Learn how to identify and eliminate bottlenecks in your business using this step-by-step guide.
Published 23 Sep 2022
Bottleneck analysis is a process used to identify the areas in a business causing delays or bottlenecks in production. The analysis aims to improve efficiency by identifying and addressing these issues. By conducting a bottleneck analysis, businesses can identify the areas that need improvement and make changes that will boost productivity.
The first step in conducting a bottleneck analysis is to identify the main steps in the production process. They then need to collect data on how long each step takes and how many products are produced during that time. This data is then analyzed to identify which actions are taking the longest and causing the most delays.
By pinpointing bottlenecks, businesses can improve efficiency and address the issues. Sometimes, this may involve redesigning the production process or investing in new equipment. Efficient changes can start with small things.
There are three types of bottlenecks businesses can face daily. They include:
There are several benefits to performing bottleneck analysis. Some of them include:
Bottlenecks can happen at any point in the business process; some common examples include:
Communication between teams or departments is necessary. These communications might create a choke point when they are conducted in person or on paper. For example, a single operator taking a break or a misplaced clipboard can cause this bottleneck. Platforms that automate data collection can solve this problem.
Bottlenecks in production lines occur when the number of requests submitted to a machine exceeds the equipment’s throughput capacity. A drill press station, for example, receives requests from many upstream devices, each with its hole sizes and depths. Changing tools and establishing depth take too long, starving the downstream parts.
When specific vital resources are scarce, it can cause delays down the line. An example is when an employee with a specialized skill set is required to split their time between multiple tasks or machines. If one technician is responsible for two or three different types of equipment, it can create a resource bottleneck and limit the labor hours available for each machine.
When software systems can’t work together, it creates a technology bottleneck, especially in machinery from different manufacturers. If these systems aren’t compatible, it takes extra time to program settings for each step of production.
An example would be placing a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine before a drill press that is manually set. In that case, this lack of communication between devices will prohibit productivity.
There are different methodologies available to identify and solve bottlenecks in your processes. The following are some popular methods:
DMAIC is a Six Sigma method for process improvement that includes the steps Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. It’s a Six Sigma process improvement tool that allows continual input loops to tune a process after eliminating bottlenecks.
The theory of constraints proves to be an excellent tool for bottleneck analysis since it helps teams find the biggest hindrance to getting the best results. Whenever a limiting factor is discovered, it’s changed and enhanced until it’s resolved.
Every problem has a root cause. Uncovering and attacking the root cause allows for systemic improvement instead of “band-aid” solutions covering the issue. It is essential to focus on how and why the constraint exists.
A fishbone diagram is a way to visualize the causes and effects of a process bottleneck. The problem is at the “head” of the fish, and the different cause feed into its spine. This tool can be helpful for teams as they try other solutions to see what might work best.
PDCA is a continuous improvement tool that takes the view of cycles. It’s possible to restart the cycle as many times as necessary to improve the system further.
The 5S Framework is commonly known as a lean manufacturing technique, but it can also help analyze physical spaces for constraints. The framework’s Sort, Set, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain components provide a way to visualize potential problems and find solutions.
Value stream mapping is a tool that captures the information and materials for a process. It is also highly visual, making it suitable for the analysis of bottlenecks. The goal is to eliminate constraints by only including optimized steps that add value.
To optimize your takt time, you need to take measurements of the time required to produce a product and compare it against the available materials, labor, and equipment. It’ll help identify any capacity or labor constraints that may be present. Use the formula below to specify your takt time.
Takt Time = Workable Production Hours / Units Required (Customer Demand)
There are different ways to conduct a bottleneck analysis, but the following steps will help you get started:
To begin, obtaining as much information about a product’s or process’ manufacturing process as possible is necessary. It may include mapping out the process, collecting data on cycle times, and noting any areas where there are delays.
Taking a closer look at the entire process is crucial to correctly perform an analysis to find solutions and prevent new bottlenecks from forming.
A short analysis of problems can quickly fix some bottlenecks. However, more complicated cases may require the use of lean manufacturing tools to help streamline the process.
Aside from the different tools mentioned above, another tool that businesses can utilize is the Kanban method. By visualizing the process, everyone can see what’s being worked on, what needs to be done, and where bottlenecks may occur. With these tools, you can identify areas that require improvement and what you can do about them.
The first step to improving your production process is to conduct a bottleneck analysis. After you finish your bottleneck analysis, use the data to improve efficiency and make necessary changes in the production process.
It’s also essential to avoid creating new bottlenecks when trying to fix the old ones. Making necessary changes and monitoring the process is the best way to accomplish this. It’s also essential to involve everyone in the process, so they know the potential for bottlenecks and can help identify them early on.
It’s possible to conduct a bottleneck analysis at any time, but it’s often performed when a problem arises in a production process. A decrease in productivity, an increase in defects, or something else entirely might be the cause.
There are two types of process bottlenecks.
There are a few ways to detect workflow bottlenecks. One way is to look at the overall process and identify any areas where there are delays. Another way is to collect data on cycle times and compare it against the available materials, labor, and equipment. It’ll help identify any capacity or labor constraints that may be present.
You can look for these red flags in the production process to assess whether a specific step is the root barrier to the entire workflow.
Throughput and Throughput Time
If the time it takes to complete a task is longer than average, this will cause delays down the line for other processes, like inspections and moves. Figure out which part of the process is taking too long to improve.
When the input exceeds what a machine can manage, an accumulation will occur at the next step. Work hours and inventory may build up due to the work order not being processed at the same rate as other phases in the manufacturing process.
A machine or unit operating at maximum capacity will likely slow down production.
Miscommunication or faulty communication at all operational levels can lead to delays in the manufacturing process. A delay in relaying information can lead to confusion and mistakes in the future.
Bottlenecks can significantly impact productivity, so it's essential to identify and fix them as soon as possible. iAuditor by SafetyCulture can help with this by providing a digital platform to conduct audits and inspections. It can help identify potential bottlenecks to fix them before they cause significant problems.
Trusted by many organizations, iAuditor can help with the analysis of bottlenecks in several ways, including:
Rob Paredes is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. He is a content writer who also does copy for websites, sales pages, and landing pages. Rob worked as a financial advisor, a freelance copywriter, and a Network Engineer for more than a decade before joining SafetyCulture. He got interested in writing because of the influence of his friends; aside from writing, he has an interest in personal finance, dogs, and collecting Allen Iverson cards.
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