufacturing operations, may hire an operations consultant to review them and make recommendations for improving stability and efficiency. These consultants assist companies in developing outsourcing initiatives to take advantage of differentials in labor costs. They may also help a company avoid pitfalls, like inadvertently missing an exposure to a violation of immigration laws, for example. In addition, a consultant may dig deeper into the research than a member of the company's staff has time to do, and as a result might discover a major threat to the company's supply chain. For example, a large vendor may be approaching financial insolvency, and the company may be unaware of this threat.