Operations Consultant: The Key to Sustainable Growth in Today's Business World

March 14, 2023 · 16 min read

"A consultant is someone who saves his client almost enough to pay his fee." - Arnold H. Glasow

Job description 

An operations consultant is a professional who specializes in analyzing and optimizing business operations to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and increase productivity. They work with companies across a range of industries, from small startups to large corporations, to help them identify areas of improvement and implement strategies to achieve their goals.

Requirements

To become an operations consultant, individuals typically need a bachelor's or master's degree in business, operations management, or a related field. They should have a strong background in data analysis, project management, and process improvement, as well as excellent communication and interpersonal skills. Relevant work experience, such as in management consulting, business analysis, or operations management, is also highly valued.

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Note: With an increasing number of regulations and compliance requirements, operations consultants can help companies navigate these complex legal frameworks and ensure that they are operating in compliance with all relevant regulations.

Main responsibilities

The main responsibilities of an operations consultant may include:

  1. Assessing current business processes and identifying areas of inefficiency or waste.
  2. Developing and implementing strategies to improve operational efficiency, productivity, and profitability.
  3. Analyzing data and creating reports to track progress and measure success.
  4. Collaborating with cross-functional teams to implement changes and improve processes.
  5. Conducting training sessions and providing guidance to staff on new processes and procedures.
  6. Developing and maintaining relationships with clients and stakeholders.
  7. Identifying new business opportunities and making recommendations to clients.

Additional duties

In addition to their main responsibilities, operations consultants may also be involved in:

  1. Conducting market research and analyzing industry trends to stay up-to-date with best practices and emerging technologies.
  2. Supporting project management teams in the implementation of new initiatives.
  3. Conducting audits and risk assessments to identify potential areas of risk and recommend solutions.
  4. Creating and delivering presentations to senior management and clients.
  5. Mentoring junior staff and providing guidance on career development.

Skills 

To be successful as an operations consultant, one needs to possess a set of skills that will allow them to perform their duties effectively. Below are some of the essential skills an operations consultant should have:

 

Essential Skills

Description

Analytical Skills

Ability to analyze data, identify trends, and use information to make informed decisions.

Problem-solving Skills

Ability to identify issues, develop solutions, and implement them effectively.

Communication Skills

Ability to communicate complex concepts in a clear and concise manner with clients, team members, and stakeholders.

Project Management Skills

Ability to plan, organize, and execute projects on time and within budget.

Leadership Skills

Ability to lead teams, delegate tasks, and provide guidance and support when needed.

Technology Skills

Ability to work with various technologies, including software programs, databases, and analytical tools.

Industry Knowledge

Understanding of industry trends, regulations, and best practices.

Interpersonal Skills

Ability to build strong relationships with clients and team members, and work collaboratively with others.

Flexibility

Ability to adapt to changing circumstances and adjust strategies to achieve desired results.

Salary

Operations consultants can earn a substantial salary, depending on their level of education, experience, and location. Below are some details on average salaries, factors that influence earnings, ways to improve earnings, and additional benefits.

Average Salary per Year

According to Glassdoor, the average salary of an operations consultant in the United States is $81,351 per year. However, salaries can vary depending on the state in which they work. Below is a list of the top-paying states for operations consultants:

  1. New York: $93,590 per year
  2. California: $92,152 per year
  3. Massachusetts: $89,639 per year
  4. Virginia: $86,901 per year
  5. Illinois: $85,220 per year

Overall, the salary for an operations consultant can range from around $50,000 to over $150,000 per year, depending on the factors mentioned above. It's important to do research on the industry, location, and consulting firms to determine what the expected salary range is for a particular role.

Photo: pressfoto/Freepik

Factors that Influence Earnings

Education: Education is a significant factor in determining an operations consultant's salary. Individuals with higher levels of education, such as a master's degree in business administration (MBA), can typically earn more than those with only a bachelor's degree.

Experience: Experience is another significant factor in determining an operations consultant's salary. Individuals with more years of experience in the field can typically earn more than those who are just starting.

Location: Location is also an important factor in determining an operations consultant's salary. Salaries for operations consultants can vary greatly depending on the cost of living in a particular area. For example, an operations consultant working in San Francisco, CA, where the cost of living is high, can expect to earn more than someone working in a smaller city or rural area.

Industry: The industry in which an operations consultant works can also impact their salary. For example, an operations consultant working in the healthcare industry may earn more than someone working in the retail industry.

Specialization: Operations consultants can specialize in different areas such as supply chain management, process improvement, or information technology. Those who specialize in high-demand areas can typically earn higher salaries.

In addition to these factors, the size and reputation of the consulting firm an operations consultant works for can also impact their salary. Consultants who work for top consulting firms, such as McKinsey or Bain, can command higher salaries than those who work for smaller, lesser-known firms.

Ways to Improve Earnings

There are several ways that operations consultants can increase their earnings, including:

  1. Pursue advanced degrees: Obtaining an MBA or a Ph.D. can increase an operations consultant's earning potential.
  2. Develop specialized skills: Operations consultants with specialized skills, such as expertise in lean manufacturing or Six Sigma, can command higher salaries.
  3. Seek promotions: Operations consultants who move up the ranks to senior consultant or managerial positions can earn higher salaries.
  4. Work in high-paying industries: Operations consultants who work in high-paying industries, such as finance or healthcare, can earn more than those who work in other industries.

Additional Benefits

In addition to a competitive salary, operations consultants may also receive additional benefits, such as:

  1. Health insurance: Many companies offer health insurance as part of their benefits package.
  2. Retirement plans: Some companies offer retirement plans, such as 401(k)s, to their employees.
  3. Bonuses: Operations consultants may receive bonuses for meeting performance goals or completing projects on time and within budget.
  4. Travel benefits: Operations consultants may be required to travel for work, and some companies provide travel benefits, such as reimbursement for airfare and hotel stays.
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The Covid-19 pandemic has forced many companies to rethink their business strategies and operations, leading to an increased demand for consulting services; according to a report by McKinsey & Company, the need for consulting services increased by 4% in the second half of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

Job environment 

Operations consultants can work in a variety of settings, including consulting firms, corporations, and government agencies. They may work independently or as part of a team, and their work environment can vary depending on the type of project they are working on.

Consulting Firms

Many operations consultants work for consulting firms, which provide services to clients in various industries. These firms may specialize in a particular area of consulting, such as strategy, operations, or technology. Consultants in these firms often work on multiple projects simultaneously and may travel extensively to meet with clients. The work environment in consulting firms is typically fast-paced, and consultants are expected to be highly organized, adaptable, and able to work well under pressure.

Corporations

Operations consultants can also work in-house for corporations, where they help improve the company's operations and business processes. In this setting, consultants work closely with employees across various departments and functions, such as finance, marketing, and human resources. The work environment in corporations is typically more structured than in consulting firms, and consultants are expected to be able to work collaboratively with other employees to achieve the desired results.

Government Agencies

Operations consultants may also work for government agencies at the local, state, or federal level. In this setting, they help improve government operations and processes, such as streamlining administrative procedures or improving healthcare delivery. The work environment in government agencies can be highly regulated, and consultants must be able to navigate complex bureaucratic systems.

Photo: DCStudio/Freepik 

Tools

Operations consultants use a variety of tools to perform their work, including:

  1. Data analytics tools: These tools help consultants analyze large amounts of data and identify patterns and trends.
  2. Project management software: Consultants use project management software to track tasks, deadlines, and budgets for each project.
  3. Communication tools: Consultants use communication tools such as email, phone, and video conferencing to stay in touch with clients and team members.
  4. Presentation tools: Consultants often create presentations to communicate their findings and recommendations to clients. Tools such as Microsoft PowerPoint or Google Slides are commonly used.

Work Schedule

Work schedules for operations consultants can vary depending on the project and client needs. Some projects may require long hours or weekend work, while others may have more traditional work hours. Operations consultants may also have to travel for work and may need to work remotely or from client sites. As independent contractors, operations consultants may have more control over their work schedule and workload.

Education 

Operations consultants typically need a bachelor's degree in a relevant field such as business administration, engineering, economics, or operations management. A bachelor's degree program typically takes four years to complete.

A master's degree in a related field can provide additional education and training to enhance an operations consultant's skills and knowledge. A master's degree program typically takes two years to complete and may focus on areas such as supply chain management, business analytics, or project management.

A Ph.D. in operations management or a related field can provide even more specialized education and research experience. Ph.D. programs typically take four to five years to complete, including research and dissertation requirements.

Postdoctoral fellowships are available for Ph.D. graduates who want to gain additional research experience or specialize in a particular area of operations management.

Professional Associations

Professional associations, such as the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) and the Association for Operations Management (APICS), provide resources and networking opportunities for operations consultants. These associations may offer continuing education opportunities, industry research and publications, and professional development opportunities. Membership in a professional association can enhance an operations consultant's professional network and provide access to industry events and conferences.

Licenses and Certifications 

Licenses and certifications can also enhance the skills and credibility of operations consultants. While licenses are not typically required for operations consultants, some may choose to pursue certifications such as the Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) or the Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) offered by APICS. These certifications demonstrate a consultant's mastery of industry knowledge and can enhance their credibility with clients.

Other certifications, such as the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification offered by the Project Management Institute, can also be beneficial for operations consultants working on projects that require strong project management skills. These certifications demonstrate a consultant's expertise in specific areas and can provide a competitive edge in the job market.

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The global functional consulting market size was valued at $68.9 billion in 2020, according to a report by Grand View Research.

Career Paths 

Operations consultants have several options for career development and may choose to specialize in a particular subfield or industry.

Ways of Career Development for Operations Consultants 

  1. Gaining experience in a variety of industries and roles: Operations consultants may start their careers in entry-level positions in different industries to gain experience and knowledge of operations management. This can help them develop a broad skill set that can be applied across industries.
  2. Pursuing advanced education and certifications: Earning a master's degree or Ph.D. in a related field can provide advanced education and training to enhance an operations consultant's skills and knowledge. Additionally, certifications such as the Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) or the Project Management Professional (PMP) can demonstrate expertise in specific areas.
  3. Networking and building relationships: Building professional relationships and networking with others in the industry can provide opportunities for career development and advancement.

Subfields within Operations Consulting 

  1. Supply chain management: Operations consultants specializing in supply chain management focus on optimizing the flow of goods and services from suppliers to customers.
  2. Process improvement: Operations consultants specializing in process improvement analyze and improve business processes to increase efficiency and reduce costs.
  3. Information technology: Operations consultants specializing in information technology focus on implementing and optimizing technology systems to support business operations.
  4. Quality management: Operations consultants specializing in quality management work on improving quality control systems and ensuring that products or services meet customer requirements and standards.
  5. Human resources: Operations consultants specializing in human resources focus on improving HR processes, such as recruitment, onboarding, and performance management, to enhance organizational effectiveness.
  6. Financial operations: Operations consultants specializing in financial operations work on improving financial processes and controls to enhance financial performance and reduce risks.
  7. Risk management: Operations consultants specializing in risk management help organizations identify and mitigate operational risks, such as supply chain disruptions or cybersecurity threats.
  8. Customer experience: Operations consultants specializing in customer experience work on improving customer satisfaction and loyalty by analyzing and optimizing customer-facing processes and touchpoints.
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Note: While operations consultants are often associated with manufacturing and logistics industries, they work with companies across many different sectors, including healthcare, finance, and retail.

Alternative Careers and Similar Jobs 

Job Title

Job Description

Business Analyst

Work with organizations to identify and solve business problems using data analysis and modeling.

Management Consultant

Work with organizations to improve their overall performance and solve business problems.

Supply Chain Analyst

Focus on optimizing supply chain processes to reduce costs and improve efficiency.

Logistics Manager

Oversee the movement of goods and materials within a company or supply chain.

Operations Manager

Oversee the day-to-day operations of a company or organization.

 

Job Market 

Operations consultants are in demand in a variety of industries, including healthcare, finance, technology, and manufacturing.

Outlook for Operations Consultants

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of management analysts (which includes operations consultants) is projected to grow 11% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations. The growth in demand for operations consultants is expected to be driven by the need for organizations to improve efficiency and reduce costs in a highly competitive business environment.

Furthermore, as businesses continue to face challenges related to supply chain disruptions, operational inefficiencies, and digital transformation, the demand for operations consultants with expertise in these areas is likely to increase. In particular, there may be opportunities for operations consultants who specialize in areas such as supply chain management, process improvement, and information technology.

Possibilities of Remote Jobs

Many operations consultants work remotely, especially in the age of COVID-19. With the availability of communication and collaboration tools, it is possible to work remotely and still deliver high-quality work. However, some organizations may prefer to have consultants work on-site, especially for projects that require extensive collaboration with the client's team.

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There are over 39,187 operations consultants currently employed in the United States.

Job satisfaction 

Advantages of being an operations consultant

Advantages

Description

Variety of projects

Get to work on a variety of projects for different clients, which can be intellectually stimulating

High earning potential

Can earn a high salary, especially if they work for a top consulting firm or specialize in a high-demand area

Professional growth

Opportunity to develop professionally and advance their careers through training, mentorship, and networking

Exposure to different industries

Work with clients in different industries, which can provide exposure to different business models and trends

Opportunities for travel

May have the opportunity to travel for work, which can be an exciting and rewarding experience

Disadvantages of being an operations consultant

Disadvantages

Description

Long working hours

May be required to work long hours and weekends to meet project deadlines, which can impact work-life balance

High pressure

Often under pressure to deliver results for clients, which can be stressful

Constant change

Work on a project basis, which means that they may have to adapt to different clients and projects frequently

Demanding clients

May have to work with demanding clients who have high expectations and require a high level of service

Travel requirements

While travel can be an advantage, it can also be a disadvantage if it leads to time away from family and loved ones

 Government Programs 

There are various government programs that may be available to operations consultants, depending on their location and specific area of expertise. Some examples of government programs that may be relevant to operations consultants include:

  1. Small Business Administration (SBA) Programs: The SBA offers various programs to support small businesses, including operations consulting firms. These programs include loans, grants, and training programs to help small businesses improve their operations, access capital, and develop new markets.
  2. Economic Development Administration (EDA) Programs: The EDA provides funding and technical assistance to support economic development in communities across the United States. This includes funding for projects that support small businesses, create jobs, and stimulate economic growth.
  3. Department of Defense (DoD) Programs: The DoD provides a range of programs and services to support defense contractors and subcontractors, including operations consulting firms that work with defense-related businesses. These programs include funding for research and development, training, and assistance with contracts and procurement.
  4. Department of Commerce Programs: The Department of Commerce offers various programs to support businesses, including those in the operations consulting industry. These programs include export assistance, market research, and access to trade events and missions.
  5. State and Local Government Programs: Many state and local governments offer programs to support small businesses and economic development, including those in the operations consulting industry. These programs may include tax incentives, grants, and loans to support business growth and expansion.

It is important for operations consultants to research and identify the specific government programs that may be available to them, as well as the eligibility requirements and application processes for each program.

KEY TAKEAWAYS
  • An operations consultant’s  primary goal is to help businesses optimize their processes, reduce costs, and increase productivity.
  • To be successful as an operations consultant, one must have strong analytical skills, excellent communication and problem-solving abilities, and deep knowledge of operations management principles and practices.
  • Typically, a degree in business, engineering, or a related field is required, along with relevant work experience in operations or management consulting.
  • The average salary of an operations consultant in the United States is $81, 351 per year. 
  • To improve earnings, operations consultants can pursue advanced education, earn certifications, or specialize in a specific area of expertise
  • Operations consultants have opportunities for professional growth and exposure to different industries.
  • The outlook for operations consulting is positive, with a growing demand for consultants in areas such as supply chain management and process improvement.
  • Government programs may provide opportunities for operations consultants to work on public sector projects.

FAQ

What is an operations consultant?

An operations consultant is a professional who works with companies to optimize their operations and improve efficiency.

What qualifications do operations consultants need?

Operations consultants typically have a background in business, engineering, or a related field. Many also have advanced degrees, such as an MBA or a master's in operations management.

How do operations consultants work with clients?

Operations consultants typically start by assessing a company's current processes and identifying areas for improvement. They may conduct interviews, analyze data, and review systems and procedures to get a comprehensive understanding of the company's operations.

How long do operations consulting projects typically last?

The length of an operations consulting project can vary depending on the size and complexity of the company's operations, as well as the scope of the project.

How much do operations consultants charge?

The cost of an operations consulting project can vary widely depending on the scope and duration of the project, as well as the consultant's experience and expertise.

by Yevheniia Osmakova

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