The History of Operations Management

The field of Operations emerged in the 1800’s but with each decade has grown and developed into the technologically advanced field it is today, committed to producing innovative quality products and services. According to Heizer & Render (2008) Operations Management is “the set of activities that creates value in the form of goods and services by transforming inputs into outputs.”
This paper examines the evolution of Operations management and its various contributors, from the early concepts where the focus was on cost and includes, the scientific and mass production era to focusing on quality and the lean production era. The final section of this paper focuses on customization in the mass customization era.


Agriculture was the predominant industry in most countries worldwide for many centuries. At the end of the 18th century, advances began to be made in various agricultural techniques that resulted in increases in food and raw material. There were also changes in industrial organization and advances in technology which resulted in increased production, efficiency and profits. These and other conditions resulted in the industrial revolution. As a result some individuals began to look at more efficient way to increase production and profits. These include the following:


Labor specialization refers to the dividing up of tasks so that they are completed by a larger number of persons who perform specialized skills as opposed to one person completing the entire job.

Adam Smith (1723-1790)

Adam Smith was a philosopher and economist who is one of the individuals credited with recognizing the importance of labor specialization.
He illustrated its importance in his book The Wealth of Nations (1776), using pin making to establish his point.
Smith states:
“One man draws out the wire, another straights it, a third cuts it, a fourth points it, a fifth grinds it; to make the head requires two or three distinct...