What is operations management? | TopMBA.com

What is operations management?

By Tim Dhoul

Updated Updated

Operations management is a delivery-focused area in business which ensures that an organisation successfully turns inputs to outputs in an efficient manner. The inputs themselves could represent anything from materials, equipment and technology to human resources such as staff or workers. 

The MBA in operations management is a common specialisation among leading business schools worldwide. So, what does operations management involve and what makes a good operations manager? 

What does operations management involve? 

Operations management involves planning, organising and supervising in the contexts of production, manufacturing or the provision of services.  

Examples of the types of duties or specialist positions this encompasses are procurement (acquiring goods or services from external sources), managing relations with those involved in processes and improving a company’s sustainability regarding their use of resources. 

There are two key terms that can help answer the question of what operations management is more precisely: supply chain management and logistics. Operations management has firm foundations in both areas. 

For example, understanding global trends in supply chain management in order to meet client demand is often critical. With logistics the careful and considered use of resources, as well as cost-effectiveness, has become increasingly important in an era in which resources can often be in short supply and customer expectations have skyrocketed. 

Skills required of an operations manager 

  • Excellent organisational ability 

  • Knowledge of logistics and supply chain management 

  • Confident communicator 

  • People management 

Excellent organisational ability is crucial in successfully enhancing efficiency and driving productivity as an operations manager. 

There are strong parallels between the skills required for effective operations management and those needed in both logistics and supply chain management.  

An operations manager must be able to understand the series of processes within a company to get them to flow seamlessly, and in this sense the role is directly related to supply chain management. 

Meanwhile, the coordination involved in setting up these processes in practice represents logistics; the combination of understanding and coordinating the work of a company are central to becoming a successful operations manager.   

The MBA in operations management 

An MBA in operations management or a specialisation in a related field, such as logistics or supply chain management, should help students to enter the industry by developing the requisite skillset or to help those already in the industry to widen their knowledge and push on into a business leadership role. 

Studying an MBA in operations management commonly offers a global perspective on industry trends and an awareness of any financial regulations or political uncertainties that could impact an organisation. Risk management, getting to grips with the industry’s inherent complexities and responding well to change will be a strong consideration for students during their course. 

Emphasising the importance of strategic thinking is also a cornerstone of many leading operations management programmes, something that should enable graduates to ensure their organisation stays ahead of its competition. 

Best business schools for an MBA in operations management 
Calculated using three research indicators, employer reputation, career placements and research strength, Rotterdam School of Management of Erasmus University has been ranked as the best business school in the world for specialising in operations management. Here is the complete top 10

Top 10 universities for operations management   

Based on QS MBA by Career Specialisation Rankings 2023: Operations Management 

Global rank 



Rotterdam School of Management of Erasmus University 


Broad College of Business, Michigan State University 

United States 

Smeal College of Business, Penn State University 

United States 

POLIMI Graduate School of Management 


Michigan Ross School of Business 

United States 

SDA Bocconi School of Management 


W. P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University 

United States 

McCombs School of Business, The University of Texas at Austin 

United States 


MIT Sloan School of Management 

United States 


Max M. Fisher College of Business, Ohio State University 

United States 

Eligibility to study an MBA in operations management 

Entry requirements for specialised MBA in operations management programmes will resemble the typical requirements of a traditional MBA programme: an existing academic degree, work experience of more than two years, an above-average GPA, excellent recommendations, and a high GMAT score are all basic requirements among top business schools but having an adaptable personality and an ability to analyse large amounts of data quickly, and effectively, is also bound to come in handy. 

Some specialisations combine an MBA in operations management focus with one on technology, so, while a background in IT is not necessary, some working knowledge of IT will be of great benefit. 

Links to supply chain management highlighted by course options 

Most of the above institutions provide MBA and master's programmes with a great range of course offerings integrating operations management and supply chain management. The 21 month-long full-time MBA of Broad College of Business, Michigan State University, offers students the opportunity to opt for a concentration after completing the core curriculum. Concentrations require completion of 12 credit hours in one of six disciplines and the supply chain management concentration offers the students a blend of mandatory and elective courses in operations management, logistics and supply chain management. 

MIT Sloan offers a dual degree with its engineering school, highlighting its interrelations with other disciplines. At the end of two years, graduates leave the Leaders for Global Operations (LGO) programme with both an MBA and an MSc. The course has a wealth of company partners in the field of global operations and manufacturing who host plant visits and provide opportunities for the programme’s six-month internship segment. Indeed, 94 percent of 2023 students received job offers before graduation through the LGO network, from a list including Amazon, Boeing and Verizon. 

Institutions like, Michigan Ross School of Business allows students to create their own dual degree with a graduate programme at UM-Ann Arbor with additional specialisations of choice, upon meeting eligibility criteria. 

Contextualising the role of the operations manager 

The operations manager is able to transcend industries so exact job functions can vary based on the company you work for. At the base level, the two main streams an operations manager might belong to can be reduced to companies with a concentration on manufacturing and production, or those that provide services. 

For example, operations management roles within a pharmaceutical company fall under the category of production. Planning and coordinating the use of resources to ensure products are designed, created and dispatched to hospitals, chemists and so on, ensure not only that these products are prepared, but also that they are available to customers. 

Meanwhile, an airline company will often see the operations manager focus on services – transporting passengers and/or cargo from one place to another. 

In addition, it is likely that a manufacturing focus on the delivery of a tangible product will involve less direct contact with customers than a services role. 

These examples illustrate the clear distinction between the roles of an operations manager in two distinct industries. 

However, in reality most companies will not fit easily into one category or the other in the entirety of its operations. A car company doesn’t simply manufacture cars, it also services them. A café serving coffee might very easily also produce their own coffee. There is also what is known as quasi-manufacturing organisations, which seem more like manufacturing firms, but are clearly providing a service, such as an automated warehouse dispatching goods. 

The more one analyses the question of what operations management is, the more one sees how integral the position can be to any given company, be it small or large. There can be strong overlap with supply chain management, logistics or engineering, but there are many other industries and areas where operations functions and the skills of an effective operations manager are strongly tied to an organisation’s lasting success. 


What is operations management? 

Operations management is a business function focused on efficiently transforming inputs into outputs. It encompasses planning, organising, and supervising activities related to production, manufacturing, or service provision. Key aspects include procurement, resource optimisation, and sustainability.  

Why is operations management important? 

Operations management is crucial because it ensures that an organisation efficiently transforms inputs into outputs, encompassing materials, technology, human resources, and more. Effective operations management leads to enhanced efficiency, productivity, and seamless workflow.  

Skills required include organisational ability, logistics and supply chain knowledge, and strong communication and people management skills. Operations management is vital across diverse industries, playing a key role in strategic thinking, risk management, and staying ahead in the ever-changing business landscape. 

What is an operations manager? 

An operations manager is a professional responsible for planning, organising, and supervising activities related to production, manufacturing, or service provision within an organisation. This role involves managing processes, coordinating resources, and optimising efficiency.  

Operations managers play a crucial role in ensuring the seamless flow of activities, whether it's procuring goods and services, enhancing sustainability, or improving resource utilisation. Key skills for an operations manager include organisational ability, knowledge of logistics and supply chain management, effective communication, and people management. 

How do I become an operations manager? 

To become an operations manager, consider pursuing an MBA in Operations Management or a related field, emphasising logistics and supply chain management. Develop skills such as excellent organisational ability, knowledge of logistics, confident communication, and people management.  

Many top business schools, including Rotterdam School of Management and Broad College of Business, offer specialised programmes. Entry requirements typically include an academic degree, over two years of work experience, a high GPA, strong recommendations, and a competitive GMAT score. Keep in mind that adaptability and the ability to analyse data quickly are valuable traits for success in this role. 

This article was originally published in . It was last updated in

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