A day in the life of an operations manager

A day in the life of an operations manager

Operations managers make the business processes of their organizations—from sourcing raw materials to production and distribution—clutter free.

They analyze the processes and improve or redesign them to achieve smoother operations. They may redesign business processes or propose the introduction of new systems or suggest employee training or motivation to achieve their goals.

Let’s try to walk in the shoes of an operations manager at an FMCG company to find out what his work day is like.

Of course, if you are an operations manager, your day may not exactly follow the pattern below, but may include most of the characteristics described.

There may be surprises during the day, too, like an unexpected new order or a major equipment breakdown. But that’s when you are expected to become a smooth operator.


What operations managers do

  • Ensure smooth operations, cost-effectiveness
  • Devise methods to improve processes, systems
  • Manage budgets, forecasts
  • Plan employee deployment, recruitment, training
  • Keep track of strategic and operational goals
  • Ensure legal compliance of processes
  • Supervise quality control, customer service
  • Monitor profitability


A day in the life of an operations manager


7 am-9 am

On the commute to work, you may like to check your email to see whether there are any SOSes from any team or urgent instructions or calls for meetings from your boss. You may prefer to arrive rather early, and much before everyone else.

Often, you will shout a hi or good morning to your colleagues coming in, since you need to maintain best relations with them and not let grudges fester, to ensure their cooperation and be able to do your job efficiently.

After breakfast at your company cafe, you once again take a glance at your inbox. You start planning your day, and your week, if it’s a Monday.

9 am – 10 am

You hold a weekly meeting with your colleagues, all managers, to recap what happened last week and find out how to remove deficiencies, so that problems don’t recur. You also look ahead at what’s coming for the week, and how your teams are placed for achieving targets.

At the meeting, the quality assurance (QA) manager flags the slight increase in the proportion of defective products from the production line.

The production manager responds by mentioning the higher targets set for his team, and points out that his people are struggling to meet the targets in the wake of staff shortage and the increased demand for products during the holiday season. There were also a few equipment breakdowns, he points out.

Referring to the current meeting, the tech-savvy maintenance manager asks whether this weekly effort at problem-solving can be speeded up by the introduction of an app for managers and team leaders, so that problems can be brought to notice and solutions found more quickly.

Can Gantt charts (which illustrates product schedule, status, and progress) or alternatives also be created for departments?

You think these are good ideas, but you, along with the marketing / communication manager, need to speak to your company’s IT consultant first.

At the meeting, you realize that you have four issues to resolve already: product quality, production target, staff shortage, and technical/engineering/IT stuff.

The rest of the meeting, thankfully, is event-free, as you and the others review daily/weekly reports from various departments.

10 am – 11 am

You have a scheduled meeting with your preferred transporter at 10.30 am, and you need to get organized to be able to list out the problems.

The main issue seems to be delays in delivering your consignments to your distributors, who are, in turn, facing a delay in transporting your goods to malls and other shopping centers.

You raise the issue at the meeting, and the transporter, represented by a senior logistics manager, points out that your company doesn’t have an exclusive contract with them, and they are forced to share truck capacity with another company.

The transporter adds that therefore, any delay in supplies from the other company delays dispatch of your goods, too.

Later, after the transporter leaves, you discuss the matter with your supply/distribution manager. He agrees that an exclusive contract may help and may be well worth the additional cost. It may also help in emergencies, when your vendors are not able to deliver raw material on time because of transport issues.

You make a note of the issue for a discussion with your general manager (GM) and hopes to resolve it by the end of the week. The finance manager (FM) will also need to be involved, since an exclusive contract with the transport will entail a higher budget for transportation.

You call the transporter and request quick submission of a quotation/contract. You alert the FM about the proposed exclusive contract and rates, and asks for his review and presence at a meeting with the GM tomorrow.

11 am – 12 noon

Once back in your office cabin, you request the human resources (HR) manager for a discussion on what can be done with staff shortage.

She is well-prepared, and points out that in a month with many religious festivals, it is difficult to request workers not to go on leave. ‘Can overtime allowance be thought of for workers who can make themselves available?‘ you ask.

The HR manager says she will work out a plan and also mentions compensatory holidays, since a few workers are already on overtime and it would be counterproductive to ask them to extend their hours further.

She also mentions that a training/refresher program might help bring the new employees up to speed faster.

12 noon – 1 pm

Another scheduled meeting: a new customer, the owner of one of the biggest and most popular malls in the city, wants to discuss distribution and marketing. Your supply/distribution manager and marketing manager also attend the meeting.

The mall owner sends a senior manager and aide, who raise the problem of prompt supply. You assure them that steps to improve supply are being taken with better transport.

The mall representatives also ask whether an introductory discount can be offered to them since your products are being sold at the place for the first time and there is tough competition from a larger group.

You feel it may not be possible for you to offer an exclusive discount to just one customer channel, but you promise to discuss with marketing/communication the possibility of launching a special campaign to boost sales of your product at the mall. The mall people are happy with the idea.

The marketing/communication manager is ready to meet around 4.30.

1 pm – 2 pm

You think of grabbing some lunch from “Meals on Wheels,” a food supplier who visits your organization twice a day. Then you suddenly recall that today’s lunch is at the monthly party that HR has arranged for employees whose birthdays fall this month.

You feel guilty that you haven’t visited the party venue, the cafeteria, to help with the arrangements, and rush off.

At the cafe, you observe that preparations are already almost complete, but you still try to help someone put up festoons.

2 pm – 3 pm

Now back to work! You better call in the maintenance manager to discuss equipment breakdowns, which ought not to happen.

But you know that the recent breakdowns are not surprising and have occurred a few times in the past six months. You are about to realize that you have seen just the tip of the iceberg.

The maintenance manager refers to discussions a couple of months ago, where he had pointed out to wear and tear and the need for repair/maintenance or replacement.

At that time, you and the senior management realized the difficulties: production would have to be partially suspended for at least a couple of months, which would bring problems such as unmet demand and supply backlogs, besides blows to marketing efforts caused by lower production.

Your situation is much worse now, two months later! You have a big problem.

3 pm – 4 pm

After the meeting with the maintenance manager, you put your mind to finding solutions. But quite providentially, you hit upon what looks like a good idea.

Why not utilize the spare capacity of your factory in the neighboring state? The only foreseeable problems: transport of the finished goods from that state and quality assurance.

Transport is not an issue — in any case, you are planning an exclusive contract with your transporter, who can be persuaded to give you a good deal. You only need to depute a senior production man and QA manager to the other factory to take care of quality issues.

You realize that this is the only practical solution and are confident of convincing senior management to approve a budget. If implemented well, this could be a good decision for your company and a personal triumph for you.

4 pm – 5 pm

You have earned your evening cuppa. Usually you also have a scone or sandwich, but lunch at the birthday bash was too heavy.

Just then, customer care/feedback reroutes a call from an irate customer complaining about defective packaging of a product.

You ask the customer to email you the details and promise to resolve the issue in 24 hours. You make a note to call quality assurance first thing tomorrow.

Your HR manager walks in with a plan for compensatory leave/overtime and worker training to solve staff shortage and quality problems discussed this morning. The plans look workable and you compliment her.

She leaves, and the marketing/communication manager arrives with a new promotional campaign for the mall, also discussed a few hours ago.

She has a budget-friendly approach that involves the use of marketing collateral such as signs, banners, and billboards, prepared by the company’s media agency a few months ago at the initial launch of products.

The plan involves the fresh creation of only a few materials such as brochures to make the campaign seem exclusive to the particular mall, but she confirms that the marcom girl in her team can easily prepare them.

She also has ideas for the company’s social media outreach. Now the CEO and the GM only needs to be briefed as the campaign doesn’t entail high costs.

5 pm – 6 pm

The transporter emails the new quote for an exclusive contract with your company; your supply/distribution manager has been tagged.

You take a quick look and speak to him. He points out that there will be a significant higher outgo if you accept the rates, but there may be room for negotiation. ‘Can you schedule a meeting with the transporter tomorrow?‘ he asks.

But you two need a run-down by the FM and the GM ahead of the meeting with the transporter. That will be done first thing tomorrow, followed by the meeting with the transport company. You call and fix up the meeting.

The IT consultant wafts in, fresh from an international trip, and says hello. You take the opportunity to suggest an app to help employees to notify problems to their managers.

He says no problem, but would like you to specify what exactly you need. You will get together again after sounding out the tech-savvy maintenance manager and the marcom girl.

6 pm – 7 pm

It’s time for the weekly briefing with the CEO and GM. You are prepared and have notes.

You discuss quality and staff shortage; the HR plan on extra hours, compensatory holidays, and training program; equipment breakdowns and the urgency of maintenance; the plan to use the spare facility; staff deputation; the exclusive transporter contract; and the new promotional campaign at the mall.

The CEO and the GM focus on the plan for the spare facility, and want a detailed blueprint of the idea with the cost-and-benefit figures and the timeline.

They briefly discuss the transport contract and the training program and let you decide on these and other issues in consultation with the managers concerned. You tell the GM that you will meet him tomorrow with the transport contract rates.

In passing, the CEO reminds you of the managers’ review meeting on KPIs (key performance indicators) scheduled for next week.

7 pm – 9 pm

Finally you can leave the office and catch the metro home. While shutting down your PC, you alert yourself to a couple of tasks that you didn’t get around to do today: preparation of your monthly plan and discussion of marcom’s new branding strategy with the legal advisor.

You also haven’t started research to find suppliers of corporate gifts, but you are already mischievously thinking of palming off the work to HR!

You reach home. It’s the kids’ night out with grandparents as a short school vacation has started.

Your wife is already back from work and you help her make dinner. She has spotted a new romantic movie on Netflix for you two to watch together — your binge-watching of “Suits” has to be temporarily suspended.

Just before calling it a night, you check your phone for any missed call, SMS, or emails.


What do recruiters look for while hiring operations managers?

Minoo Bhutani | Director, Career Development Centre, Schulich School of Business

Operations manager skills qualifications Operations Managers vary by industry and function. What would be in a manufacturing or logistics environment, could be very different in a financial institution or professional services firm.

The role of the OM is to manage the process involved in the most efficient manner to maximize output.

An OM is someone who understands processes, has great analytical skills, is a natural problem solver, has strong communication skills and can work well with different stakeholders.

Recruiters look for hires who have a history of accomplishments and problem solving skills. Someone who can think on their feet, and can identify opportunities of improvement or efficiency.

The technical skills depend on the industry. If manufacturing based – then understanding manufacturing norms, logistics and supply chain issues would be beneficial.

Having a Project Management background helps. Also being versed in Agile, Lean Sigma and other supply chain/logistics qualifications is important.

A business degree is also important as it provides the foundation to develop the skillsets to eventually become a general manager, overseeing a larger piece of the company.

Also read:
Masters (MS / MBA) in Logistics and Supply Chain Management
Masters (MS) in Operations Research in USA
Types of jobs after MBA in Operations & other specialisations
Free online SCM game
References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

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