Coursera Review Introduction to Operations Management

Published by: Julia

Running any business is complex. This Coursera Introduction to Operations Management course breaks down how to keep control of the day-to-day tasks that make you profitable.

What you will learn

To be profitable, provide a reliable service, and be able to scale you need to understand your business processes. The chain of things that need to happen for you to deliver your service or make your products and get them to your customers.

This course explains:

  • How to identify your processes
  • How to analysis the different kinds of tasks that make up a process
  • Measuring the flow of work through your business
  • Spotting potential bottlenecks and working to prevent them before they become a problem
  • Understanding and quantifying labor utilization and costs
  • Keeping track of inventory
  • The difference between Make to Stock vs Make to Order
  • Dealing with multiple flow units during the process analysis
  • How to review your processes on an ongoing basis
  • How to improve productivity
  • Using process analysis to reduce your waste
  • Understanding what Takt time is
  • How to carry out quartile analysis
  • Eliminating defects
  • The relationship between quality and flow
  • Using Jidoka principles to improve your business

By the time you have completed this course, you will not only be able to identify work flow issues, you will know how to solve them.

What is process analysis?

Being able to analyze each process properly is the first step to managing your business effectively. To be able to do that you need to first identify them. That is actually more complex than it sounds. But Professor Christian Terwiesch covers that subject in some detail before launching into how to analyze your individual processes.

There is no doubt that he knows his stuff. Over the years, he has worked on and solved some extremely knotty workflow issues. For example, reducing overcrowding in the emergency department at Penn hospital and teasing out the financial issues it was causing.

Understanding flow rates

Once you have identified the individual tasks that make up a process you need to look at how long things take. You work out how many units you produce per hour. Or in some cases, per minute.

There are several techniques you can use to do this. Using examples from the food industry, Professor Terwiesch takes you step-by-step through a particularly flexible analytical method.

What are flow times?

At this stage, you can also identify how long each element of the process takes. Again, Professor Terwiesch shares several approaches you can use and uses a real-life example to enable you to fully understand how to do it

Including an excellent explanation of what Little´s law is and how using it can benefit your business.

Labour, inventory and more

A big part of process and operations management is understanding how your resources flow through your business. That includes your labor, stock, and inventory. Keeping track of all of it is complicated, but so much easier when you learn and used the methods that Professor Christian Terwiesch teaches.

Practice problems

One of the best things about this course is the real-life examples that are used. They make everything so much easier to understand and I found them to be truly fascinating. Something that helped me to stay properly engaged throughout the entire course.

How to identify bottlenecks

Identifying flow rates and times provides you with the chance to pick up on potential bottlenecks. This enables you to get ahead of things and smooth out your processes so that they do not catch you out.

Doing this at an early stage is essential if you want to be able to grow your business at a fast rate. The last thing you need to do is to spot an opportunity, go for it and fall flat on your face because of a bottleneck.

When you are operating at a moderate pace, the chances are that the fact that these issues exist with your processes is being glossed over. Largely, because you have enough slack, or labor capacity, for someone to step in and do a little extra every now and again to relieve the bottleneck. Once you get busy and everyone is working at capacity this kind of fire-fighting is no longer possible. So, learning to recognize and deal with potential bottlenecks really is an essential business skill.

How any business can improve productivity

This dovetails nicely into the section of the business operations course, which covers improving productivity. Armed with the data you gathered during the process analysis stage you will be able to greatly improve productivity when you combine it with what you learn here.

Clearly, getting rid of bottlenecks is going to improve productivity. If people are constantly pausing what they are doing to fire-fight an issue it is impossible for them to work efficiently.

But, there are many other ways to improve productivity. In this section of the course, you are taught about how to measure your labor costs, improve how you utilize your workforce and effectively manage waste.

Managing quality

Many people forget that quality is a cornerstone of operations management. An example of this is Ford, who for decades trained their teams to deliver the right product, to the right place, at the right time. But did not make delivering a product that was in the right condition one of the aims of the business. When they did the reliability of each component improved, which aided productivity and produced more durable products.

The truth is that if you do not deliver a flawless product that is better than your competitor you will soon begin to lose market share. That is why your professor dedicates over an hour of the course to what he calls quality. To make sure that at each stage what you are doing meets the standard needed to produce the desired end result.

Who is Coursera´s operations management course suitable for

Naturally, this course is aimed squarely at those involved in operations. However, I would highly recommend that everyone involved in management takes the course. It very clearly demonstrates the importance of process management.

Without a doubt, this course will open the eyes of every person involved in producing your goods or delivering your services. They will see things in a different way. The next time they notice a member of staff pausing what they are doing to go and get a screw that is missing from their production kit, they will understand the full impact this has and address the situation. When your store manager sees that the flow of people through an area leading to delays in serving them and customer frustration they will work to change things.

Although I would not recommend making everyone get the certification. The tasks assigned require a lot of work to complete properly. In many cases, your managers will be passing the task of solving the problem to another team. So, they do not necessarily have to take the tests to ensure that they have acquired the skills being taught. They just need a basic understanding of how to recognize issues with the process and realize why it is vital that what are often small things are properly addressed.

Is this a good business course?

Overall this is an excellent course. You rarely see the subject of operations covered in much detail in other business courses. So, that in itself is refreshing. The process analysis methods you learn will stand you in good stead, regardless of what kind of business you are involved in.

This instructor goes into the subject in a fair amount of detail. Yet the pace is quite fast.

It has got very good reviews. Those that got the most out of this course invested a little money and bought the custom e-book that was written to go with the content being taught. There is also the added benefit that once you have done the course, you will have an easy to access source of reference.

However, it would be remiss of me not to mention the fact that some students said that they had problems passing the quizzes and tests. So, they struggled to get their certification. But, it is clear that tens of thousands have managed to do so.

According to the career outcomes statistics provided by Coursera, 48% of those students felt that passing this course had helped them to start a new career. Thirty-seven percent said that they had got a tangible career benefit from completing it.

This course is a part of the Coursera´s Business Foundation Specialization. If you want to find out more about what you can learn by taking it, click here.

My full Coursera review tells you more about the different features of this incredible and growing online learning resource.

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