What is operational excellence?

Operational excellence, sometimes referred to as OpEx (not to be confused with Operational Expenses, also often referred to as OpEx), is a mindset of constantly striving towards the greatest possible efficiency. It’s connected to methodologies like lean business practices, Six Sigma, and continuous improvement.

Operational excellence helps plants improve performance, cut waste, sustain growth, and stay ahead of the competition. It’s often seen as including 3 elements:

  • Raising efficiency by identifying overlooked, redundant costs
  • Reducing expenses by cutting only superfluous outgoing instead of reactively cutting costs
  • Stabilizing the workforce by transferring skills and knowledge from one generation to the next

Why does operational excellence matter to process plants?

Process plants that embrace a mindset of operational excellence are able to:

  • Improve productivity
  • Increase revenue
  • Enable long-term growth
  • Boost maintenance efficiency and costs
  • Decrease shutdown
  • Make production more consistent
  • Achieve resilience 

How can process plants achieve operational excellence?


Lead a culture shift

More than anything else, operational excellence is a state of mind that gives as much attention to small issues as to major incidents. You need to spearhead this change in approach throughout the workforce, from a reactive one that chases fires to a proactive one that is curious about small changes in the plant.

Engage your workforce

Operational excellence can only succeed when it’s supported by the entire workforce. You need to make all your employees part of the process and enlist their help to investigate small issues and keep striving to do better.

Reveal your value stream

Visualize your entire value stream, from the arrival of raw materials until the product reaches the client. When your processes are efficient, you’ll be better placed to spot disruptions to the value stream and step in quickly to resolve them.

Trust your tools

It’s not possible for human operators to track every alert and anomaly in the plant, so you need to learn to trust ML tools that can do it for you.

What are the benefits of operational excellence for process plants?

Operational excellence is the key for process manufacturing plants to unlock value and profitability. Operational excellence helps make your plant more resilient, competitive, and profitable in the long term to improve your bottom line.