What is Operations Consulting?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Operations consulting is the process of assisting various types of businesses to assess the current status of internal procedures and strategies, and enhance the overall operation of the company. While operations consulting is often thought to focus on manufacturing plants or production facilities, the scope of operations consulting is actually broader than that. Even businesses that are service-based rather than product-based can benefit from operations consulting.

An operations consultant may examine how quickly intermodal containers are moved through a freight company's shipping network.
An operations consultant may examine how quickly intermodal containers are moved through a freight company's shipping network.

An operations consultant will normally begin the evaluation process by examining the workflow structure of the business. This begins with the structure and division of labor among the management of the company and moves on to the various divisions and departments and how they relate to one another in order to ultimately supply customers with goods or services. The idea is to understand how each component of the business currently impacts that process, directly or indirectly.

An operations consultant gives advice or reconfigures aspects of an organization's operations.
An operations consultant gives advice or reconfigures aspects of an organization's operations.

Once the consultant has a firm grasp on how things are done currently, as well as the reasons behind those procedures and organizational structures, he or she can begin to offer advice on how to enhance various operational functions. This involves noting existing procedures and strategies that serve the interests of the company very well, while also noting areas where there is room for improvements that would enhance the already strong points of the operation. Often, this is one of the most difficult portions of the operations consulting process, as the client may resist some or all of the ideas presented by the consultant.

After coming to a consensus on what must be done, the next phase of operational consulting is usually implementation of the changes determined to be necessary. Here, consultants may be actively or passively involved in the process. The consultant may remain present for the duration of the implementation process, offering advice and assistance along the way. In other cases, the consultant may remain available to the client but not be involved in the day to day implementation of the changes.

A professional who offers the services of operations consulting to clients may choose to specialize in certain types of businesses or to take on clients in a wide range of industries. Depending on the needs of the client, the task of operations consulting may focus only on particular areas of the company, such as evaluating and refining the relationship between inventory maintenance and the shipping department. Generally, consultants will provide a schedule of fees based on the needs of the client and the amount of time that he or she anticipates will be required for evaluation and implementation of the enhancements.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


@sunnySkys - I don't know if a consultant would have to experience in the exact industry they're consulting on. Operations are probably pretty similar in a lot of business ventures, so if you know something about business, you should be fine.

Plus, the article said that consultants spend time observing and learning about the business before they make their recommendations. So that leads me to believe that not all consultants are familiar with the industries they offer their services to.


@starrynight - I imagine doing operations strategy consulting must be frustrating sometimes. There's nothing worse than when someone asks for advice and then doesn't take it. On the other hand, I imagine the consultant gets paid either way, so maybe some consultants don't care either way?

Anyway, I don't know for sure, but I would imagine most consultants have a background in the industry they are consulting for. Because how could you help someone with their operations when you have no idea what it is they're doing?


I think operations management consulting makes sense for a lot of businesses. I feel like often, people who are involved in things can't see the big picture. So it's a lot easier for an outside consultant to analyze operations and suggest changes than it would be for someone within the company to do it.

Like the article said though, this can definitely be a double-edged sword. Because some people might not want to listen to the suggestions the consultant makes!

It definitely sounds counterintuitive to hire a consultant and then not listen to them, but I can see it happening. I know a lot of people who don't do well with constructive criticism, even if they ask for it!

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