Operations illustration Operations theory

Production, specialisation and division of labour

Specialisation is a key feature of complex industrial societies like our own. It takes place at a number of levels:

  • the division of labour
  • specialisation of equipment
  • specialisation by plant
  • specialisation by firms
  • specialisation by industry
  • specialisation by region.

We have only to count up the large number of different workers, areas and types of plant and equipment that have contributed to the goods and services consumed every day by a typical family to realise how completely we depend on other people, on specialisation to satisfy our wants.

A modern company like Coca-Cola will employ a range of specialists e.g. marketers, advertisers, skilled technologists, specialist managers, accountants, maintenance specialists, etc.

The division of labour involves employing specialist employees to do specialist work. Individuals are able to concentrate on what they do best to combine to team and company efforts. The production manager cannot do all of the work of the production department him or herself. Instead production depends on a range of specialist operatives - e.g. to set up a production line, to check that the line is running smoothly, to check products off the line, to repair the line, to make adjustments etc.

Specialisation is based on what is referred to as comparative advantage - i.e. individuals concentrate on what they do best, and as a result all will benefit.


The creation of this website for The Times 100 involves a range of specialists - site designers, graphic artists, writers, editors, creatives, project managers, etc. Each of these enhances the work of the others. No individual could produce the site on their own, or if they did it would be of a relatively low quality. By working together as a team there is positive production synergy.

Synergy relates to the benefits from bringing specialists together. The combined effect of specialists working together is much greater than simply adding up the product of the specialists as individuals. Synergy partly results from the creative spark that ignites when a team works together.

Supporting Documents

These downloads will help to put operations theory into context using real world examples from real businesses.

Meeting customers' needs
Travis Perkins logo

Discover how Travis Perkins used operations theory to succeed in the construction industry by downloading our premium case study.

Meeting customers' needs in growth markets - online gaming
BT logo

Discover how BT applied operations theory to succeed in the telecommunications industry by downloading our premium case study.

Using sports marketing to engage with consumers
Kia Motors logo

Discover how Kia Motors employed operations theory to prosper in the automotive industry by downloading our premium case study.

The marketing mix in the food industry
McCain Foods logo

Find out how McCain Foods applied operations theory to thrive in the food & drink industry by downloading our premium case study.

Sponsorship as part of the marketing mix
Ford logo

Learn how Ford applied operations theory to prosper in the automotive industry by downloading our premium case study.


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