Challenges for Operations Managers - Operation Strategy
Most products have several competitors today - from cars to university degrees. Current market forces appears to suggest that as society becomes more affluent the consumer has an increasing appetite for more than just simple products or services. The consumer now demands service. In other words, the consumer wishes to have the product or service tailored to their own specification. The Henry Ford offering: 'you can have any color you wish as long as it's black', is not acceptable to today's discerning consumer.
Operations systems are changing accordingly. Instead of mass production, we are required to meet the demands of mass customisation. This may be a simplified view as the various criteria may be seen to operate in parallel rather than in series. Nevertheless, most western economies are now post industrial with the majority of their working population engaged in service work. Challenges seem similar for operations managers in manufacturing as well as in the service sector. Competition is fiercer than ever before.
Manufactured product or service product characteristics will remain as potential differentiators. However, consumers demand service in addition, this is not the same as service products. Service may simply mean being treated in a courteous manner or meeting the behaviour standards expected. The challenges may also be greater in times of reorganisation rather than of growth. Not to take on the mantle of a fortune teller or Delphi, the table opposite shows some areas of future, yet currently unfolding, change that will become important to us all. These specific changes will occur progressively by encroachment within a more complex backdrop of other wider changes.