We like to think of operations management as the neurological system of a healthy business. It coordinates the behavior and system functionality of living, breathing organizations to ensure that they continue to grow and thrive in the real world. The more complex the organization, the more vital it is for its operations management to be strong and in good working order.

Successful operations management leaders tend to be the well-organized and systematic types of the world. They fuss and arrange and then ponder and tweak. They see the wrinkles and iron them out to ensure that their companies make the most of what they’ve got. And many people think operations managers thrive on bringing order to chaos, but this shouldn’t be the case! In this book we show you how to plan operations and implement those plans so that your company’s operations run smoothly — chaos-free.

Maintaining order and efficiency is a fact of life — in business, families, personal relationships, and other human systems. And operations management is essentially the science of managing resources and behavior. But unfortunately, this important field of study is often explained in a way that makes it sound like an exercise in advanced math instead of a vital part of corporate governance and strategy development.

We wrote this book to help you get a handle on the fundamentals of operations management and to make your life more comfortable when dealing with operations. Whether you’ll actually be managing operations or just want to understand what goes on in operations, this book is for you. If you plan on taking an operations management course as part of your business major or MBA coursework, this book provides a foundation for your understanding. It will also be there for you when it’s time to apply the concepts in real situations as you advance your career!

About This Book

Like all other For Dummies books, Operations Management For Dummies isn’t a tutorial. It’s a reference book that, we hope, provides you with as much information as you need on the fundamental concepts of operations management to succeed in your coursework and your entry-level tasks in the real world. Use this book as you need it. That is, don’t feel pressured to read it cover to cover — although you’d no doubt be fascinated at every turn! You can jump right to the topics that are giving you nightmares, get the assurances you need, and be on your way with tips and insight that may not be available in your regular textbooks.

We’ve done our best to describe operations management concepts in a fun and lively way. We point out the most important theories, techniques, and ways of thinking about managing products, processes, services, supply chains, and projects without all the mind-numbing details, outdated examples, and complicated explanations that fill some other books on this topic. Here’s a glimpse of the topics in this book:

check.png Evaluating and measuring current performance

check.png Designing processes to meet your objectives

check.png Improving your processes

check.png Estimating and predicting demand

check.png Planning and managing capacity

check.png Determining the right amount of inventory

check.png Getting the right products to the right place at the right time

check.png Selecting and managing suppliers

check.png Getting the gist of Six Sigma and lean production

check.png Planning and managing projects

check.png Scaling operations for the life cycle of your product

Read the chapters in any order, and feel free to go straight to the subjects that interest you. You don’t need to bother with a bunch of stuff that you already know — although you may wonder how well you really know it. There is, after all, always room for improvement, right?

As you work your way through this book, keep in mind that sidebars and Technical Stuff icons are skippable. Reading these bits will certainly add to your understanding and appreciation of the topic, but you won’t miss anything crucial if you skip over them.

Foolish Assumptions

We’re well aware of the fact that you’re a one-of-a-kind person with countless unique attributes, but as we wrote this book, we had to make some assumptions about our readers. Here’s what we assume about you:

check.png You’re smart, resourceful, and interested in how the world works.

check.png You have a new interest in operations management. You may be currently taking an introductory operations management course as part of your business major or MBA studies and need help with some core concepts. Or you’re planning to take an operations management course next semester, and you want to prepare by checking out some supplementary material.

check.png You may have just been promoted into a position of operations management from another field (that has happened to all three of the authors), and you need to learn how to manage operations fast.

check.png You may be focused on a different field of study and have an interest in what those OM folks do, or you may find yourself promoted into a management position and realize that operations are important to every field; time to get up to speed on OM principles.

check.png You’ve had algebra and statistics and remember enough of the basics to get by with a few gentle reminders.

Icons Used in This Book

To make this reference book easier to read and simpler to use, we include some icons to help you home in on certain types of information.

remember.eps Any time you see this icon, you know the information that follows is so important that it’s worth recalling after you close this book — even if you don’t remember anything else you read.

technicalstuff.eps This icon appears next to information that’s interesting but not essential. Don’t be afraid to skip these paragraphs.

tip.eps This bull’s-eye points out advice that can save you time when establishing and analyzing processes.

warning_bomb.eps This icon is here to prevent you from making fatal mistakes in your operations management work.

Beyond the Book

In addition to the material in the print or e-book you're reading right now, this product comes with some access-anywhere goodies on the web. Check out the free Cheat Sheet at for helpful formulas and more.

Where to Go from Here

This isn’t a novel — although you may find as many twists and turns as there are in the best whodunit. But this book is set up so you can follow the information in any given section or chapter without reading it cover to cover. It’s possible for you to know what’s going on even if you skip around.

The book is divided into independent parts so that you can, for instance, read all about managing risk without having to read anything about project management. Take a look at the table of contents to see what topics we cover where.

If you’re brand-new to operations management, we suggest starting with Part 1. In this part you can find everything you need to know about processes. Regardless of your field or career path, this part can help you understand processes that affect everything you do.

If your interest is primarily related to quality, then you may want to start in Part III, which focuses on quality management and improvement and highlights the popular Six Sigma methodology. If you’ve recently been assigned to a product development team, then Part IV is likely to be your favorite; find the basics you need to get a solid start on your new job.

If you’re not sure where to start, no problem — that’s exactly what this book is for. Be vintage about it: Start at the beginning and read through to the end. We expect that you’ll gain useful knowledge from every page that you can use to ace your operations management course and advance your career.

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