Tag Archives: Operations Consultants


If your business is experiencing challenges with processes and operations, it isn’t as efficient as it should be, or if you are striving to increase throughput while cutting costs, it may be time to bring in an operations management consultant.

However, before you sign on the dotted line, you should know the advantages and drawbacks to hiring operations management consultants to help. Let’s take a behind-the-scenes look at operations consulting, how it can benefit your business and some pitfalls we can help you avoid.

Pros and cons of operations management consultants

Operations consulting is what USC Consulting Group has specialized in for more than half a century, and with that, we have been exposed to various situations around the world. But it’s not always easy bringing in people from the outside to tackle the challenges you’re having internally. Here are some pros and cons to consider.

Pro: Process improvement expertise. Your company is in the business of whatever it is you do. Consultants are in the business of process improvements. It’s all we do. We are experts in techniques like Lean Six Sigma (LSS) — there aren’t many companies out there with many in-house black belts in this discipline. LSS is focused on eliminating waste and improving throughput, and it takes years to become an expert in it. External consultants like USC goes beyond LSS to focus on both your people and processes.

Con: Lack of accountability. Some external consultants “fix it and forget it.” They swoop in, offer recommendations for change, hand you a file stuffed full of info about what they found and then swoop out, on to the next project. This is a serious drawback. (Note: USC does NOT work this way)

Pro: Industry expertise. At USC Consulting Group, we have 55 years of experience under our belts. We’ve seen it all. And while every situation and challenge is unique, we are coming at those challenges with decades of experience as our solid foundation for success.

Con: Learning curve. Consultants lack knowledge of in-house procedures and it takes a couple of weeks to get up to speed with a company’s specific processes. USC performs Feasibility Studies to build the business case for the project and at the same time get acquainted with the client’s facilities and operations. We start by listening, hastening that learning curve.

Pro: Training and improvement for staff. If you’re working with the right outside consultant, that is. At USC, we aren’t just about fixing challenges for companies. We coach and teach our clients on how to sustain those changes, instead of just fixing and forgetting. In other words, we provide the training and know-how for you to take it from there. The result is the upskilling of your employees as part of the bargain. That’s an added bonus not all consultants provide.

Con: Lack of sustainability. This is another potential downside of hiring the wrong consultant. Sure, it’s great to highlight challenges and offer recommendations for change, but those changes don’t stick if the consultant leaves it to you to implement them. That’s why we work with your team to implement the process improvement changes and train your people along the way so they can sustain the success long after we’ve left.

Pro: Unbiased third-party advisors. Consultants are not part of a company’s internal politics. We are above the fray. This comes in handy when recommending process changes, because who takes direction from whom can be tricky in companies. We’ve seen it time and time again: recommendations for change go down easier when they come from outside the organization, rather than from within it.

Con: Don’t know the unwritten or unspoken rules. Yes, we may be the aforementioned unbiased third-party advisors, and that’s a big advantage. But it also can be a stumbling block because we don’t know the unwritten rules in your organization. These are cultural norms, do’s and don’ts, that aren’t in any company handbook. Depending on the company, this may be good or bad.

Pro: Cost. Bringing in an outside consultant is actually less expensive than doing the project in-house. If you use an internal process improvement team made up of current employees from different departments, you’re not only paying the cost of the project itself, but the cost of lost productivity when team members are away from their usual duties. If you have a dedicated internal process improvement team, we’re talking about costs involved with salaries, benefits, perks and the whole nine yards. On top of all of that, you are risking the costs associated with failure because you don’t have experienced pros on the project. At USC, there are no net annualized costs due to the results and benefits achieved within the first year that continue for many years after.

Con: Cost. Yes, there are both pros and cons to cost. With consultants, you’ll have a large upfront investment. There’s just no getting around that. But, in the immortal words of the author Kurt Vonnegut, you get what you pay for. Hiring a consulting firm, you’re paying for process improvement expertise. At USC, we have 55+ years of it under our belts. One important thing to note: The breakeven point, when you’re reducing operating costs and improving productivity and throughput, this offsets the cost of the project and is usually realized within six months or sooner.

Pro: Fresh eyes to overcome challenges. You know what they say about forests and trees. Sometimes, internal people are simply too close to the problem to see their way out of it. We can look at the big picture and shine a light on processes and gaps that may be weighing you down.

Pro: Horsepower. USC Consulting Group empowers employees with the tools and techniques that drive optimal performance, adding “horsepower” to your teams. We can augment your team’s efforts and achieve results quicker.

So what does this all mean? Yes, there are drawbacks to be aware of when bringing in operations management consultants. However, when done right, the benefits they bring to your team and process improvement projects completely outshine those concerns.

USC Consulting Group stands ready to help you. Operations consulting is what we do. We know we can come in and get the job done, helping our clients achieve greater efficiency and throughput, improved processes and ultimately a healthier bottom line. We’ll be happy to talk with you about how we can augment your operations.

Already have an internal improvement team? Read more about both options in our article: “Operations Management Consultants vs. Internal Improvement Teams: What’s the Difference?”

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What is operations consulting, what do operations consultants do, and how might it benefit your business? If you have questions, we have answers. Here’s your operations consulting FAQ.

What is operations consulting?

Operations consulting, simply put, is a discipline designed to improve your company’s internal operations and processes, making them more efficient, streamlined and ultimately, profitable.

What does an operations consultant do?

Operations consultants are outside experts who can look at your operations with a fresh set of eyes. If your business has a problem or obstacle you can’t solve — a slowdown in throughput, trouble on the line, machinery problems, supply chain issues, demand outweighing supply and more — it’s time to bring in an operations consultant. Operations consultants will first look at your current operations model, systems and day-to-day processes of getting the job done. They talk with front-line workers, executives and everyone in between. Listening is a big part of the job. They employ methodologies like Lean Six Sigma, SIOP, the Five Ms and other tactics to uncover what’s bedeviling your operation and create ways to solve those problems. Learn about this in more depth in “With Fresh Eyes, Consultants Can Help Improve Organizational Efficiency.”

Are all operations consultants the same?

No. Some operations consultants are advisory consultants, or “boardroom consultants” who perform a two- to three-week study and provide a book of recommendations to help you out, and then hand it to you and go on their way. Implementing consultants, like USC, roll up their sleeves and work with a company’s internal teams for as little as 12 weeks to upwards of around 40 weeks depending on the scope of the project to help affect change, and ensure those changes will stick.

What areas of discipline do operations consultants work in?

A wide range of disciplines and departments, including organizational operations, supply chain, sourcing & procurement, maintenance, finance, business process management, research & development, distribution and logistics, and outsourcing.

How does an operations consultant differ from my internal teams?

Operations consultants provide an outside, unbiased viewpoint and utilize experience from both in-industry and out-industry to address inefficiency gaps and improve production. That’s not to say internal improvement teams aren’t important. But they can run into roadblocks like overwhelming work demands, flawed operational objectives and reactive rather than proactive workflows. The right operational consultant can enhance the effectiveness of your internal teams. Read more about it in “How USC Consulting Group Enhances Your Internal Improvement Team.”

When should I hire an operations consultant?

Common reasons for bringing in an operations consultant:

How much are operations consulting fees?

That depends on the project, its scope, length and many other factors. But you should know that there are consulting fees for the project, and also expense fees like airfare and lodging. At USC Consulting Group, we’re upfront about our fees, so clients don’t have any surprises at the end of a project.

What industries use operations consultants?

A wide range of industries use operations consultants, including manufacturing, forestry products, chemical processing, oil & gas, transportation & logistics, mining & metals, food & beverage, life sciences, private equity and others.

It is beneficial to note that there are plenty of consultants who work in a variety of fields. These sectors include IT, financial, engineering, design, strategy, and others. These consultants’ expertise is separate from operations consulting, but all are valuable depending on the specific needs of your business.

Do you still have questions about whether bringing in an operations consultant is right for your business? We’d be happy to talk with you about it. Contact us today.

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At many organizations, managers often opt to come up with new ideas or solutions to dilemmas using their own resources and employees, rather than bring in an external consultant or firm.

In these cases, management-level decision makers have typically been averse to the idea of setting aside further funding to pay for services perceived to be already available in-house — a mindset that may hinder progress and overall efficiency. Sometimes, the only way to come up with the most common-sense solutions involves bringing in a set of fresh eyes as a means of weighing all available options.

Organizations that have traditionally avoided consultants have had provided understandable reasons for doing so, whether it be that they are concerned about consulting fees on the specificity of a project’s scope, that consultants can be too independently minded, or that bringing them onboard will impact the morale of regular employees. If handled correctly through strong communication and undertaken with a clear approach in mind, organizations can avoid these issues when hiring a consultant or consulting agency — and reap only benefits.

Why hire a consultant?

As objective, independent arbiters that can analyze any aspect of an organization — past, present, and future — consultants’ decisions are not inherently biased in that they are influenced by ongoing practices that may, in turn, be the cause of any operational deficiencies. While internal employees may have some of the expertise needed to solve a problem, consultants can specialize specifically in a number of different fields, from manufacturing and human resources to finance and information technology, according to Mind Tools.

While internal employees may have some expertise needed to solve a problem, consultants can specialize in a number of different fields.

As Consultant’s Mind notes, consultants are hired based on their “ability to make the complex simple, and drive decision making and action” and to “help leaders make change” to ensure their organizations move forward, and not in reverse. Other areas that consultants focus on include leadership development, change management, and overall organizational strategy.

Some common situations in which an organization may bring in an outside consultant for assistance include crises or mergers and acquisitions. Due to the fact that many are hired on a contractual basis, consultants are also convenient because their contract can be terminated more easily than an in-house employee if desired results are not achieved.

While they are hired for relatively limited timeframes, consultants carry out work that can affect an organization for years to come. As a result, a client should develop a knowledge management plan to observe a consultant’s work and observe his or her techniques and approaches. In conjunction with cross-training teams of employees on these skills before a consultant’s contract ends, a knowledge transfer process should also be incorporated into a project. After all, once the consultant or consultancy team leaves, a company’s own employees will be responsible for picking up where the project was left off.

Problem solving with fresh eyes are some of the benefits of consultants

How to maximize consulting success for all involved

Many businesses today seek to make the most of their existing resources to create growth to avoid investing in any new, expensive and time-consuming capital improvements. In some cases, the lack of performance in improvement teams isn’t tied to a lack of investment, but from high-level organizational issues. For instance, three scenarios that USC Consulting Group consultants encounter in projects that lack strong performance from their improvement teams are unrealistic or overwhelming demands, flawed operational objectives, and workflow processes that are reactive, rather than proactive. Consultants can help identify those organizational issues to enhance how internal teams work.

Many businesses and other organizations today are seeking to make the most of their existing resources to create growth, but without investing in any expensive and time-consuming capital improvements.

To begin the consulting process, Mind Tools recommends that both the client and consultant should establish a balanced relationship in which the latter’s role is clearly defined and controlled in terms of the limits of its project scope. At this point, the consultant should be provided with a company’s mission or vision statements and other important information, such as key stakeholders and (in some cases) ongoing office disputes. It is further advised that a hired consultant begin getting acquainted with or starting the project as soon as possible; often times, consultants prefer to work with measurable “smart” goals  Organizations should always monitor and track their new contractors’ progress and provide feedback to ensure the entire process is comfortable and convenient for both parties involved.

Solutions employed by consultants in response to clients’ issues include aspects like communications improvement, creating and quantifying new operational metrics and the implementation of auditing and easy-to-deploy training programs. Often times, an organization’s internal improvement teams are siloed into their own operations because they do not maintain or even develop lines of communication with other teams to facilitate organization-wide progress. With regard to the quantification of new metrics to help drive an organization away from reactive practices, a consultant might suggest the adoption of certain key performance indicators. In doing so, teams can direct more of their focus to work on more overarching goals and projects with the purpose of driving growth and increased revenue. While businesses may have consistent training programs in place, poor quality documentation and auditing can in turn result in programs that are not aligned with what are truly best practices and workers end up learning substandard processes.

At USC Consulting Group, our consultants have implemented solutions that help businesses improve their bottom lines for over 50 years. Connect with us today to speak with one of our consulting professionals about how we can help your organization improve operational performance.


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