This course meets the requirements of the Level 7 Senior Leader Apprenticeship Standard.  Find out more about the apprenticeship route.

A world-leading programme developed by Cranfield through a unique partnership with Rolls-Royce and the Institute for Manufacturing at the University of Cambridge. Designed for industry professionals to fit around demanding careers, the course has been designed to develop the skills to lead change in business.


  • Start datePart-time: October
  • DurationTwo years part-time
  • DeliveryTaught modules 40%, Group project or dissertation 20%, Individual project 40%
  • QualificationMSc
  • Study typeExecutive
  • CampusCranfield campus

Who is it for?

For those who recognise the potential for a long and successful career in manufacturing, Cranfield offers the ideal balance of academic study and practical work experience. This course addresses the need for highly trained operations professionals required to transform operations into a world-class business in all sectors of manufacturing. The Operations Excellence course is structured to allow maximum benefit from learning with minimum time away from the working environment.

Why this course?

Companies seek out streamlined processes to enable them to be more efficient, improve quality and be more cost effective. The Operations Excellence course brings together expertise across several disciplines to inform industry and help companies stay ahead of their competitors.

Students learn from other cohort members, from industry practitioners and from developing solutions to individual issues through group and individual projects.These industry experts teach alongside academics from Cranfield and Cambridge who have a wealth of experience in operations excellence.

We have exceptional facilities many of which are unique in the university sector. Students on the Operations Excellence course benefit from this infrastructure which also supports our work with industrial partners. Students have access to computing facilities and laboratories suitable for general purpose and engineering applications. A vast range of specialist software applications are available including Witness, SAP, NVIDO and CAD IDEAS.

Informed by Industry

Our courses are designed to meet the training needs of industry and have a strong input from experts in their sector. Students who have excelled have their performances recognised through course awards. The awards are provided by high profile organisations and individuals, and are often sponsored by our industrial partners. Awards are presented on Graduation Day.

Course details

Comprises a two day induction, eight taught modules, a group project and an individual thesis project. The modules include lectures and tutorials, and are assessed through written examinations and assignments. These provide key information for subsequent project work. The Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) at University of Cambridge delivers one of the modules.

Industrially supported and relevant project work undertaken represents 60% of the total study time. It enables delegates to apply the knowledge and skills learnt from the taught element of the course and put them into practice. Projects are chosen to ensure delegates are able to relate the content directly to the performance of the business and its future success. The individual thesis work is particularly focused on the delegate’s company with critical thinking encouraged and supported by thought leaders from the University.

Students who have excelled in the course have their performance recognised through course awards, sponsored by Rolls-Royce and Arthur Corfe. These are presented to the winners when they Graduate.

This part-time course meets the requirements of the Level 7 Senior Leaders Master’s Degree Apprenticeship Standard. Eligible organisations can use £18,000 of their Apprenticeship Levy to cover the course tuition fees. Find out more about studying our Operations Excellence Mastership®.

Course delivery

Taught modules 40%, Group project or dissertation 20%, Individual project 40%

Group project

The Group project gives a team of students the opportunity to take the responsibility for a consultancy type project working for an industrial sponsor. (Note: a dissertation can replace the group project.)

Recent projects include:

  • Rolls-Royce plc - Evaluation of engine assembly methods
  • Weetabix - Optimisation of combined heat and power plant
  • Linx - Development of a new manufacturing facility
  • NCT Leather - Maximising manufacturing capability.
  • Siemens - Developing a cost of quality model

Individual project

The individual project allows each student to demonstrate their independent learning ability and interest in advancing their knowledge through the pursuit of independent research and/or development work in an industrially relevant area and communicate their ideas, analysis and conclusions in written and oral formats. The subject of the thesis is agreed between the delegate and the supervisor and will normally be based around part of the taught material and/or a company problem. The project will be carried out at a company and/or at Cranfield University depending on the nature of the project.


Keeping our courses up-to-date and current requires constant innovation and change. The modules we offer reflect the needs of business and industry and the research interests of our staff and, as a result, may change or be withdrawn due to research developments, legislation changes or for a variety of other reasons. Changes may also be designed to improve the student learning experience or to respond to feedback from students, external examiners, accreditation bodies and industrial advisory panels.

To give you a taster, we have listed the compulsory and elective (where applicable) modules which are currently affiliated with this course. All modules are indicative only, and may be subject to change for your year of entry.

Course modules

Compulsory modules
All the modules in the following list need to be taken as part of this course.

Effective Factories

    To provide you with the knowledge of and skills needed to design and improve effective manufacturing systems.
    Principles of Manufacturing & Factories
    Design of layouts
    Human centred factory design 
    Cellular manufacturing
    Factory dynamics and modelling variability
    Capacity, demand and load; identifying key capacity determinant; order-size mix problem; coping with changes in demand.
    Scheduling rules; scheduling and nested set-ups.
    Role of inventory; dependent and independent demand; economic order quantity; uncertain demand; inventory management systems and measures.
    Maintenance management
    Industry 4.0

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to:
1. Differentiate the applicability of different layout types applicable in manufacturing business.
2. Assess how production layout and system design influences productivity.
3. Appraise the effectiveness of cellular configurations.
4. Evaluate maintenance strategies for production systems.
5. Evaluate the impact of Industry 4.0 on factory layout, automation and systems, to provide a visual factory and a flexible manufacturing facility

Business and Manufacturing Strategy


    To introduce the context of manufacturing strategy and to provide you with the frameworks and methodologies used to build and assess manufacturing strategies, and to provide critical skills to analyse and determine when to apply these frameworks.

    • Strategy frameworks (Porter, Mintzberg, Boston Consulting Group, Skinner, Hayes & Wheelwright, Platts, etc)
    • Operations Strategy – Types (Corporate, business and function), levels of Strategy, Operations leader role.
    • Strategy charting
    • FIT model – Aligning Operations Capabilities to Market requirements
    • Understanding Competitive criteria
    • Understanding Competitive advantage and the types
    • Capabilities – Capability architecture, Capability to competitive advantage, Improving Capabilities
    • Resource analysis and coordination
    • Performance measurement process (Balanced Scorecard, etc)
    • Strategy Implementation – Hoshin Kanri, etc
    • New and developing frameworks and research including servitisation and resource and
    • Competency based strategy
    • Case studies
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to:
1. Differentiate between strategy frameworks and tools to use in developing business and manufacturing strategies.
2. Critically appraise the coherence and appropriateness of corporate, business and manufacturing strategies.
3. Evaluate the impact of a proposed manufacturing strategy upon business performance.

Team Management

    To provide you with knowledge and awareness of models and techniques required to assess, understand and work with the skills and competencies of different team roles, personality types, management styles and cultural differences in the context of organisational team-working.
    • Individual/personal motivations, styles and team contributions
    • Interpersonal dynamics, tensions & synergies
    • The personal nature of team leadership
    • The characteristics and management of high performing teams
    • Human and cultural diversity
    • Emotional intelligence in the management of self and others
    • Key frameworks for team assessment, building and development

Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module you will be able to:
1. Assess the inherent difficulty in maintaining productive inter-relationships between different functional responsibilities within an organization, and how team management impacts upon organisational performance.
2. Appraise the dynamic and multi-dimensional nature of teamworking and of team management.
3. Evaluate different personality types, leadership styles, management approaches, team roles and cultures.
4. Evaluate methods for recognizing and resolving tensions, disagreements and conflicts within teams and between individual team members.

Innovation Management

    To develop your understanding and competencies in the enablers of effective innovation management and in appropriate design and implementation actions for development of improved innovation capabilities.

    The content of this module is based around innovation and its application in a business to improve performance. A lecture approach and case evaluations will be used to present theory and practice, with emphasis on pragmatic techniques to evaluate and improve innovation capabilities. Cases will be used to explore interaction between the taught concepts and to develop greater understanding of how innovation capabilities can be improved. Specific areas that will be covered include:

    • Innovation impact on business performance
    • Innovation types
    • The role of teamwork and communication in innovation
    • Innovation enablers and inhibitors
    • Practicalities of developing an innovation capability
    • Change management strategies to improve innovation capabilities
    • Performance measurement of innovation performance and innovation capability

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to:

1. Evaluate the concept of innovation, the role of innovation and its use to improve new business performance.
2. Assess the challenges organisations face when implementing improved innovation capabilities.
3. Explicate the enablers and inhibitors for different innovation types.
4. Assess innovation capability and propensity within an organisation.
5. Develop appropriate interventions to improve innovation capabilities within an organization.

Manufacturing in Practice (Study Tour)

Module Leader
  • Dr Patrick McLaughlin
    To provide students with examples of manufacturing operations that can be compared and contrasted to identify best practice and opportunities for improvement.
    Visits to a range of manufacturing operations.
Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:
1. Describe examples of good practice in operations and discuss how it could be implemented.

Technology Management


    To provide you with knowledge of the principles and practices of Technology Management as a route to create competitive advantage within Operations.

    • Technology in business context
    • Technology management processes
    • Technology strategy and planning (including road mapping, foresight, scenarios, etc)
    • IPR management
    • Technology management tools and toolkits
    • Strategies for visual communication
    • Technology insertion
    • Make versus Buy / managing partnerships / open innovation
    • Technology management in application

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to:
1. Assess the broad issues that link technology, business and industry evolution.
2. Appraise pipelines of sources of technology in terms of managing sustainable business growth.
3. Assess how internal and external resources/capabilities can be balanced to achieve technology strategy objectives.
4. Evaluate how technology is managed within the student’s company.

Supply Chain Management

    To provide you with an understanding of the fundamental principles of contemporary supply chain management, with an emphasis on effective operations practice.

    · Principles of supply chain management for competitive advantage

    · Management of supplier relationships

    · Introduction to agile and segmented supply chains

    · Management of global supply chains

    · Supply chain resilience and risk management

    · Supply chain management tools, modelling approaches and SC analytics

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to:

1. Appraise the basic principles underlying supply chain management and the potential impact on an organisations competitive position and its performance

2. Assess the different characteristics of agile supply chains, identify pre-conditions to agility and propose capabilities and practices to improve supply chain agility

3. Assess key aspects of a customer responsive supply chain strategy within defined service and demand profiles

4. Explore the role of big data in managing the supply chain

5. Evaluate evolving supply relationships and explain the potential roles of co-ordination and collaboration

Operations Assessment and Improvement

    To provide you with knowledge and techniques needed for the assessment and improvement of operations systems.

    This module is based on how performance of an operations function can be evaluated and how performance improvement actions can be identified and developed into an improvement plan.
    A lecture approach and case evaluations will be used to present theory and practice, with emphasis on pragmatic techniques to evaluate and improve performance. Cases will be used to explore interaction between the taught concepts and to develop greater understanding of how operations performance can be improved. Specific areas that will be covered include:
    • Objective, principles, terminology and systems of management accounting.
    • Inter-relationships between functional responsibilities within a company
    • Performance measurement
    • Evaluation of potential improvement actions
    • Developing an improvement plan

Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module you will be able to:
1. Describe the principles, objectives, application and limitations of management accounting.
2. Demonstrate knowledge of tools and techniques to assess and measure operations performance.
3. Evaluate operations performance within student’s own organization
4. Develop appropriate improvement interventions for application within student’s own organization

Leading Change in Operations

    To develop your understanding of selected models of change management along with the skills, competencies and approaches required to achieve successful change leadership.

    Specific areas that will be covered include:

    • Systemic, people and organisational change
    • Leadership appropriate for establishing and sustaining change
    • Different approaches to achieving change
    • Cultural aspects to initiating and sustaining change
    • Psychology of change
    • Leadership style for the student
    • Emotional engagement of people involved with the change
    • Gauging effectiveness of the change

    Ensuring sustainability of the change implemented

Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module you will be able to:
1. Evaluate the different aspects and issues likely to be encountered in leading change in processes, systems and organizations
2. Appraise strategies and approaches for managing change, including the impact of any change
3. Design and formulate an appropriate change programme
4. Evaluate the potential sources of resistance to the change programme and formulate strategies which can be used to successfully overcome them 
5. Evaluate the effectiveness of change and estimate the likely change programme trajectory

Teaching team

You will be taught by a wide range of subject specialists here and from outside the University who draw on their research and industrial experience to provide stimulating and relevant input to your learning experience. Many of the lecturers have worked in industry themselves, some at Managing Director level, and have actual experience of leading productivity improvements. Guest lecturers include speakers from Rolls-Royce plc, Primary People, Alan Roberson Associates and Nissan. Excellent staff to student ratios leads to focused discussion about real-world issues in implementing operations excellence. The Course Director and Admissions Tutor for this programme is Dr Patrick McLaughlin


The Operations Excellence MSc is accredited by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) on behalf of the Engineering Council as meeting the requirements for further learning for registration as a Chartered Engineer (CEng).


Candidates must hold a CEng accredited BEng/BSc (Hons) undergraduate first degree to show that they have satisfied the educational base for CEng registration.


Please note accreditation applies to the MSc award, PgDip and PgCert (if offered) do not meet in full the further learning requirements for registration as a Chartered Engineer.

Your career

Individuals selected to participate in this programme will be able to deliver significant business benefits to their employer/sponsoring company immediately. In addition, the greater depth and breadth of skills gained will enable graduates to progress to more senior roles in the future.

How to apply

Click on the ‘Apply Now’ button to start your online application.

There is a non-refundable application fee of £75 for this course for 2024-25 entry onward.

Find out more about the application fee and how to pay it.

See our Application guide for information on our application process and entry requirements.