When Chuck Sox’s students go to Disney World, they see beyond the “magic.” Thanks to this Ph.D./department chair and his team of Operations Management professors, those students know to notice how Mickey and Minnie are routed through a restaurant to encourage efficient table turnaround.
When an afternoon storm sends park guests to the exits, students know it wasn’t pixie dust that produced an already-waiting line of buses. An operations management team had designed a system that not only anticipated the storm, but the number of guests likely to leave and their likely destinations.
Upon graduation Sox’s students might put those principles to practice in such work for the service/hospitality industry, or they may accept management posts in manufacturing or transportation. Many of Culverhouse’s OM grads fill leadership ranks in the automotive industry, resolving suppliers’ quality problems or streamlining operations. Others work for freight firms, overseeing equipment management, order processing or route planning.
“Operations management deals with the effective management of the resources and processes that companies use to execute their day-to-day operations,” says Sox. Those resources include a company’s technology, workforce and physical assets -- such as facilities, inventories and equipment.
OM students are in high demand, says Sox, especially in today’s fast-changing markets, where profit margins are slim and more effective strategies can sharpen a firm’s competitive edge.
“Companies want to strive to continuously improve quality and efficiency. Students in the Operations Management curriculum learn about key concepts, tools and techniques for designing processes and improving processes.”
Those processes might include more timely delivery of a manufacturer’s part. Or they may have to do with retail inventories or providing a better shipment tracking system. Service providers might use operation management concepts to assess staff scheduling, such as when more housekeepers are needed at a convention hotel, or whether to introduce a hotel check-in kiosk at an airport.
Many students are drawn to the specialty because they can blend engineering, technology and
business concepts – and can see how their work impacts both the company and its customers.
“Our students tend to go into managerial positions in a lot of different functional areas,” Sox says.
Where will next-generation OM students be working ten years from now? Although Sox doesn’t claim prophetic abilities, he believes health care might be the next industry primed for such specialists. As health care reform intersects with retiring clinicians and an influx of aging Baby Boomers, it might take more than pixie dust to meet the demand.