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What are typical Operations Cases?

Anonymous A

Good day! I am preparing for MBB interviews and I have done numerous strategic cases with increasing success. However, I rarely find cases that focus around operations problems. I understand that this is an area that has been growing in relevance for MBB firms, hence I would like to include such operations problems into my preparation. The question is - what are the different types of operations problems I could expect in a case interview?

Thank you!

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Sidi replied on 01/10/2019
McKinsey Engagement Manager & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 60+ candidates secure MBB offers

Hi Anonymous,

well - in principle, "Operations" transform resources (or data inputs) into desired goods, services, or results, hence creating value to recipients (mostly: customers). Two or more connected operations constitute a process, and are generally divided into four basic categories:

(1) processing,

(2) inspection,

(3) transport

(4) storage

For each of these categories, efficiency is name of the game. This means that either the output is maximized (given certain resource inputs), or resource input needs are minimized for a desired output.

So for example for processing, operations problems can cover yield improvement problems, while for inspection, there might be the topic of automation (hence reducing input resource needs). And so on. You can draw a whole landscape of problems.

In operations cases, very often, you need to find the bottleneck that causes the respective operations problem, and then outline measures to remove this bottleneck.

Cheers, Sidi

Vlad replied on 01/10/2019
McKinsey / Accenture / Got all BIG3 offers / More than 300 real MBB cases / Harvard Business School

Hi,

There are several types of operational cases that you may have:

1) Operational math problems. (e.g. Should we increase the speed of the elevator or just buy a second one? How should we reduce the queues? How should we increase the output of a factory?).

Structuring:

  • Usually, you have to look at the process. Even the most complicated systems have the inflows and outflows

The key concepts that you have to learn:

  • Capacity and utilization (both machine and people)
  • Cycle time, Throughput time, Little's Law
  • How the does lowest cycle time influence the production? (Lead time = cycle time of the slowest process)
  • How can we mitigate the bottlenecks with low cycle time? (Buffer, Parallel process, speeding up)

2) Cost cutting cases

Structuring:

  • What is the cost composition and what are the biggest costs
  • Benchmarking of the biggest costs to find the improvement potential
  • Process improvements to meet the benchmarks
  • Costs and benefits of the proposed initiatives

The key concepts that you have to learn:

  • Internal / external benchmarking
  • Idle time
  • Core processes (usually are optimized) and the supporting processes (usually are cut)
  • Math structures (Frequency of operations * time per operation)
  • Other useful structures (e.g. people - process - technology)

Feel free to reach me for further help with these cases.

Best

Guennael replied on 01/10/2019
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

I'll add production (capacity) to Sidi's list. But yes, efficiency is typically the name of the game once capacity is sufficient

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