For any company, operations are the bloodstream (lifeblood?) of the company. It moves the company forward or backward. All other players in the company are actually support functions to make sure that operations are successful or can improve. Sales are absolutely necessary to grow a business, but many businesses will survive the short term without a sales force due to repeat customers. This is not true in every case, but there is usually some repeat business that continues for a while. Design and engineering functions can go away for even longer and the company could continue quite smoothly for some weeks and months. Without the support from this team, there would be functional issues, but they can be overcome to a degree through consulting. Manufacturing is necessary to produce the product, but stockpiles can be reserved and manufacturing shifted or suspended for a certain period of time. However, without day-to-day operations, the entire show is shut down. Therefore, hiccups in operations can be the most devastating to a company.
The more that managers and key players in this functional area of the company focus on excellence, the greater the chances for success and customer loyalty. Without this motivation, the operations group may lumber from day to day accepting that the status quo is enough to continue meeting needs of the company, customer and management. Considering that the competition is attempting to provide the same product or service faster, cheaper or better and are looking for methods to improve in each area, even if you are the market leader today, it won't stay that way unless you can improve faster than they can catch up.
Let's take a look at the players that will make the operations function work most efficiently.