Operational Efficiency

Discover what operational efficiency is, why you need to measure it, and how to improve an organization’s operational efficiency.


What is Operational Efficiency?

Operational efficiency measures an organization’s profit compared to its operational costs. In essence, it’s a metric used to check how profitable a business or an investment may be. Within the workplace, it’s used to determine which processes may cost too much compared to how much profit it brings in.

On top of that, operational efficiency aims to reduce wasted time, effort, materials, and funds when running an organization. This applies to any industry, whether it’s construction, tech, or logistics.

When you strip it down, operational efficiency compares the input to output. Input refers to operation costs and may include the cost of materials, labor, and anything else an organization spends to create a product or provide a service. Output simply means anything that an organization may gain from the input.

Usually, this refers to financial gain. However, it can also refer to boosted productivity, quality, customer retention, and customer acquisition. So, while it may seem that operational efficiency is all about finance, it applies to many different areas of an organization.


When running a business or organization, measuring operational efficiency is crucial. This is to ensure that the business isn’t spending too much, wasting time and resources and that it’s on track to meet its goals, whether in terms of revenue, productivity, or customer acquisition.

Organizations can greatly improve productivity and effectively manage their operations by measuring operational efficiency. This metric will determine whether or not certain processes are worth the investment, whether the organization is profitable, and the possible areas of improvement.

Improving operational efficiency is a top priority for large business entities, but it also offers tons of benefits to smaller organizations. Some of the ways businesses improve operational efficiency are by investing in better equipment that will save money in the long run, automating different processes, and reducing redundancies.

Good operational efficiency translates to more profit and productivity. Spending too much on different processes without getting anything in return can significantly damage a business, which is why measuring and improving operational efficiency is very important.

Efficiency vs. Productivity: Understanding the Difference

When understanding efficiency, it’s easy to mistake it for productivity as these terms are sometimes used interchangeably. However, efficiency and productivity are two completely separate concepts, and understanding the difference is very important if you’re looking to improve operational efficiency.

Productivity solely focuses on output. When measuring productivity, organizations only look at the number of products or processes completed in a certain amount of time. For example, in manufacturing, measuring productivity would be checking how many products you can produce in an hour.

Efficiency, on the other hand, compares the output to the input. So, using the example earlier, not only do you have to consider the quality and quantity of products, but you also have to relate the output to how much it costs to produce those specific products.

While they are two separate concepts, productivity and efficiency can go hand in hand. However, it’s very important to understand that they are not the same thing. Companies can have high productivity and low efficiency numbers, which is another reason measuring operational efficiency is crucial within an organization.


One example of measuring operational efficiency is measuring the revenue per employee. This basically means looking at the number of employees you have and pay for, then comparing it to the total revenue of the company to determine how much revenue an employee brings in. This is known as revenue per employee.

Ideally, companies need to work towards having a high revenue per employee. That said, there are other ways to measure operational efficiency, which we’ll get to in the next section.

How to Measure Operational Efficiency

There are many ways to measure operational efficiency. We already discussed measuring it through revenue per employee. Other ways that businesses approach measuring operational efficiency include:

  • Line efficiency – the number of units a production line produces in a certain amount of time, usually an hour
  • Energy efficiency measured in revenue per kilowatt-hour (kWh) and can be improved by using more energy-efficient systems
  • Marketing efficiency – can be measured in the cost of acquiring a new customer or retaining existing ones
  • Asset efficiency – an example would be the occupancy rate of a hotel, which can show how investments and assets are bringing in revenue

Measuring operational efficiency may look different for each organization. This is because the right way to measure operational efficiency largely depends on the industry, types of processes, size, and other variables of the business.

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How to Improve Operational Efficiency

The first step in improving operational efficiency is determining the organization’s current state of operational efficiency. From there, the organization can determine the areas wherein they aren’t performing as efficiently compared to their revenue to start brainstorming solutions.

That said, improving operational efficiency has to be an organization-wide effort and can be quite complicated. For example, larger entities may have a harder time boosting operational efficiency because the size of their business creates a lot of redundancies with all the different departments working simultaneously.

Additionally, organizing operational efficiency can be tough, but determining these problem areas is crucial in finding the right way to improve operational efficiency and enhance its operations management system (OMS)

So, when trying to improve your organization’s operational efficiency, it’s important to consider all these things. And when possible, try to use the tools at your disposal to further organize and streamline the process.

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FAQs about Operational Efficiency

Organizations use many metrics for operational efficiency, and the right one to use varies depending on the type of business. Some examples are revenue per employee, units per hour, and customer acquisition cost.

The areas of operational effectiveness include leveraging and automating processes, leading and controlling functioning performance, and measuring and improving processes.

Many things can drive operational efficiencies, such as workers, equipment, cost of materials, and others.

Improving operational efficiency can be a way for organizations to boost revenue. With more efficient processes within the organization, there’s a lower production cost, less waste, and more potential profits.

Leon Altomonte
Article by

Leon Altomonte

SafetyCulture Content Contributor
Leon Altomonte is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. With his language degree and years of experience in content writing, he delivers well-researched, informative articles about safety, quality, and operational excellence. In addition to his professional pursuits, Leon maintains a creative outlet as a performing musician.