Operations management is important. It is concerned with creating the products and services upon which we all depend. And creating products and services is the very reason for any organization's existence, whether that organization be large or small, manufacturing or service, for profit or not for profit. Thankfully, most companies have now come to understand the importance of operations. One survey of chief executive officers* showed 43 per cent of them citing operations as the most important area of employee know-how. Also there is evidence that organizations are spending increasing amounts of money on improving their operations. The adjacent figure shows what companies are spending with consultancy firms worldwide in the different management areas. Operations management is the largest segment of the market. This is probably because organizations have realized that effective operations management gives the potential to improve revenues and, at the same time, enables goods and services to be produced more efficiently. It is this combination of higher revenues and lower costs which is understandably important to any organization.
Operations management is also exciting. It is at the centre of so many of the changes affecting the business world - changes in customer preference, changes in supply networks brought about by internet-based technologies, changes in what we want to do at work, how we want to work, where we want to work, and so on. There has rarely been a time when operations management was more topical or more at the heart of business and cultural shifts.
Finally, operations management is challenging. Promoting the creativity which will allow organizations to respond to so many changes is becoming the prime task of operations managers. It is they who must find the solutions to technological and environmental challenges, the pressures to be socially responsible, the increasing globalization of markets and the difficult-to-define areas of knowledge management.
*Hall, R. (1992) The Strategic Analysis of Intangible Resources', The Strategic Management journal, vot 13, p.142.
The aim of this book
The aim of this book is to provide a clear, well structured and interesting treatment of operations management as it applies to a variety of businesses and organizations. The text provides both a logical path through the activities of operations management and an understanding of their strategic context. More specifically, this text aims to be:
• Strategic in its perspective of operations manage
ment's contribution to the organization's long-term
success. We are unambiguous in treating the opera
tions function as being central to competitiveness.
• Conceptual in the way it explains the reasons why
operations managers need to take decisions.
Although some quantitative techniques are inclu
ded, their primary aim is to illustrate the underlying
principles of operations decisions.
• Comprehensive in its coverage of the significant
ideas and issues which are relevant to most types of
• Practical in that the issues and difficulties in making
operations management decisions in practice are
discussed. Generally, the treatment reflects actual
operations practice, illustrated in the case exercises
and 'boxes' which explore the approaches taken by
• International in the examples which are used. Out
of over 110 descriptions of operations practice,
around a third are from continental Europe, a
third from the UK and a third are general or from
elsewhere in the world.
• Balanced in its treatment. This means we treat serv
ice operations with the same level of seriousness as
manufacturing operations and, where possible, we
have included both service and manufacturing
examples to illustrate a point.
Who should use this book?
This book is intended to provide an introduction to operations management for all students who wish to understand the nature and activities of operations management; for example:
• Undergraduates on business studies, technical or
joint degrees should find it sufficiently struc
tured to provide an understandable route through
the subject (no prior knowledge of the area is
• MBA students should find that its practical discus
sions of operations management activities
enhance their own experience.
• Postgraduate students on other specialist masters
degrees should find that it provides them with a
well-grounded and, at times, critical approach to
As before we have chosen to structure the book on a model of operations management which distinguishes between design, planning and control, and improvement. In addition, we both start and finish the book by treating the strategic aspects of the subject.
Operations management is a practical subject and cannot be taught satisfactorily in a purely theoretical manner. Because of this we have used both abstracted examples and 'boxed' examples which explain some issues faced by real operations, and can be used in class discussion.
Operations management is largely a qualitative subject but does include consideration of some quantitative techniques. Both qualitative and quantitative 'worked examples' are used to demonstrate how a technique can be used.
Not everyone agrees about what is the best approach to the various topics and issues with operations management. This is why we have, at certain points in the text, included a 'critical commentary'. These are alternative views to the one being expressed in the main flow of the text. They do not necessarily represent our view, but they are worth debating.
Summary answers to key questions
Each chapter is summarized in the form of a list of bullet points. These extract the essential points which answer the key question posed at the beginning of each chapter.
Every chapter includes a case exercise which is a short case study suitable for class discussion. The cases are usually short enough to serve as illustrations, which can be referred to in class, but have sufficient content also to serve as the basis of case sessions.
Selected further reading
Every chapter ends with a short list of further reading which takes the topics covered in the chapter further, or treats some important related issues. The nature of each further reading title is also explained.
A completely new web-based instructor's manual is available to lecturers adopting this textbook. It includes short commentaries on each chapter which can be used as student handouts, as well as PowerPoint presentations.
A very much expanded and enhanced range of support materials is available to lecturers and students on the Pearson Education website.
New for the fourth edition
The third edition proved to be even more successful than the first two, and again we would like to thank everyone who helped us make it such a success.
Although we have not made any radical changes to the overall structure in this edition, regular users of the book will notice some significant changes.
• The book has been visually redesigned - no need
to be dull.
• There has been some repositioning of material and
changes in emphasis, but not to the extent that it
disturbs the essential flow of the topics covered in
• The worked examples have been extended to cover
some qualitative as well as the quantitative-based
techniques described in the book.
• The critical commentaries have been extended
which we hope will encourage debate around some
of the more contentious operations management
• Each chapter starts with a boxed example. This is
used to introduce the topic and demonstrate its
relevance to operations management.
• Many of the boxed examples are new, but the old
ones are still available on the website (nothing
dies, it just passes over to the website).
• By popular request, 'Study activities' have replaced
discussion questions. These are short exercises,
often involving some degree of investigative work,
that can be tackled in groups or individually.
• Supplements to two chapters have been included.
A largely new supplement on forecasting is added
to Chapter 6 and an entirely new supplement on
queueing theory follows Chapter 11.
• Chapter 14 has been restructured to reflect the
importance of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
although MRP is still well covered.