Bottleneck Analysis: Identify the Areas Causing Delays in Your Business

Learn how to identify and eliminate bottlenecks in your business using this step-by-step guide.

product team fixing issues using bottleneck analysis

Published 23 Sep 2022

What is a Bottleneck Analysis?

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.

Bottlenecks in Manufacturing

There are three types of bottlenecks businesses can face daily. They include:

  • Production line bottlenecks – Material builds up when one process outperforms another.
  • Supply chain bottlenecksSupply chain chokepoint is caused by poor supplier material flow. It might be due to poor inventory management, frequent product changes, financing difficulties, or an incorrect demand forecast.
  • Bottlenecks caused by people – Inadequate training leads to ineffective work, which causes poor communication. Work interruptions result in low employee morale.

Importance of Analyzing Your Bottlenecks

There are several benefits to performing bottleneck analysis. Some of them include:

  • Increased productivity – By identifying and then removing your bottlenecks, you will see an increase in productivity.
  • Quality improvements – When products move through your processes faster, there is less chance for errors. The quality of your products improves as a result.
  • Improved customer service – When your operations run more efficiently, your customers will be happier. It’s because they will receive their orders faster and with fewer errors.
  • Reduced costs – When you increase productivity and improve quality, you will also see a cost reduction. It’s because you will use fewer resources and have less waste.
  • Increased knowledge – Managers might not only eliminate existing bottlenecks but can also assist in planning future production lines or growth by comprehending their reasons.

Bottleneck Examples

Bottlenecks can happen at any point in the business process; some common examples include:

Communication

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.

Processes

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.

Resources

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.

Technology

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.

Bottleneck Analysis Tools and Strategies

There are different methodologies available to identify and solve bottlenecks in your processes. The following are some popular methods:

DMAIC

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.

Theory of Constraints

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.

Root Cause Analysis

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.

Fishbone Diagram

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.

Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA)

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.

5S Framework

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

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.

Takt Time

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)

How to Conduct a Bottleneck Analysis

There are different ways to conduct a bottleneck analysis, but the following steps will help you get started:

Gathering Information

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.

Using Lean Manufacturing Tools

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.

Preventing Future Bottlenecks

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.

 

FAQs About Bottleneck Analysis

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.

  • Short-Term Bottlenecks – These bottlenecks result from unforeseen events like machine breakdown, power outages, materials shortages, etc. They’re not always avoidable but manageable.
  • Long-Term Bottlenecks – These bottlenecks are usually a result of poor planning or execution. These types of bottlenecks typically require the use of lean methodologies and tools.

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.

Accumulation

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.

Full Capacity

A machine or unit operating at maximum capacity will likely slow down production.

Slow Communication

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.

Robertson Paredes

SafetyCulture staff writer

Rob Paredes

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.

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.