Rebecca thought she was ready to launch a successful Caribbean bakery business.

She had learned about financing, business plans and debt management from a Small Business Administration consultant.

She had taken community college courses in accounting and marketing.

She had read library books on human relations and personnel management.

But here she was, three months into her fledgling business, and it was dawning on Rebecca that there was a serious gap in her knowledge.

She knew how to get the resources to create the goods. And she could drum up customers to buy the goods.

What she didn't know was how to get the goods to the customers. Rebecca had forgotten to learn about production-operations management.

Production-operations management involves the skills and activities required to effectively convert materials into a product.

It includes knowledge of such areas as job design, facilities layout, scheduling and quality control.

Methods of production-operations management apply to any business regardless of its technology.

For example, to convert crude oil to gasoline, a refinery uses a different technology than a dairy uses to get cheese from milk.

Yet they share the problems of scheduling, storing, inventory and the like.

Production-operations management offers techniques that can be used to address these problems.

Virtually every consumer good or service -- be it health clubs, food, newspapers or police protection -- requires the transformation of resources into usable goods or services.

Successful organizations know that, to meet customer demands for these goods, they need to manage this transformation process just as well as they manage their finances and their advertising.

But a lot of service industries ignore production-operations management.

The general thinking is: "I'm not running a factory. So why do I need to know about production?"

Yet the waiting-line method, a production-operations management technique in which priority numbers are assigned to customers and jobs, can work just as well for Rebecca when she handles customers in her bakery as it does for someone who is scheduling jobs in a machine shop.

So Rebecca needs to go back to college and take some of those operations courses that she skipped the first time around.

All managers, in every business, need all the help they can get to convert ideas and resources into something that people can use.

And that's just the kind of help production-operations management can offer.

Send questions to Jane Elizabeth Allen, in care of Business Monday, The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla. 33132.