Top consulting firms for operations & supply chain in the UK

16 October 2018 9 min. read

A survey among management consultants and consulting clients has revealed the UK’s top consulting firms for operations & supply chain management. Large players in the industry predictably dominate the list of more than 20 firms, with Accenture, Deloitte Consulting, IBM Global Business Services, KPMG and PwC receiving the highest praise.

With an estimated market size of around £1 billion, operations and supply chain consulting is the second largest segment within UK’s £9 billion management consulting industry, following the fast-growing digital & technology domain.

Supply chain consultants help their clients navigate change across a range of areas, including manufacturing/production, inbound/outbound logistics and supply chain execution. They also support organisations with optimising their overall supply chain network design, operational planning within chains, risk management and supply chain sustainability.

Over the past years, the demand for supply chain consulting in the UK has seen a gradual rise, on the back of several external factors. Globalisation and cross-border collaboration has seen supply chain management become more international; at the same time, increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (known as ‘VUCA’) has placed more demands on fine-tuning supply chain to address geopolitical turmoil and changing customer demands. These customer demands have, meanwhile, transformed expectations of supply chain teams: customers demand quicker delivery, and as a result flexibility and agility in supply chain operations has become more of a central theme in recent years.

Top consulting firms for operations & supply chain in the UK

Disruption through digital models means that supply chain management nowadays is a very different ball game. Players like Amazon can cut out the middle man in the supply chain, redefining how companies organise their stock. Meanwhile, the rise of digital means that stores hold a different function, and so supply chain models underpinning omnichannel and physical chains are becoming mainstream. 

From a financial perspective, supply chain can have huge implications for financial flows, and hence, taxation. Supply chain consultants regularly team up with financial advisors to craft tax-efficient supply chains. These and more developments mean that supply chain is more and more emerging as a source of competitive advantage.

For decades, operations consulting firms have been at the heart of the consulting industry. The field focuses on improving the operations of organisations through operational excellence, helping them become more effective, efficient, client-centric and agile. Operational consultants design new operating models, rethink functional business processes, deploy management systems and help clients embrace a culture of continuous improvement. Technology is a major force for operational consultants, enabling massive efficiency savings via robotics, AI and automation, while the likes of blockchain can secure supply chains and prevent fraud.

Operations consultants work across the entire value chain of organisations, from research & development and sales & marketing to procurement, finance and supply chain – in the latter field they support the function with manufacturing and logistics improvement, while transforming the supply chain function to better align with business goals. Hot themes across the operations landscape are Lean and Six Sigma, techniques that focus on minimising waste in processes, and Agile.

Top operations & supply chain firms

According to a survey conducted by Financial Times and Statista, an elite group of 22 consulting firms in the UK lead the way in operations & supply chain services, with the upper echelons of the ranking dominated by some of the world’s largest consultancies. The Big Four and Accenture are globally the largest players in the operations & supply chain market in terms of size alone. While size does not necessarily translate into dominance, the researchers found that among buyers of ops consulting services in the UK, size matters. Deloitte Consulting, KPMG and PwC received an average rating of 5 stars out of 5, due to their breadth, depth and quality of services.

The three Big Four firms were joined by two other consultancies that received the maximum score of 5 stars: Accenture and IBM Global Business Services. Rounding off the top 10, specialist firm Total Logistics was joined by multi-faceted Argon Consulting and A.T. Kearney, as well as the remaining member of the Big Four, EY, and one of the world’s three largest strategy consultancies, Bain & Company. Fellow MBB members The Boston Consultancy Group and McKinsey & Company also made the list within the top 20.

The list of top consulting firms further includes a number of specialists – consultancies with a dedicated focus on supply chain & operations such as 4C Associates, Brian Farrington, Efficio, LCP Consulting (part of BearingPoint) and OEE Consulting – and generalists such as AlixPartners, Alvarez & Marsal and Capgemini Invent, Capgemini's newly launched advisory and execution arm.

A full overview of the top consulting firms in the UK for operations & supply chain consultancy services:

Founded: 1989. Number of employees: 459,000 globally; 11,000 in the UK.
Headquarter: Dublin. UK office: London.

Founded: 1893. Number of employees: 286,000 globally; 17,500 in the UK.
Headquarter: New York. UK office: London.

Founded: 1911. Number of employees: 380,000 globally.
Headquarter: New York. UK office: Portsmouth.

Founded: 1987. Number of employees: 189,00 globally; 14,000 in the UK.
Headquarter: Toronto. UK office: Bristol.

Founded: 1849. Number of employees: 251,000 globally; 22,300 in the UK.
Headquarter: Washington. UK office: London.

Argon Consulting (merged with Crimson & Co and now operates under that brand)
Founded: 2001. Number of employees: 180 globally.
Headquarter: Levallois-Perret. UK office: London.

A.T. Kearney
Founded: 1926. Number of employees: 3,500 globally.
Headquarter: Chicago. UK office: London.

Bain & Company
Founded: 1973. Number of employees: 8,000 globally.
Headquarter: Boston. UK office: London.

Founded: 1989. Number of employees: 251,000 globally.
Headquarter: London. UK office: London.

Total Logistics (part of Accenture)
Founded: 1989. Number of employees: 40 globally.
Headquarter: Berkshire. UK office: Berkshire.

4C Associates
Founded: 2000. Number of employees: 100+ globally.
Headquarter: London. UK office: London.

Founded: 1981. Number of employees: 1,800 globally.
Headquarter: New York. UK office: London.

Alvarez & Marsal
Founded: 1983. Number of employees: 3,700 globally.
Headquarter: New York. UK office: London.

Baringa Partners
Founded: 2000. Number of employees: 600 globally.
Headquarter: London. UK office: London.

The Boston Consulting Group
Founded: 1963. Number of employee s: 20,000globally.
Headquarter: Boston. UK office: London.

Brian Farrington
Founded: 1978. Number of employees: 10+ globally.
Headquarter: St Helens. UK office: St Helens.

Capgemini Invent
Founded: 1990. Number of employees: 6,000.
Headquarter: Paris. UK office: Birmingham.

Founded: 2000. Number of employees: 450 globally.
Headquarter: London. UK office: London.

LCP Consulting (part of BearingPoint)
Founded: 1984. Number of employees: 4,300 globally (BearingPoint).
Headquarter: Berkhamsted. UK office: Berkhamsted.

McKinsey & Company
Founded: 1926. Number of employees: 27,000 globally.
Headquarter: New York. UK office: London.

OEE Consulting
Founded: 1997. Number of employees: 150+ globally.
Headquarter: Oxfordshire. UK office: Oxfordshire.

Founded: 2000. Number of employees: 80 globally.
Headquarter: London. UK office: London.

Related: The top 50 leading management consulting firms in the UK.